Speaking at the United Nations Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization held in St Lucia recently, Special Envoy for the Premier’s Office, Benito Wheatley, expressed gratitude to various regional governments and organisations for their support amid the impending threat of direct United Kingdom (UK) rule over the Virgin Islands.
In the recently released, Commission of Inquiry
) report, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom
recommended for the territory’s governor to effectively replace the elected government for at least the next two years. Several entities in the region have rebuked the UK for seeking to employ that approach.
“On behalf of Premier [Dr Natalio] Wheatley, I would like to thank the UN Special Committee on Decolonization for their interests in our current circumstances. I also want to thank CARICOM, OECS, the Caribbean Territories, the University of the West Indies, the Government of Saint Lucia, and Governments across the region for their expressions of support and offers of assistance to help us strengthen our institutions and systems of Government,” Wheatley said.
The Special Envoy also expressed his gratitude towards the Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Keisha McGuire for what he described as sustained and continued support for Non-Self-Governing Territories.
“Madam Chair, as I close, permit me to congratulate you, the Bureau, and the wider committee for the important work that you continue to do to assist the Non-Self-Governing Territories in moving closer to achieving a full measure of self-government. The British Virgin Islands will remain engaged with the committee on the available options sanctioned by the UN,” Wheatley said.
“I ask that a recent self-governance assessment of the territory completed by independent governance expert Dr Carlyle Corbin is placed on the record of this regional seminar. The UN has been an excellent partner of the British Virgin Islands and we look forward to continuing our good cooperation with the respective UN bodies and agencies with whom we are engaged on sustainable development and other matters,” he added.
Wheatley also mentioned he was grateful for the opportunity to provide the region with an update on the situation in the BVI.
While giving his address, the Special Envoy condemned the alleged actions of disgraced former Premier, Andrew Fahie
and highlighted how that placed the country in a precarious position.
“The past 14 days have been a rollercoaster ride for the people of the British Virgin Islands. We were shocked by the arrest of the former Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew Fahie
on 28th April in Miami, Florida in the United States. We are highly disappointed and embarrassed by his actions and the very disturbing things he has been involved in that were revealed in the affidavit filed in the United States (US) courts. We condemn his behaviour and believe the US court system should be left to take its course,” Wheatley said.
He noted Fahie
’s arrest led to Governor John Rankin
publishing the COI
report before its scheduled June release. While Wheatley acknowledged Rankin’s rationale was to make clear the report and the arrest were not linked’, he pointed out that the report’s premature release had the opposite effect.
“The effect of releasing the report so quickly after former Premier Fahie
was detained threw an already reeling society into a tailspin. It also strengthened calls for direct rule to be imposed on the people of the British Virgin Islands, as recommended by Sir Gary Hickinbottom
in the report. This in turn has increased pressure on the UK Government to take that undesirable course of action,” the Special Envoy said.
Wheatley mentioned he was hopeful the UK government would accept the proposal sent to them by the Virgin Islands
government on how to implement the recommendations without compromising the democracy of the territory.