Governor Rankin, appearing in a 284Media interview this week, said he felt the COI should be allowed to continue, once the it is conducted safely.
“Arrangements have been made so that evidence can be given in a safe fashion,” the governor stated.
Added to this, the governor argued that some of the challenges that helped extend the COI’s timeline arose before the territory’s recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Back in January, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put a COI involving his own administration on hold because he believed that COVID-19 should be given priority attention.
But, when asked if he felt Johnson’s decision to approve the BVI’s COI was a fair move given that stance, Governor Rankin said the COI was established under BVI law, and was not an internationally imposed inquiry in any way.
Furthermore, he said the COI was sensitive to the BVI’s COVID-19 situation, hence their reason for allowing remote evidence to be given by witnesses.
He also noted that the comparison between the two situations was one of “chalk and cheese”, since the UK’s COI was based around the handling of COVID-19 in the UK itself and Johnson’s wanting to have the inquiry postponed till the end of the pandemic when a better assessment could be made.
The BVI’s COI, the governor pointed out, is on an entirely different issue which involved alleged wrongdoing, dishonesty and corruption in the territory.
And despite the UK’s decision to fund the COI’s core costs, the governor expressed full confidence that it was an independent commission.
Alluding to the UK’s financing of the COI, Governor Rankin said there was no breach of law in that instance, as this was allowed for under the current Act.
The governor said the Commissioner, a senior UK judge, is also not subject to the direction of any UK official, including himself (Rankin).
“He’s entirely independent in his work and his recommendations and findings are reached in an independent way,” the governor said.
Governor Rankin noted that the BVI’s COI was extended for three main reasons — the volume of material was large, some material submitted previously was discovered to be incomplete or missing, and COVID-19 has required some changes in the COI’s format.
According to the governor, it would be a wrong approach to sweep issues being investigated in the COI under the proverbial carpet and not shed light on them.
“So, it’s an uncomfortable experience, I understand, for some but I think it’s absolutely right to investigate these issues and we’ll wait to see what the Commission of Inquiry recommends,” he said.
As governor, Rankin said he needs to wait to see the recommendations and was hopeful that these lead to a situation of better governance in the BVI.
The governor said the COI’s team will work through the process and produce a report to be submitted to him. Members of the COI are expected to return to the territory in August to resume hearings in September.