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CoI team returns to VI next week; May hold preliminary hearings

CoI team returns to VI next week; May hold preliminary hearings

The Commissioner of the Inquiry into governance in the Virgin Islands, Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom, will be returning to the Virgin Islands (VI) next week and is currently considering holding preliminary hearings in the VI in late April and early May, prior to the main oral hearings.

This is according to CoI Secretary Steven Chandler in a press statement today, March 22, 2021.

“The Commissioner will publish rules to regulate the conduct and management of the COI’s hearings shortly,” Mr Chandler stated.

The COI, according to Mr Chandler, is currently engaged in the second stage of the Inquiry, namely obtaining further information and documentation in response to the information already provided by members of the public.

Info requested from elected & statutory officials

The COI has to date sent over 100 letters of request for information/documents to public officials, including elected and statutory officials.

“Members of the COI team intend to return to the British Virgin Islands next week to continue with the information gathering stage of the COI. The Commissioner will be accompanied by Mr Steven Chandler (Secretary to the COI) and Mr Andrew King (Senior Solicitor to the COI). All three will of course observe the current 14 days quarantine requirement on arrival,” Mr Chandler wrote.

The CoI team had departed the VI for the UK on February 4, 2021.

The Commission of Inquiry ('the Commission') was announced on January 18, 2021, by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert.

CoI concerns

The Commission of Inquiry was announced on January 18, 2021 to look into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place amongst public, elected and statutory officials in recent years.

Interestingly, it was announced by controversial ex-Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who it is alleged was antagonistic towards the elected Government of Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), who has been putting qualified Virgin Islanders in top posts usually held by expatriates and has been championing talks of self-determination.

Mr Jaspert had kept the VI Government in the dark about his scheme and then colluded with the UK press to give the CoI international coverage, which hurt the reputation of the territory.

Many Virgin Islanders have stated while they are aware that corruption may exist in the VI just as in any other country, including the UK, the move to issue a CoI is highly “questionable” especially since it is no secret the Governor has been at loggerheads with the elected Government.

The controversial former Governor was already heavily critcised late last year for what many deemed as insensitive remarks on reparations for slavery and for stating that the VI should preserve the names of landmarks named after perpetrators of chattel slavery, brutality and crimes against humanity.

His perceived insensitivity to descendants of slaves further came into question with him choosing Martin Luther King Jr Day to announce he had issued a Commission of Inquiry into Governance, throwing the VI into a highly negative light on the international scene.

Virgin Islanders associate with Martin Luther King Jr Day, being mostly descendants of slaves and due to their close ties with the United States of America.


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