Residents of the British Virgin Islands have long-complained about Government malfeasance and the need to looking into longstanding claims of corruption. Additionally, the territory’s credibility has been challenged by the failure to produce audits for major Government projects, making it difficult to secure funding and loans.
As a result, His Excellency Governor Jaspert has launched a Commission of Inquiry
into Government affairs, and while the public may be breathing a sigh of relief they are equally worried about the evidence that may be unearthed, or worse, the impact for brand BVI, whose Tourism and Finance sectors are heavily dependent on outside support and whether it could resemble the daunting outcome of a similar inquiry done in the Turks and Caicos over a decade ago.
When questioned on what could come out of this inquiry, recently appointed Commissioner Gary Hickingbottom said “If I conclude that there is nothing possibly amiss with the governance of these Islands, I will say so; and that will be the end of it. But, if I find there is some possible substance to the concerns, then, as the Terms of Reference require, I will have to consider what might be done about them, and make recommendations for action, for example, in terms of whether criminal proceedings might be brought against any individuals. It would then be for the criminal courts to determine whether crimes have been committed.”
Eleven years ago, a similar situation unfolded in the Turks and Caicos. The UK suspended local government for two years following the Commission of inquiry
on allegations of corruption.
An inquiry into governance – headed by Sir Robin Auld, a former high court judge – was launched after a delegation of visiting British MPs reported a “climate of fear” existed on the islands. The inquiry was told that Misick and his former wife, an actor, LisaRaye McCoy-Misick, spent a fortune on a luxury lifestyle which revolved around champagne, designer clothes and private jets.
Though then Governor Gordon Wetherell said it was not a “British takeover”, Britain made a decision to assume the day-to-day control of the Turks and Caicos Islands to “put the Islands’ affairs back in good order”.
Since the launch of the BVI’s COI
and with the antagonizing spatter seen between the Governor’s and Government’s office, many are left to wonder whether the alacrity of this COI
is a watershed moment to deter nefarious acts in local government or a pejorative attempt to damage the eminent reputation of the territory.