The Commission of Inquiry (COI) was a demeaning and degrading exercise and a regrettable passage in the history of the BVI, particularly for lawmakers who had to endure intense questioning for hours at a time by United Kingdom (UK) officials over some of the more questionable decisions they made on governance during their time in office.
That was the position held by several current and former legislators vying to serve as Premier of the territory as they recently debated issues at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) ahead of the general elections slated for April 24.
Third District Representative, Julian Fraser suggested that the UK may have had ulterior motives in imposing the COI
on the territory two years ago.
Fraser argued that the COI
had a humiliating objective and said this played out fully as the territory’s leaders — both past and present — were hauled before the Commission to ask them the same questions repeatedly.
“The Commission of Inquiry
, it was demeaning, was degrading. I think they had their objective, they had their motives. Their objectives seemed to have been played out…” Fraser argued.
“First, [the COI
] undressed the leaders of the country. [They] show to you that [elected officials] are not worthy of being of being your leaders and then we got everything covered after that,” Fraser told residents during the debate. ”The Commission of Inquiry
, to me, didn’t come to seek truth, they came to exact blood.”
Fraser contended that most persons in the territory are convinced that the BVI’s leaders are untrustworthy and corrupt, but he argued that the BVI’s leaders are, in and of themselves, a reflection of the people.
“You just couldn’t win with the Commission of Inquiry
,” Fraser said. “Justice should be blind, but it depends on where it comes from and how it was meted out on you. And I think that we were pretty much humiliated. I think that those are the kind of things that we should factor into our thoughts when someone asks you about self-determination.”
UK shouldn’t dictate constitutional change
Fraser’s views were mirrored to some degree by Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) leader, Ronnie Skelton, who said he believes the COI
should have been done a long time ago and stressed that changes coming as a result of that COI
are needed in the territory.
Skelton, however, said he disagreed with the COI
’s recommendation that the UK government should have the power to dictate when constitutional changes should be made. He instead said he believes this power should be solely in the hands of the people of the territory.
He, too, turned his attention to the COI
’s process, describing it as ‘antics’ and a ‘public display’. “The COI
, the whole process, you know, to me was, as a Virgin Islander, degrading for me personally. I don’t know if it’s so for others. The COI
to me, the whole investigation, a lot of the stuff, we could have done them on our own,” Skelton said.
He added: “I didn’t like that part of it — to see that a bunch of people of a different colour, [to see our legislators] being humiliated in a public forum, I think those days have long gone, and it should not have happened.”