Speculations that the United Kingdom (UK) Government is trying to influence the outcome of the Virgin Islands (VI) continue with the UK-appointed Governor John J. Rankin threatening to make public certain Commission of Inquiry (CoI) related reviews before the general elections if the Unity Government does not.
The Governor made the threats during a press conference today, April 6, 2023, during an update on Ministerial Response to Quarterly Review on COI Recommendations Implementation.
“A number of the specific reviews which were commissioned have now been received. For example, in relation to statutory boards and the distribution of Crown land. The statutory boards' review carried out by Jamal Smith was received on the 31st of December."
He added, “The review of Crown land by David Abednego was received on the 13th of January, but neither of these reviews has yet been made public, allowing people to read for themselves the direction that its proposed reforms will take,” he said.
The Governor said similarly, the review of social assistance conducted by the Social Policy Research Institute in support of UNICEF is also yet to be published, despite having been received on January 18, 2023.
It remains unclear why the reports have not yet been published; however, Governor Rankin said given the sensitivity of the issues arising from the Assistance Grants audit, he expects that members of the public will be interested to see what solutions the experts recommend.
The Governor made the threats during a
press conference today, April 6, 2023, during an update on Ministerial
Response to Quarterly Review on COI Recommendations Implementation.
Make reviews public now - Governor
“So I believe that the reviews need to start being made public now, and unless they are otherwise published shortly, I will take steps to do so,” he said.
In the past, Governor Rankin without reason had held on to the CoI
Report completed by Commissioner Gary R. Hickenbottom despite calls for the report to be made public but only saw it necessary to publish the report immediately after the arrest of Ex-Premier Andrew A. Fahie
in Miami in April 2022.
The Report had recommended suspension of the VI constitution; however, after pushback from the people as well as support from regional and international bodies such as CARICOM and the United Nations, the UK stopped short of enforcing direct rule. It nevertheless has an Order in Council on 'reserve' to force the VI to swiftly implement the reforms.
The Governor in his justification to publish the reviews ahead of the Government said they are only the start of a process on which further action is required and that it is imperative that the government considers the recommendations and the reviews, consults with them as necessary, and then gets on with delivering the necessary changes.
"So I believe that the review needs to start being made public now and unless they are otherwise published shortly I will take steps to do so," Governor Rankin stated.