Despite pushing the narrative of a ‘Modern Partnership’ between the United Kingdom and the Government of the Virgin Islands (VI), UK Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Frank Zacharias Robin Goldsmith has indicated that the controversial Order in Council to suspend the VI’s constitution will not be lifted until the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) reforms are completed.
The Minister, in a statement released by Government Information Services (GIS) today, February 3, 2023, claimed that, coming out of meetings and discussions over the last few days in the VI, there is a desire for a stronger modern partnership between the Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom (UK) and that it includes safety and security of the territory.
Room for stronger partnership - Lord Goldsmith
“It also applies in other areas like health, education, energy reform, where there's room for much stronger and better partnership, sharing best practice, technical expertise, encouraging investment into this territory.”
He further announced that the UK has funded 4 new rigid inflatable boats for the police, which will provide a boost to the capability of the local marine police.
Lord Goldsmith said the second thing that stuck out for him was the strength of the commitment he heard from the Premier and his Cabinet to promoting good governance and carrying out the reforms in line with the Commission of Inquiry
The Minister said; however, he was aware of the Premier’s feelings surrounding the Order in Council and that of the people.
"We too want to see these reforms seen through, such that the Order can be lifted."
Lord Goldsmith said he will continue to support the [British] Virgin Islands, both in the next few months and after the general election, in taking these reforms forward "so that we can realise the Premier's vision of the BVI as a beacon of democracy.”
Remove Order - Premier Wheatley
Premier Wheatley, as well as regional and international bodies, have called on the UK to remove the Order, but despite this, the UK Government has not budged on the request.
Dr Wheatley, who has been slammed for keeping Lord Goldsmith's arrival and itinerary in the VI a secret, had also said Lord Goldsmith was open to discussions about the Order in Council and it would be up for discussion during his VI visit.
The Order in Council in reserve has been likened by many to the UK
holding a gun to VI’s head, which they argue is not representative of a
modern partnership, but reeks of colonialism and even racism.
Premier Dr Wheatley has repeatedly
called on the UK to remove the order, but despite this, the UK
Government has not budged on the request.
Threat of direct rule can ‘weaken democratic governance’- E. Benito Wheatley
In a statement to Members of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly: Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonisation) in New York City on October 6, 2022, Special Envoy of the Premier Mr E. Benito Wheatley said the reserved Order in Council is a form of pressure that can weaken democratic governance and hinder a genuine working relationship between the VI and UK.
Mr Wheatley also told the UN there should also be sensitivity about the feelings of the Commonwealth Caribbean on this issue in terms of the colonial past.
Both CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have also condemned the threat of direct rule by the United Kingdom on the Virgin Islands
“A new modern partnership can be established if both sides act in good faith,” Mr Wheatley argued.
Other Order in Council
In the spirit of ‘modern partnership,’ the UK is also forcing the VI to implement a Public Register of Beneficial Owners b the end of 2023, even when it is not a global standard and even though the European Union (EU) Supreme Court recently rejected it.
The European Union Court of Justice on November 22, 2022, struck down the European Union (EU) mandate for public registers of beneficial ownership of all companies.
The Justices ruled that the provision whereby the information on the beneficial ownership of companies incorporated within the territory of member states is accessible in all cases to any member of the general public is invalid.
The court ruled that registers containing the personal details of the owners of a company and accessible to the general public are an infringement of fundamental rights of privacy and personal data protection.
The [British] Virgin Islands has said it has no issues with making beneficial ownership registers public once it becomes a global standard.