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UK attorney raises concern of no local involvement in CoI team

UK attorney raises concern of no local involvement in CoI team

Former United Kingdom Attorney General and attorney for the Executive branch of the Virgin Islands Government, Sir Charles Geoffrey Cox QC, has lamented the apparent lack of local involvement in the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which is allegedly aimed at improving governance in the British Overseas Territory.

Emphasising that he is not taking any dogmatic position, Sir Geoffrey addressed how perception arising from the way the Inquiry is being conducted can affect local confidence in it.

He told the lone Commissioner, retired British Judge Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom QC: “You've arrived on this island with a team from the United Kingdom. As far as we're aware, there is no local involvement in your Inquiry.

Sir Geoffrey was speaking during submissions on Day 5 of hearings by the Commission on Thursday, May 13, 2021, at the International Arbitration Centre on Wickham’s Cay II, Tortola. The transcript of the session became available on the Commission of Inquiry’s website on May 31, 2021.

Lone Commissioner, retired British Judge Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom QC, left, and Press Secretary Steven Chandler. The Commission of Inquiry team has no local involvement, which has raised concerns of transparency and fairness.

It was revealed in the CoI and reported by this news site that there was longtime tension between the governments of the VI and UK. Ex Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert was also accused by trying to bully the elected government led by Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1) as well as the legislature.


‘Importance of transparency should not be underestimated’


The UK attorney also noted that there is an uneasiness surrounding the CoI in the VI, not necessarily because anyone has anything to hide but because there is a lack of transparency regarding the operation of the CoI.

“Your arrival has obviously been noted, to put it mildly, and it causes, inevitably within the island, a degree of concern, apprehension, consternation, speculation, and, frankly, worry, and that isn't because necessarily there is anybody - those who are worried are necessarily feeling they have anything to hide, but in the absence of precise knowledge about what the Inquiry is doing, for perfectly understandable reasons, it does cause a strain.”

Sir Geoffrey emphasised the importance of “local public confidence in the fairness, balance and independence of your Inquiry.”

He said the importance of transparency should not be underestimated and the Commission should take note that certain perceptions have grown based on how the Inquiry has been operating from inception.

It was also revealed in the CoI and reported by this news site that there was longtime tension between the governments of the VI and UK.

Former Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who Commissioned the CoI, was also accused of trying to bully the elected government as well as the legislature.

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