Members of the Constitutional Review Commission pose with Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley and then-Governor John Rankin after presenting them with a copy of their report last November. The government circulated the report to the public this week after it was tabled Jan. 31 in the House of Assembly. (File Photo: GIS)

Adding two at-large seats to the House of Assembly. Amending the Constitution to grant the public an explicit right to access government information. Holding a referendum on whether to adopt term limits for legislators.

These proposals are among 57 recommendations made by the Constitutional Review Commission, whose 288-page report was circulated by the government Monday after it was tabled Jan. 31 in the House of Assembly.

The report was drafted by commissioners appointed in June 2022, who held extensive public consultations around the territory to gather feedback as part of an in-depth review of the 2007 Virgin Islands Constitution Order.

The report was presented to then-Governor John Rankin and Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley on Nov. 27, and then it went to Cabinet.

Now, more public meetings will follow before the VI government enters closed-door negotiations with the UK government to hash out the details of a new Constitution.

“Given the significant period in the territory’s constitutional development, the aspirations for greater constitutional education (as articulated to this commission during its public consultations), the approach to writing this report has deliberately been to educate in addition to making recommendations,” Committee Chairwoman Lisa Penn-Lettsome wrote in her introduction to the report.


The commission’s advice ranges widely and includes ideas for constitutional amendments as well as other measures.

Some recommendations pertain to the House of Assembly’s make-up and duties. For instance, the report calls for a review of electoral boundaries in part to help facilitate the future appointment of a sixth minister.

Besides the recommendation to add two at-large seats to the HOA, it also advises that the territory consider abolishing district seats altogether.

Additionally, it recommends that the premier and deputy premier be chosen from among at-large candidates.


Other recommendations pertain to checks and balances designed to help hold executive ministerial government to account.

“This [topic] attracted the liveliest interaction with the general public and this is reflected in the number of recommendations,” the report notes. “These recommendations can be presented under a few themes — recommendations that promote transparency; recommendations that encourage more active public consultation and participation; and recommendations for legislative reform that would support greater accountability.”

The first of these recommendations advises amending the Constitution to include a requirement for the HOA Standing Orders “to give due regard to representative democracy, accountability, transparency and public participation,” according to the report.

Access to information

A related recommendation suggests phrasing for an amendment that would create a constitutional right to access information generated by the government and its entities.

The proposed amendment states, “Subject to this Constitution, a law shall provide for a right of access to information held by the public service or by public authorities, for the conditions for the exercise of that right, and for restrictions and exceptions to that right in the interests of international relations, the security of the Virgin Islands or the United Kingdom, public safety, public order, public morality or the rights or interests of individuals.”

Also proposed is a constitutional amendment mandating the regulation of campaign finance.


Other recommended governance reforms include a constitutional amendment establishing autonomous budgets to ensure greater administrative and financial independence for watchdogs such as the auditor general, the director of public prosecutions, and the complaints commissioner.

“The commission posits that, in order for all these institutions to be more effective, those that have not yet been set up should be, and they should all be properly resourced and empowered,” the report says of such watchdogs. “Their independence should not be eroded (whether in theory or in practice) by their administrative and financial positions being unreasonably subordinated to ill-filling practices and procedures of the very same bodies and persons they oversee.”

HOA qualifications

Turning to HOA members’ qualifications, the report recommends considering whether serious criminal convictions should disqualify someone from holding elected office. Similarly, it adds that an elected member should be required to vacate their seat if found to have breached the code of conduct in the Integrity in Public Life Act.

Devolution of powers

Other recommendations were designed in part to devolve greater authority to the elected government.

For example, the report advises adding constitutional requirements for the governor to consult with the premier before using discretionary power and to consult with the finance minister before withdrawing from the Consolidated Fund.

The commission also provided several recommendations for various reforms outside of constitutional amendments, including adopting a population policy, educating the public on political self-determination, and conducting a study on the costs and benefits of “full internal self-government.”

COI requirement

The report fulfills part of a Commission of Inquiry recommendation for a comprehensive review of the territory’s Constitution as part of efforts to ensure good governance and the development of the VI’s political institutions.

The CRC used feedback from various means, including from submissions to its website at, public and private meetings, radio and television interviews, and school outreach efforts.

The commission was charged with various tasks, including assessing the vision of the people; evaluating the current Constitution and identifying any gaps in it; recommending reforms; reviewing the next steps towards self-determination; and considering the best place for law enforcement and justice agencies within the constitutional framework, according to the Premier’s Office.


Four of the original 16 commissioners resigned before the completion of the report: Janice Stoutt, now-Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton, Coy Levons and Bernadine Louis.

The other members are Ms. Penn-Lettsome; Deputy Chairman Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron; Maya Barry; Tanya Cassie-Parker; Sendrick Chinnery; Susan Demers; Noni Georges; Dr. Steve Lennard; Dr. Benedicta Samuels; Rajah Smith; Dr. Melvin Turnbull; and Dr. Charles Wheatley.