Two weeks ago, heads of government from the Caribbean Community again called on the United Kingdom to remove the order in council that allows the governor to partially suspend the Virgin Islands Constitution and implement temporary direct rule here.

Leaders made this call following an update from Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley at the regional body’s 44th regular conference in the Bahamas from Feb. 15- 17. “I am pleased with the position of the heads of government on the situation in the Virgin Islands which is included in the meeting’s communique,” Dr. Wheatley said in a statement Feb. 20 after his return to the territory.

The UK is using the order in council to pressure the government to implement wideranging reforms recommended last year by the Commission of Inquiry, but Dr. Wheatley said the regional leaders see it as a “blunt colonial instrument” that has “no place in democratic governance.”

Dr. Wheatley also said he updated Caricom leaders on the progress of governance reforms in the territory. Several delegates at the conference, he noted, recounted the United Nations decolonisation meeting in St. Lucia in May 2022, where representatives from Caricom member states, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and overseas territories publicly opposed UK direct rule over the territory.

Dr. Wheatley noted that his special envoy Benito Wheatley, who served as the government’s interlocutor during the crisis, delivered a statement at the St. Lucia meeting in which he also urged the UK not to suspend the VI’s Constitution.

At the time, the premier said, Mr. Wheatley also met with “a senior UK diplomat in the region” who informed him of “internal efforts” to dissuade London from proceeding with direct rule because of the “political implications” in the Caribbean.

 Situation in Haiti

Also during the meeting in the Bahamas, the regional leaders discussed the “unfortunate deteriorating situation in Haiti and the urgent need to strengthen security on the ground and restore overall stability,” the premier said.

He added that there is urgent need for a regional and hemispheric response to the collapse of law and order in Haiti, a process which he noted Caricom, Canada and other partners are working to address.

As part of those efforts, he said, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the conference and committed to assist Haiti in partnership with Caricom. Dr. Wheatley said a stakeholder meeting is expected to be held in Jamaica, and another meeting on security and law and order will be held in Haiti in the near future.

In the VI

Here in the VI, Dr. Wheatley noted, the “deteriorating situation” in Haiti has resulted in the arrival of a steady stream of Haitians travelling with the assistance of human traffickers. “Our law enforcement agencies, security personnel and other public officers are all doing their best to appropriately respond to these arrivals, including asylum cases and repatriations,” Dr. Wheatley said.

He added that the government is doing its best to address the welfare of the Haitians, who he said “face an unfortunate set of circumstances.” The National Unity Government, he said, will continue to engage Caricom in order to improve the government’s response to the crisis.