The Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry is a watchdog that acts as a guarantee of good behaviour by the powerful.

VI residents today understand the true meaning of checks and balances, as well as governance benchmarks for the powerful. The preceding is nothing unusual. All over the western world, the idea of checks and balances is viewed as the central custodian of freedom and democracy. And even in our own daily lives, we are all fully aware of how far we can go in terms of law in everyday tasks such as driving; associating with work managers and colleagues; handling business and public cash; interacting with children and teenagers; and so many other activities.

The wealthy and powerful should adhere to the same standards. But too many who are in high office — or who have “a ton of cash in the bank and friends in high places” — behave like the rule of law does not apply to them.

In this society in past years, the idea that certain individuals and families are above the law has been a social reality. And even when these big names were apprehended by the police for clear crimes and misdemeanours, everything was designed by a small society to get them off the hook.

On the other hand, the average man apprehended for a crime was tried and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

That imbalance between the powerful and the average resident has been a fact of life in the VI.

 

The inquiry

Now, here comes a Commission of Inquiry doing a thorough investigation of governance in the territory. This is the first time this type of investigation has been conducted in recent history, and very publicly.

Power dislikes greater power. And power tends to become tyrannical when unchecked. That is the story of history and why bloody wars have been fought and global institutions established to regulate countries and regions. And that is why oversight over the executive branch of government is critical for good governance in the VI.

History reveals that self-policing does not work. For that reason, external regulators of specific agencies are the way to get these agencies to follow the law.

Judicial and legislative oversight of the executive branch — with the best example being the United States — stops rogue characters from plunging society into the proverbial abyss. In the United Kingdom overseas territories, oversight resides in the Crown, with the Governor’s Office acting as the representative of the Queen.

 

‘Self-autonomy’

There is a very high degree of self-autonomy, and for all intents and purposes OTs are independent until the rule of law is viewed as under threat from unscrupulous characters and the Crown steps in.

Those who chant colonialism as the reason for the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry are clearly unaware of just how much leeway has been granted to OTs to not only conduct their own affairs but to get away with not observing key aspects of the rule of law.

 

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