The apparently unprecedented events taking place in the world during our lifetime actually are not unprecedented in life, for there is nothing new under the sun. What has been will be, and what will be has been.
However, there are some common threads linking these events together, with the most powerful of them being the revelation of truth. John 8:32 tells us: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The world is on a truth and reconciliation crusade, and the Virgin Islands is no exception. Therefore, if we are to make constructive use of this commission of inquiry, putting aside arguments of its origin and motivation, we must place it in the wider context of world events and treat it as a truth and reconciliation commission, both on the part of the United Kingdom and the VI.
This six-month COI will determine first and foremost whether our current public service governance system is adequate to effectively manage the operation of our government and to provide the mechanisms by which it and public officers (political and administrative) are held to account.
Good governance requires administrative systems to deliver efficient and effective results; standards to ensure compliance with rules; controls to manage and minimise risks; and codes to ensure ethical conduct. These necessary elements must be in place to safeguard against human susceptibilities.
We must therefore once and for all speak truthfully about our experiences with our current governance system in order to determine if it has evolved adequately to facilitate all of the needs of a nation engaged in global enterprises and of a people whose aspirations are the same as those in any developed society. With these truths spoken and written, we must move to quickly reconcile the gaps between the needs of the territory and its people, and the ability of our system of governance and our institutions to deliver the outcomes required to move the territory forward to greater self-determination.
‘Truth stands alone’
We can only achieve the best outcome for the territory if we accept that the truth stands alone and is no respecter of persons. Neither the receivers of the COI information nor the persons providing the information can change the truth. Recent world events have taught us that misinformation, conceived in darkness and majestically cloaked in grandeur, quickly evaporates in the information age of truth and revelation. This is the new paradigm that is ushering in a new era of justice, equality, transparency and peace in the world. The VI is no exception.
At our core, Virgin Islanders are a strong, honest, resilient, self-sufficient and independent people who have built an enviable society through strong leadership, hard work and always playing by the rules. Those of us who have worked in senior roles in public service are aware of the challenges of working within our limited governance system with its many gaps that only widen as the demands and needs of the territory and its people increase. It is not sustainable, and now is the time to fix it.
Through the creative use of public-private partnerships, the territory has managed to maintain its competitive posture in most arenas externally. Internally, we struggle to meet the domestic demands of a people whose quest for a good quality of life is no different in the West End of Tortola than it is in the west end of London. But one size of governance does not fit all. Limitations related to small size, population, resources, family relations, equitable work distribution and other issues unique to small societies require a different, appropriate and relevant governance model, a fact recognised by the United Nations in its Small Islands Developing States governance standards.
As a people of faith, we know that all things work together for good and that sometimes things that come against us that seem evil work for our good. We have come this far by faith, and we should not let doubt, fear and mistrust cripple our quest for greater self-determination. History holds the truth and has taught us many valuable lessons of who we are as Virgin Islands and United Kingdom people and nations.
Let us remember the admonition of the late Chief Minister H. Lavity Stoutt to learn from our mistakes and let knowledge, instinct, history, information and discernment guide and direct our path to the future with the help of God. Let us live our faith. It is in our DNA.
This is our moment, Virgin Islands! Truth ushers in change and reconciliation. Both are prerequisites for greater self-determination.
Mr. Malone is a former senior official with the government of the Virgin Islands.