A recent event celebrated the achievements of some of the Virgin Islands’ past leaders (as reported in your Dec. 20 article “Dinner marks the end of grant-in-aid”), but the government has been blamed for squandering their legacy. We now have to go cap-in-hand to international lenders asking them to overlook our comparative affluence. Blame financial incompetence and lack of vision, as well as Irmaria.
Current members of the House of Assembly have a little longer to declare their financial interests or face grilling during the election campaign on what they are concealing. If any newly elected legislator with known business interests does not declare them, they could be boycotted for their dishonesty. They would then have to deny their ownership or comply with law and declare it.
The government continues to ignore the recommendations in the report on the 2015 election to create commissions to regulate the mass media and elections.
An integrity commission to oversee HOA members, the civil service and other public bodies could be tasked with supervising all these activities. Instead of having one imposed on us by the United Kingdom, we should embrace our affirmation of integrity to redeem our reputation and recover the vision that our predecessors possessed. However, the proposed Public Service Act would go some way towards it.
The government is also ignoring the recommendation on the enfranchisement of electors who cannot vote in person. I was able to vote by proxy in UK elections for 15 years after I became a non-resident, but most Virgin Islanders are away for much briefer absences such as pre-booked vacations, medical treatment, higher education or work contracts. Are the staff of our overseas missions also unable to vote?
It was troubling to have a government minister reportedly admitting the existence of “little brown envelopes” in past elections. It may be said that the people in a democracy get the government they deserve. Do not support candidates merely because they are family or belong to a particular political party, but consider their known merits in those roles alongside the policies they espouse and urge them to support the call for a VI integrity commission with teeth. It would be desirable for it to oversee the upcoming election, but it’s probably too late now.
Other countries and territories are ahead of the VI in this respect.
The Turks and Caicos Islands’ Integrity Commission monitored that territory’s 2016 general election (the second for which it reported on registered parties’ and independent candidates’ compliance with spending rules).
Meanwhile, Guyana’s integrity commission recently reported that a large percentage of the public officials who have so far submitted declarations of their assets and liabilities will soon be asked to submit additional particulars.
The Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies advocates for such measures.
Meeting at its fourth annual conference in the TCI last June, the association urged regional governments to enact, expand and implement national legislative frameworks and strategies for improved effectiveness, in part to help ensure that there are no “legislative silos” deterring anti-corruption work in the region.
The organisation also urged members to publicise the real cost of corruption to the general public, and to involve children, young adults, civil society organisations and religious bodies in the fight for anti-corruption and good-governance efforts.
Additionally, the association encouraged the Caribbean Community to discuss ways to reduce corruption in the Commonwealth Caribbean and accepted the Grenada government’s offer to provide facilities for its capacity-building programmes in collaboration with the India government and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The 2019 conference likely will be held in the Cayman Islands.