The road to Virgin Islands independence is a long and winding road that starts with public discussion and debate leading to a referendum where two thirds of a territory’s citizens vote for independence.
But even before any type of independence, there will be a move towards greater autonomy by overseas territories, and the consolidation of a confederation of independent OTs of the United Kingdom.
OTs must unite in order to possess the type of power that unity alone can generate.
If residents vote for independence, then after independence is granted there will need to be formed a confederation of independent territories that will be led by two indigenes: a native governor general and a native super premier. Both leaders of the confederation should be appointed by committees comprising representatives of all the OT legislatures and an OT council of premiers.
Independent territories that are part of the confederation will be led, like today, by a governor and a premier. The one difference would be that the governor would be a native of the islands appointed by a committee made up of all three arms of government: judiciary, legislature and cabinet.
Now, British OT citizens, including Virgin Islanders, appear sceptical of independence. This is fully understandable. Independence is a huge change in the status quo and calls for the political management of great matters of state. The key questions on independence are these: What are the social and economic benefits of independence to OT citizens? Will the quality of their lives improve or decline after independence?
Okay, the first factor driving public scepticism is constitutional. Who will keep the executive arm of government in check in the absence of the Queen? How will the doctrine of separation of powers — a great centurion for keeping tyranny at bay — operate?
Then, will OT citizens be better off after independence? How will their new statuses as citizens of independent territories from Great Britain affect their global statuses? How powerful will the new independent territory passport be? How will independence impact the territory’s relations with the UK, United States, United Nations, European Union, World Trade Organisation, and a host of other global organisations?
A more common question asked: Will a territory such as the VI be able to keep the US dollar as its main currency? Who will guarantee the security of a newly independent territory with no current army or coast guard?
How will newly independent territories govern their external affairs? Independence will mean a seat in the UN; ambassadors to the US, UK and EU; and a string of ambassadors and embassies around the world. How will territories pool resources to ensure the viability of independence?
The preceding are all matters that must be discussed, addressed and decided before even a referendum can be held.
Any move towards independence will not be driven by commentators or individual politicians, but by a willing public after hearing the various arguments in a very public forum.
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