For the Virgin Islands and other British overseas territories, the weapons of diplomacy, tact and negotiation are better options in moving towards self-determination than banging an anticolonial drum. Indeed, tact and diplomacy will achieve more than confrontation.

There is a reason for diplomacy: It is better than war. And in a world where people are swift to draw the sword from the scabbard, diplomacy is one reason why millions are alive today, and not lost to war and conflict.

United Kingdom wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill once described a diplomat as someone who will tell you to go to hell, and you actually enjoy the journey along the way.

In the VI today, with the commission of inquiry and a feeling the land has lost control of its narratives to external forces, one reason for the general feeling of being besieged has been the lack of diplomacy — and the consequent negotiations that derive from diplomacy — towards the UK.

Yes, these islands have been under a microscope for nearly three decades, ever since financial services became the main economic pillar. But that should have been more reason to adopt greater diplomacy and tact when dealing with outside powers — especially the UK.

This writer once warned a friend and senior public official to adopt diplomacy as a weapon when dealing with a UK that has greater tools at its disposal to drive its own agenda and interests. Unfortunately, the great man ignored that advice and suffered accordingly.

 

UK power over OTs

The simple fact is that the UK can bring much to bear down on any OT if it so wishes — or if Westminster and Whitehall believe a heavier hand is required.

The power local and native governments possess in OTs derives from UK common law, conventions and customs, as well as the UK national interest in maintaining OTs as strategic appendages of the UK mainland.

That power can only be diminished if a substantial percentage of OT citizens desire a change in the status quo. In the VI, it is far from certain that residents want less UK oversight.

Consequently, the one realistic option for constitutional change is not force of rhetoric but diplomacy, along with the accompanying negotiations and diplomatic skills that serve a desired outcome.

 

Popular status quo?

Tact and diplomacy can only be ignored if the mass of an OT population is behind a native government in a drive for full independence.

From observation, this writer is willing to state that in the VI the majority of residents are happy with the status quo and UK oversight. Without the overt and clear backing of the people for radical constitutional change, it will not happen. Meanwhile, all the rhetoric against UK oversight by politicians will hit the proverbial ceiling.

If you are on the weaker side, then, it is much better to adopt tact and diplomacy in driving constitutional change.

When dealing with the UK in matters of self-determination, it is unwise to play a game of dominoes when the UK is expert at playing chess.

 

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