As the Virgin Islands waited to learn whether the United Kingdom will impose direct rule, Special Envoy of the Premier Benito Wheatley provided an update to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation last week.
“The past 14 days have been a rollercoaster ride for the people of the British Virgin Islands,” Mr. Wheatley stated on May 11 at a seminar in St. Lucia.
Of former Premier Andrew Fahie’s arrest, he said, “We are highly disappointed and embarrassed by his actions and the very disturbing things he has been involved in that were revealed in the affidavit filed in the United States courts. We condemn his behaviour and believe the US court system should be left to take its course.”
Mr. Wheatley also noted how the arrest prompted Governor John Rankin to release the Commission of Inquiry report early.
“The effect of releasing the report so quickly after former Premier Fahie was detained threw an already reeling society into a tailspin,” he said. “It also strengthened calls for direct rule to be imposed on the people of the British Virgin Islands, as recommended by Sir Gary Hickinbottom in the report. This in turn has increased pressure on the UK government to take that undesirable course of action.”
Mr. Wheatley noted that Amanda Milling, the UK minister responsible for the overseas territories, expressed “deep concern” about governance issues in meetings with VI leaders that week.
He also described the VI government’s proposal to push forward reform without dissolving the House of Assembly.
“This position is not only that of the political directorate: It is also the sentiment of the majority of the population who cherish democracy and do not want to see the constitutional progress made over the past 70 years reversed,” he claimed, describing protests opposing UK direct rule that took place in recent weeks. He added that the government hopes its proposal to carry forward the reforms in partnership with the UK will be accepted, and he thanked the committee for its assistance with furthering the goals of non-self-governing territories like the VI. “The British Virgin Islands will remain engaged with the committee on the available options sanctioned by the UN,” he added.