Following the release of the Commission of Inquiry report, there are only two options for Virgin Islands governance over the next four years: direct rule or indirect rule. Either option will see the United Kingdom Cabinet and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office play an active role in VI governance.
In other words, for the next two to five years, there will be either UK direct rule or a governor-premier partnership with the governor as senior partner — what I would call indirect rule. In fact, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, a new order is already in place with the governor as direct overseer of VI governance — and much more interventionist than in recent decades.
The VI has essentially had self-rule for decades, but with the caveat that the Crown through the governor has reserve powers to intervene under specific circumstances. But the situation changed following the allegations of rampant corruption and criminal misconduct in the land and the COI report and recommendations. Suddenly we are all seeing just how powerful the Office of the Governor is.
The VI is a territory of Great Britain, and until it is independent it will be subject to UK Cabinet oversight through the FCDO.
Now the COI has recommended that one or more independent units be established to conduct needed investigations. The COI commissioner further stated that steps should be taken to ensure that appropriate measures be used to secure money, land or other assets pending the outcome of criminal or civil recovery or confiscation proceedings.
The commissioner also emphasised the importance of the unit’s “independence, impartiality and integrity,” and he stated that it must be properly resourced in order to foster public confidence.
The establishment of such a unit long ago may have prevented the VI from being plunged into the current constitutional abyss. However, the agency would have had to be very active to prevent the type of activities that have led the territory to this very bad place.
In a free and democratic society, a powerful check on executive impunity is the one true guarantor of accountable, transparent and honest governance.
Connect with Mr. Igwe on Facebook and Twitter.