The first set of meetings intended to gather the public’s commentary about the relationship between the Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom were held this week on Jost Van Dyke and Tortola.
Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie (R-D1) is hosting the meetings — which will continue throughout this week — in response to a broader inquiry by UK lawmakers into the country’s future relationship with its overseas territories.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which didn’t launch any public effort to gather feedback here, is carrying out the examination and welcomes input to be submitted by Sept. 3.
Mr. Fahie took the lead in soliciting community feedback after the UK announced the inquiry, criticising the VI government for not doing the same.
Following the opposition leader’s reproach, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith announced last week that government is preparing its own submission to the UK inquiry, and invited residents to weigh in.
Dr. Smith also referenced the recently passed UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, a section of which requires overseas territories to establish public registers of company ownership by the end of 2020.
“We have always valued our relationship with the UK government, Parliament and people, none more so than last year when so much help and support was forthcoming from all levels of British society post-Irma,” the premier wrote in a statement.
“However, recent developments have created a sense of unease and cause many in the Virgin Islands to question the attitude of the UK Parliament towards the BVI and indeed all the overseas territories.”
Dr. Smith added that any individual or organisation in the VI can make a written submission directly to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee or to the Premier’s Office.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fahie’s meetings to gauge public opinion got underway this week. Residents can attend one at the Anegada Community Centre at 4 p.m. today, or at the Catholic Community Centre on Virgin Gorda at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Mr. Fahie also hosted a public session last Thursday to form “working groups” that will help organise the responses to the inquiry.
“The many Virgin Islands nationals and belongers that attended the meeting last [Thursday] formed five working groups to gather the public’s views of the future relationship of the UK-BVI relationship,” Mr. Fahie wrote in a statement. “We all agreed to keep this initiative about the future of the territory and not about politics.”
Once compiled, all views will be catalogued and presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee before the Sept. 3 deadline, Mr. Fahie said.
“The future relationship between the UK [and] BVI is in your hands,” he said. “Take advantage of this opportunity to be present and participate.”