At the 72nd Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States meeting held last week, leaders discussed the potential direct rule of the Virgin Islands by the United Kingdom. On Oct. 25, the OECS issued an official statement calling on the UK to take the threat off the table. (Photo: PROVIDED)

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States called on the United Kingdom this week to withdraw the order in council that is being held in reserve to suspend the Virgin Islands Constitution if the VI government doesn’t keep its commitment to carry out reforms recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.

In an Oct. 25 statement following its 72nd meeting on Oct. 19-20 in Montserrat, the OECS objected to the threat of direct UK rule over VI residents, stating that their “human rights and inalienable right to self-determination set out in the United Nations Charter and relevant UN resolutions should not be violated by any party.”

The organisation also applauded the National Unity Government for its work so far during the reform process and pledged its assistance. The offer includes technical assistance as the government carries out the COI reforms and support for the NUG’s request for a visiting mission to the VI by the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation.

The OECS also reaffirmed that it believes the VI has a right to democratic governance and “to freely elect their representatives to the legislature within the constitutionally due period.”

A general election is due early next year, but leaders have not explained what will happen afterwards with the unusual cross-party structure adopted when the NUG was formed in May under UK pressure. Under that structure, the government and Cabinet include ministers from three parties.

Regional matters

During last week’s meeting, the OECS also tackled issues affecting all countries in the region, according to a communiqué issued on Oct. 24. Heads of government, for instance, discussed the establishment of a customs union and the free circulation of goods; the free movement of people; and market regulation.

They also discussed regional air transportation.

“Emergency assistance has been sought from the Caribbean Development Bank to address the current air transportation crisis in the short term,” the communiqué states. “To this end, the CDB has approved a grant of $350,000 to finance the cost of the consultancy service and to assist with interim arrangements for the re-establishment of regular air transportation services within the sub-region.”

St. Martin

The organisation also discussed broader budgetary issues and the accession of St. Martin to the OECS, among other issues.

St. Martin received observer status in 2019 following accession negotiations that date back to 2015, according to the communiqué.

“With the resumption of negotiations, the heads [of government] took the opportunity to reaffirm their approval of the accession of St. Martin to the organisation,” the document adds. “The OECS Commission will continue working towards finalising the arrangements for the accession, which could be concluded very shortly.”