Despite recent progress, the Commission of Inquiry reforms need to continue and go further before the United Kingdom will lift the order in council that allows the governor to partially suspend the Virgin Islands Constitution and implement temporary direct rule, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

The premier provided the update during Friday’s House of Assembly sitting, where he spoke about the recent visit of UK Overseas Territories Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith.

From Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, Mr. Goldsmith toured the territory and met with government officials, non-profit organisations, and other community leaders.

“I am pleased that he made the Virgin Islands his first visit to any of the OTs and fulfilled his commitment to come see our beautiful islands at the COP27 climate change talks in Cairo last year,” Dr. Wheatley said Friday.

The premier added that the bilateral meetings held during the visit were “constructive and positive,” and that Mr. Goldsmith held an individual meeting with him to “resume the discussion we began in London.”

“A range of issues were discussed, but largely focused on how the UK could be a more supportive partner of the Virgin Islands,” the premier said. “We identified education, health and environment as key areas where the partnership can be strengthened for the benefit of the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Help with reforms

According to the premier, Mr. Goldsmith also committed to providing additional UK technical assistance to support the COI reform efforts. Although reform progress has been made over the past nine months, he said, there is still more work to be done before the UK will lift the order in council.

“The minister’s visit marked the culmination of the efforts of this administration to restore stability to the Virgin Islands’ relationship with the UK that has created more favourable conditions in which to discuss difficult issues such as the order in council, while engaging on how to build a new modern partnership that supports the territory’s aspirations for greater self-determination,” Dr. Wheatley said.

He also thanked the UK for new rigid inflatable boats given to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force in order to strengthen maritime security.