The Commission of Inquiry has been absent from the headlines recently, as the hearings have wrapped up and Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom is presumably hard at work on his report. But it shouldn’t be far from the minds of Virgin Islands residents, considering what a significant impact it could have on the future of the territory. A Beaconite spent the last few weeks researching the history of two other commissions of inquiry, both of which took place in the Turks and Caicos Islands — one in the 1980s and the other in the 2000s. Some of the circumstances involving high-level international corruption in the drug-fuelled climate of the 1980s were particularly outrageous, and are unlikely to be repeated in the modern era. But a student of history can also find other very obvious parallels to what’s happening now, especially in the realms of transparency and good governance, or lack thereof. In any case, both inquiries had significant consequences for the future of the TCI, as the final report no doubt will here. There are many quotes about history repeating itself, but Karl Marx said that when it happens, it’s “first as tragedy, then as farce.” That seems appropriate.
After reading a recent report that evaluates how much the territory’s various environmental assets are worth, a Beaconite was left wondering: Was this necessary? The thought of putting a price tag on nature feels almost blasphemous to the reporter, who majored in environmental studies and helped organise climate marches in college. Still, the report is not unwelcome: The Beaconite doesn’t see anything bad about more information to help draft good environmental policy, especially if the effort was funded by the United Kingdom. But was it the best use of the UK funding and UK and VI experts’ time? Consider some of the other documents assessing the state of the VI’s environment and offering suggestions for preserving it: the Protected Areas System Plan 2007-2017; the 373-page Tortola Environmental Profile 2015; similar profiles of sister islands; and the BVI Resilient National Energy Transition Strategy, which provided a roadmap, composed mostly of already proposed ideas, for catalysing a green energy transition in the wake of Hurricane Irma. In other words, lawmakers don’t have to look far for good suggestions on how to protect the VI’s natural resources, yet no government has ever passed a long-needed comprehensive environmental law that has been promised for more than 15 years. So while it is fine to celebrate yet another environmental report, the Beaconite would prefer to see a draft of a law that uses the existing literature to take direct aim at the diverse yet interrelated environmental challenges that will only grow more pronounced in the coming years.
It’s encouraging to see more opportunities for fun and fitness being offered for young people in the territory, including a new effort to popularise cycling here. Interviewing one young athlete about his bike and the tricks he hopes to learn made a Beaconite smile. This reporter hopes to see businesses, non-profits and government agencies start brainstorming more ideas for how to encourage the artists, community leaders, scientists and athletes of tomorrow. How can they find their talent if they never have a chance to try an activity? That requires having the programmes, equipment and funding to back it all.
A Beaconite has long known of farmers and fishers selling their products on island, but she’s only recently encountered hunters who travel to other islands and catch goats to sell. She recently came across a fisherman who hunts goats for people who are willing to pay the price for the entire goat. The hunter was openly butchering the goat by the roadside. Other friends have told her that some people hunt wild goat using just a bow and arrow. Some hunters catch the goats alive and bring them back to Tortola before selling the meat. The Beaconite has been around slaughterhouses and witnessed hunts. Though she still feels queasy about it, she’s not sure if she’s convinced to become a vegetarian just yet.