A Beaconite and his colleagues were quite relieved when Sir Gary Hickinbottom announced last week that the Commission of Inquiry has mostly completed its collection of oral evidence. Reporting on the COI hearings in recent months required few, if any, of the things the Beaconite typically loves about journalism, like interviews, photography, field work and research. Instead, it required long hours in front of the computer, listening to the hearings and then later poring over a transcript while writing the story. However, the hearings were often extremely interesting, and the Beaconite feels as though he’s gained invaluable insight into many of the topics that he and his colleagues have reported on over the years. He appreciated the opportunity to write about recent reports and projects that had never before crossed his radar — and older ones that had concluded long before he arrived in the Virgin Islands. Taken together, the hearings gave important context to many of the biggest issues currently at play. And as tedious as these stories sometimes were to report, there was a satisfaction in eventually learning how to condense the hours-long, extremely technical, sometimes meandering testimonies into concise and (he hopes) engaging prose. Like practically everyone else in the territory, the Beaconite is now left pondering what conclusions Sir Gary will draw from the mountain of evidence he’s collected.
Culture and tourism
A Beaconite looks forward to Culture and Tourism Month, which starts on Monday with an opening ceremony. The calendar of events includes the BVI Literary Fest, the Dolores Christopher Festival of the Arts, and the Anegada Lobster Fest, among several other activities. It’s heartwarming to see the territory open up again and host gatherings. With the end of the curfew, it seems as though life is slowly returning to normal in the Virgin Islands just in time for the holidays. The reporter wishes everyone a happy Halloween and a festive holiday season ahead.
The Commission of Inquiry is winding down and preparing to write its report after an intense series of live hearings on subjects ranging from House of Assembly members’ failure to disclose their interests to questionable spending on government contracts — and everything in between. Now, residents are asking what happens next. A Beaconite has believed from early in the proceedings that the investigation won’t end with a United Kingdom takeover of the territory reminiscent of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009. Nor will it all simply be forgotten. Last week’s hearing with the premier on good governance may have shown a way forward, she believes. The reporter appreciates that the COI team asked pointed questions about how the Constitution could be improved to facilitate a better relationship between the territory and the United Kingdom, with an eye toward long-term development. Reasonably, the commissioner could recommend that certain sections be rewritten to give the premier and governor clearer powers. Given that the territory is already preparing for a constitutional review, the government would have an early opportunity to prove it can take these recommendations in stride, avoid any further fallout from the inquiry, and in the long run be in a better position to pursue independence if the people wish. Again, the Beaconite hopes that the COI’s recommendations include some measures to ensure they are given due consideration after so much time and energy has gone into their development.
Beaconites were glad to see the government observing Anti Bullying Week last week. Especially in an age when social media can have a tremendous effect on young people’s self-image, such observances highlight the importance of ensuring that all children receive the support and kindness they need. Kudos to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture for highlighting this important topic.