It is troubling that the United Kingdom Parliament’s inquiry into the UK’s relationship with the overseas territories was launched without a comprehensive effort to solicit input from OT citizens.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which is carrying out the exercise, sought input in the UK but didn’t officially announce the probe in the Virgin Islands, and an HC committee spokesperson explained that such efforts typically are advertised in the UK media and online.
This is not good enough. In fact, the move is one more piece of evidence suggesting that Parliament is startlingly out of touch with the OTs. This lack of regard is particularly disheartening coming on the heels of the UK’s decision to force OTs to implement public company registers by 2020.
The uproar caused by the register controversy appears to be a major reason for Parliament’s inquiry. But don’t Parliamentarians understand that this uproar was born of the OTs’ feelings of betrayal after a unilateral decision was made on their behalf against their will?
Do they believe, in the face of longstanding policies to the contrary, that the UK should decide on its own what’s best for the OTs?
At best, the lack of communication is a bumbling oversight. At worst, it smacks of colonialism.
Luckily, leaders here were paying attention. The VI government was slow to the punch, but Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie launched a series of public meetings on the inquiry, and he has committed to passing on the input received.
After criticism from Mr. Fahie, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith followed suit with a statement inviting public comments.
However, time is running short. Even though the deadline was extended this week to Sept. 18, the VI is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma and we wonder how many people here will get a chance to weigh in properly.
Still, we hope that everyone will do their best.
For our part, we believe that the VI should be pushing for more autonomy at every opportunity, but perhaps the more obvious lesson this month is that the OTs should also seek some sort of representation in Parliament.
Ultimately, any change in UK-VI relations should involve a constitutional review here and a collaborative discussion about the 2012 white paper outlining the way forward for the UK-OT relationship.
That roadmap, we note, commits the UK “to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the people of the territories; to ensure their just treatment and their protection against abuses; and to develop self-government and free political institutions in the territories.”
The UK’s recent actions, we posit, do not fit the bill.
This editorial, which originally appeared in the Aug. 30, 2018 print edition, has been revised to reflect the extended deadline for submission of input.