The Virgin Islands was recently approved to receive a visiting mission from the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

“The purpose of such missions are to ascertain the situation of the people of the territory in accordance with relevant UN resolutions on decolonisation, self-determination and the achievement of a full measure of self-government,” Dr. Wheatley said during a Friday press conference called to announce the mission and to provide updates on Commission of Inquiry reforms and events in Virgin Islands agriculture. “The C-24 is expected to conduct at least one such visiting mission each year among the 17 remaining territories on the UN’s list that are yet to achieve a full measure of self government.”

Though no date has been set for the visit, which was approved Feb. 15, Dr. Wheatley said a report will be generated and published afterwards.

“I am grateful to the Caribbean nations that sit on the C-24, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who have robustly supported our efforts,” he said.

Also critical to securing the visit was advocacy by Belize and the wider Caribbean Community and Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, he said. He added that he is especially thankful to C-24 Chair Menissa Rambally of St. Lucia, former Chair Keisha McGuire of Grenada, and his brother, VI UN Representative Benito Wheatley, for pushing the approval process through.

COI updates

After explaining the C-24 visit, the premier began his progress report on the implementation of the COI reforms.

So far, all 50 recommendations have been started, with 29 completed and 21 in progress, Dr. Wheatley said. Of the 130 “actions” included in the government’s breakdown of the recommendations, 88 are complete, 15 are in progress and on track, 17 are in progress but “experiencing challenges,” and 10 have not started, according to the premier.

He added that five actions from the reform framework were completed in February: Additional assistance grants were reviewed and covered by an overarching grants policy; Cabinet approved the Educational Assistance Grants Policy; Cabinet approved a new Crown Land Policy; crown lands were included in Ministry of Finance’s assets list; and Cabinet approved a new Immigration Policy governing residency and belongership.

Cabinet, he said, also “approved a governance reform delivery manager, and this week we opened our governance reform coordinating centre.”


During the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, the premier was asked which COI reforms were presenting a challenge to government.

He deferred to COI Implementation Unit Director Hadassah Ward.

Ms. Ward responded, “The path to policy involves a lot of collaboration, and we have to ensure that the policy is thorough and it covers everybody’s views, and we involve everybody who would be affected by it. The process has to be thorough.”

Asked for more specifics about the individual actions giving government trouble, Ms. Ward said the list is “long” but didn’t provide details.

Andrew Fahie Dr. Wheatley also fielded questions on the recent conviction of his predecessor Andrew Fahie on drug-conspiracy charges in Miami.

The United Kingdom, he said, has provided no new information on the case to the Premier’s Office since the conviction, according to the premier.

“I haven’t had any briefings with the UK about that,” Dr. Wheatley said.

In response to further questions, he said it is for the UK to decide whether VI residents should be briefed on matters of national security.

“I think it’s always good that the premier and the governor have a relationship where we can share information that relates to important matters, including security matters,” Dr. Wheatley said. “We have National Security Council meetings from a constitutional standpoint where that information is shared. But as it pertains to what the United Kingdom shares and what they don’t want to share, I’ll leave it for them to decide.”

‘Surprised as anyone’

Former Governor John Rankin said repeatedly that he was as “surprised as anyone” when Mr. Fahie was arrested in Miami in April 2022, despite confirming that he was responsible for approving foreign law enforcement operations in the territory — which, in Mr. Fahie’s case, the US began at least six months before the former premier’s arrest.

Asked if he saw Mr. Rankin’s claim as a contradiction, the premier replied, “I’ll let the public come to their own conclusions about Mr. Rankin’s surprise at the arrest.”

VI-UK relations

Following the January arrival of Governor Daniel Pruce and a recent visit from UK Overseas Territories Minister David Rutley, Dr. Wheatley had only positive things to say about the VI’s relationship with the UK.

“I think we’re off to a good start, and I want to appreciate Governor Pruce for the positive approach he’s taken in a difficult time, especially considering that we’re under intense scrutiny as it pertains to our governance reform programme,” the premier said. “I think he’s been very helpful, and I also want to state that Minister Rutley has been very constructive and helpful.”

He added that Mr. Rutley had sent his condolences on the recent death of VI attorney Jamal Smith, whose body was found with gunshot wounds on March 12 at his home in Manuel Hill.