Premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Dr. Natalio Wheatley says his newly formed national unity government has submitted a proposal to the United Kingdom that will ensure continued local democratic rule in the country.
“I’m pleased to report on behalf of the government of national unity that I have submitted a proposal to the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories, the Rt. Hon. Amanda Milling that sets out our approach to reform that presents a framework for the implementation under continued democratic governance,” Wheatley said in a national broadcast.
“It represents our commitment to good governance and strengthening our institutions and systems of government. We want to engender a new culture in the handling of the people’s business. I hope Minister Milling and the UK government will give due consideration to the proposal and not go down the path of direct rule,” he added.
A one-man Commission of Inquiry (COI) that examined allegations of corruption by public officials in the British Overseas Territory, outlined several recommendations including that British Virgin Islands government cease to exist in its current format for at least two years.
Governor John Rankin said the sole Commissioner had recommended “a return to Ministerial Government and an elected House of Assembly as soon as practicable, with the governor taking regular advice from the Advisory Council and others on the earliest practicable date on which such government can resume.
Wheatley said the new government has been working with Rankin, on addressing the governance concerns outlined in the COI.
Decisions by the United Kingdom government on the recommendations have yet to be made or communicated, but Premier Wheatley said he believes that the steps being taken by the new government will address the concerns in the COI Report.
One of the primary concerns is the access to the ports of the territory, as Oleanvine Maynard, the Managing Director of the British Virgin Islands Ports Authority, was arrested, along with the former Premier Andrew Fahie, on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking that led to their arrest, and their arraignment scheduled for May 25.
“In the meantime, we are proceeding with some immediate reforms that we believe are in the public interest. In regard to the Ports Authority, I have been in communication with the chairman of the board, and he has indicated that he will tender his resignation,” Premier Wheatley said.
“The term of the remaining members will expire within days, and a new board of suitably qualified persons will be appointed.”