Premier of the British Virgin Islands Hon. Andrew Fahie, has vehemently denied being involved in drug running, while accusing former governor Augustus Jasper of pulling out all the stops to sully not only his name, but also that of the entire British Overseas Territory.
The BVI is now on edge, awaiting the result and recommendation of a commission of inquiry into to accusations of government mismanagement. The result is slated for January 2022.
In addition to being accused of mismanaging the country, Fahie has also been accused of dealing in cocaine trafficking, a charge vigorously dismissed as a witch-hunt hatched by the ex-governor.
The BVI, even before Fahie’s ascendancy to power, has been long tasked with the struggle to shake suspicions that it's becoming a hub for the cocaine trade out of South America. Outside of anecdotes, so far, no one has come up with tangible evidence to suggest the territory has become a drug-trafficking hub.
Outside of one incident in 2020, when 2.35 tonnes of cocaine said to worth about $250 million were discovered, leading to the arrest of a police officer, the country’s accusers were yet to identify a trend.
Fahie has rejected claims of collusion with drug smuggling, accusing ex-governor Jaspert of inciting such allegations.
He said the former governor needed to give the people of the Virgin Islands an apology instead of establishing a smear campaign against him, by slinging mud on the wall, hoping something sticks.
In the meantime, Fahie has a much more favorable view of current governor, John Rankin, over his predecessor. Rankinreports to Overseas Territories Minister Amanda Milling and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, whose Foreign Office is supporting the corruption investigation.
He was quoted by the Caribbean News Global as saying: "The British government has put in place a governor who is responsible in his speech, experienced and respectful in the way he carries out his duties. "That shows a step in the right direction."
The practicing Methodist and former high-school assistant principal, who boasts about playing the organ during Sunday service in the churches on the islands he governs, stated that his government, like others before him, is not perfect, but sees no other administrations committed as his, to reform the public sector and put it on an efficient path.
Fahie concedes there were some “deficiencies” and potential "areas of improvement" in the administration of the BVI. Those, he said, include the frequent awarding of public contracts without open tenders; opaque recruitment policies to public office; and the generally poor state of record-keeping and accountability for official decisions.
However, he hastened to state that his government was making every effort to fill those breaches, pointing to a plethora of reforms set in motion under his watch, including a code of conduct for elected representatives, as well as transparency and freedom of information measures. Those measures, he noted, serve as evidence that he's committed to improving the standing of the country.
Some regional journalists and political commentators believe the real issue for the Fahie administration being forced into the grinder has little or even anything to do with corruption. Some believe the very real issue is one of power and control of the territories.
Some commentators declared that “Jaspert wanted Fahie and his government to take a back seat and let him run the country similar to what had happened in other Overseas Territories such as Turks and Caicos, and when that did not happen a plot to take over the BVI government through a COI was hatched.”
“If left up to Jaspert and Commissioner Gary Hickinbottom, our people would starve,” the Caribbean News Global quoted one of its sources as saying.
A political pundit argued that such constant questioning and interference by the governor was one of the measures that led to a breakdown in the relationship between the governor and Fahie. And as a result, a campaign was launched to smear his administration.
It is the belief of many in the BVI that the commission of inquiry came about because Jaspert having the constitutional upper hand on the premier, detailed a long list of alleged abuses to the foreign secretary who took Jaspert’s word and called for a commission after Fahie rebuffed his attempts at an internal takeover.
Some declared that Fahie or the local government was never asked for their side of the story by the British government or Dominic Raab the foreign secretary before calling a Commission of Inquiry, which they deemed flies in the face of good governance, transparency and fairness. But more importantly against the stated partnership which the UK foreign office espouses with her territories.