Premier for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Hon. Andrew Fahie is rubbishing claims that his administration was the culprit for the delay in the final Commission of Inquiry Report.
The Commission, headed by retired British judge Gary Hickinbottom, has been granted a second extension to file the report. The release of the findings was scheduled for January 4, but now that goal post been pushed to April by Governor John Rankin.
While the Inquiry cited delays in getting required information from the BVI government as the cause of the delay, the Fahie administration wasted no time to reject such assertion.
The Commission is also mandated to make recommendations on local government operations including the territory’s law enforcement and justice systems.
Former Governor Augustus Jasper signed off on the Commission of Inquiry almost a year ago to look into allegations of corruption and abuse of office by elected and statutory officials.
The commission was established in the face of vehement concern, not only by government members, but also a sizable section of the BVI Community.
The Fahie administration labeled it inquiry as a blatant British Government overreach, while some section of the community saw it as an opportunistic plot to roll back the rights and privileges that BVIslanders now enjoy.
In some section of the BVI society, the sentiment was that those who entered the country as part of the Commission of Inquiry set-up should have been, as they disembarked their flight, thrown into jail for trying to overthrow a democratically-elected government.
“It is a serious situation when an external force, which was granted no mandate by the local electorate, could enter your country and take steps to oust a government that was duly elected by the people with a clear mandate,” one commentator wrote.
Hickinbottom initially was required to dispatch the report to Rankin from as far back as July 18, 2021, but was given a six-month window. To this end, the second extension angered many in the country, with some arguing that Hickinbottom was still searching for something he might hope sticks.
Steven Chandler, the Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry, accused the government of supplying the reports to that body in “often very poor order”. Chandler listed Cabinet Papers, as among the outstanding documents.
However, the government wad incisive in its rebuttal, stating that the Commission was seeking to level blame against his administration for its ineptitude to finalizing the report.
The government said it has complied with all requests from the Commission of Inquiry. But it was in a state of limbo as to what document to redact and what to make available to the public…noting that his administration could not take blame for that.
It said, rather, that it was the Commission of Inquiry that was withholding information from the government. It said despite requesting information from Hickinbottom three times in December, as to what documents he would rely on to compile its report, it had received no response.
Many BVIslanders are of the view that another delay in report’s release could further contribute to the cloud of uncertainty that the government investigation was having on the British dependency.
Many shared the government’s lamentation that the longer it takes for Hickinbottom to file the report to Rankin, the heavier the weight will become on the country’s resources.
An extract from the government’s response to the delay of the report read: “It is regrettable that this further delay in the process, which already consumed very considerable amounts of government time and resources in 2021, means that there will be further calls on these well into 2022 — and further unnecessary harm may continue to be done in the meantime to the reputation of these islands.”