As citizens of the British Virgin Islands continue to go about their daily lives, they do so under a cloud of uncertainty as most eagerly await the findings and recommendation of a United Kingdom-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission of Inquiry was recommended by former governor Augustus Jaspert, who often did not see eye to eye with the Andrew Fahie administration over, what some are describing as the progressive nature of the administration.
The probe began early this 2021, after ex-Governor Jaspert went public with accusations ranging from run-of-the-mill mismanagement and graft to organized crime and cocaine trafficking with the participation of senior officials.
The government, though, has dismissed the charges as baseless, provocative, and nonsensical. Nevertheless, Premier Fahie is not willing to roll over and surrender. He criticized Jaspert for going public through the media without first using his own powers to dig into the allegations.
Furthermore, Fahie said, the ex-governor showed scant regard for the welfare of the country and its people by kicking off the inquiry without considering how resource-intensive it would be for the country of around 30,000 people, which he said was trying to recover from the pandemic, as well as the devastating hurricane season of 2017.
Fahie, who also serves as minister for finance, stated that the Commission of Inquiry posed a heavy challenge on the public officers, adding that the probe's scope has widened to cover virtually every government decision of the past decade.
"Any country that has to be evaluated with such wide terms of reference would show some area where they have to improve administratively," Fahie was quoted as saying.
Jaspert, who now serves as the U.K. Home Office’s director-general of delivery, also accused the government of criminal activity, which he claimed to be at the highest levels.
However, the government has categorically denied the allegations, which it described as loose and reckless.
Fahie, for his part, remains adamant that no inference of official collusion with drugs smuggling can be drawn. He said the ex-governor "needs to give the people of the Virgin Islands an apology, and not just throw mud on the wall and hope that something sticks."
The Commission of Inquiry has not gone down well with many BVIslanders, who accused the British Government of attempting to overthrow a legitimate government, whose mandate was received from the country’s voters.
Some political commentators even floated the idea that those who flew in to conduct and participate in the Commission of Inquiry should have been arrested as soon as they had landed.
However, the Fahie administration said it believed the facts presented at the probe would vindicate the government and prove that external efforts were being made to undermine his regime.
In the meantime, the Commission of Inquiry Report, which was scheduled to be delivered in early January, has been pushed back three months, as the commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom and his team are in indecision as to what part of the report they should make public, and which sections to redact.
They also accused members of the administration of not providing information that would enable the commission to wrap-up its report.
However, the government said it was the commission that was dragging its feet on making the report public.
Hickinbottom initially was required to deliver his report to current governor John Rankin in January, following an initial extension from July 18.
Steven Chandler, who serves as Commission secretary, said in a statement that while several documents had been received from the BVI government, they were produced “often in very poor order.”
Prime Minister Andrew Fahie’s government refuted the reasons for the delay, labeling it “puzzling.”
In a statement, Fahie’s government said that all documents provided by local officials to the Commission are readily accessible by Rankin in unredacted form and could be submitted “immediately and without change.”
“It is understandable that the Commissioner wishes to prepare a report in publishable form, but it is also surprising that the Commission should complain about delays in ministerial indications about which parts of thousands of pages of documents should be withheld for good reasons such as national security,” the release said.