The long-awaited British Virgin Islands (BVI) Commission of Inquiry Report, initially scheduled to release in January 2022, has suffered a three-month setback, further extending the cliff-hanger under which that British dependency has been laboring since 2021.
The Commission gave the reason for delaying the publication of the report as that it could not decide which parts of the “sensitive documents” to be redacted.
Premier of the British Virgin Islands Hon. Andrew Fahie and some of his ministers have been accused by the British Government to have been involved in mismanagement of the country.
Fahie, himself, was accused of being involved in drug-running…charges which he vehemently denied, while accusing former governor Augustus Jasper of working overtime to sully not only his name, but also that of the entire BVI.
He also dismissed the charges as a witch hunt, which he said was hatched by the ex-governor, to denigrate his administration.
Responding to the delay in the Commission of Inquiry Report, the government said it was mind-boggling as to reason given.
“It is puzzling that the main reason cited by the Commission for delaying submission of the report to the Governor is the need to decide which parts of sensitive documents should be redacted (withheld from publication),” the government said in a news release, adding that since the governor already has access to the documents, the delay was needless.
“All documents provided by the Government to the Commission are accessible by the Governor in unredacted form and could be supplied by the Commission to the Governor immediately and without change,” the government said.
The government release added: “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 Fahie administration has also accused the commission of reneging on promises to inform ministers as to which documents it would rely on, but to date, despite concerted efforts to obtain those documents, were yet to get a response.
“The Commissioner himself said on 22 October 2021 that, recognising the scale of the task, he would let ministers know which documents in particular he would quote or rely on in his report. Despite requests from the Attorney General on 25 November 2021 and 2 December 2021, as well as on 30 December 2021, this has yet to be done,” the government stated in the news release.
The Fahie administration pointed out that the ministers need to be able to obtain Cabinet consent for any necessary redactions within 10 days after being informed by the Commission of Inquiry as to which documents those that formulate the report would rely on.
“The Ministers are anxious to enable, as full and fast publication of relevant documents as possible and expect, as they have already promised, to be able to obtain Cabinet consent for any redactions which are needed within 10 days of being informed by the COI which documents they should be looking at.
“Therefore, if this is really the only issue causing this delay, then notification by the Commissioner about those documents on 4th January 2022 would still enable the Report to be published by the previous 19 January 2022 deadline,” the government released continued.
The government stated that while it continues to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, it could not hide its frustration regarding the length of time that the process has taken.
“The elected Government of the Virgin Islands continues to seek to co-operate with the COI in every way possible.
“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,” the Fahie administration concluded.
In the meantime, many islanders are of the view that the commission of inquiry was at best “a subversive activity against the human rights of the islanders,” and what it also deems as “illegal activities.”
The commission of inquiry has also been dismissed by many Islanders as another “cynical instance of those with the really dirty hands pointing the finger at others.”
Many are also not confident that the recommendations would return with a verdict other than corruption.
“…The final conclusion of the COI will be that there is corruption in the BVI government, since that was the outcome that had been pre-determined even before they began gathering evidence,” writes a BVI political commentator.