LONDON, United Kingdom- Two days after the evidence-gathering phase of the ‘suspicious’ United Kingdom (UK) sponsored Commission of Inquiry into Governance in the Virgin Islands concluded, concerned persons have pointed out to our newsroom an article that appeared in one of the newspapers in the UK on October 24, 2021, which was appeared one-sided, much to the detriment of the territory’s reputation.
The CoI has already been criticised by persons in the territory of being biased to favour the UK, unfair to witnesses who were hardly given time to prepare themselves as well as the opportunity for government lawyers to cross-examine the facts and some witnesses, and has an agenda to frustrate the VI’s efforts for self-determination.
Before the CoI was properly announced in the Virgin Islands on Martin Luther King Day on January 18, 2021, newspapers in the United Kingdom had already published detailed stories about the CoI and maliciously and inaccurately labelled the Virgin Islands as corrupt and having a climate of fear and victimisation. Those stories were also one-sided, without the VI government and people being able to comment on the allegations as put forward by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who was at loggerheads with the democratically elected Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government, who was resisting Jaspert’s attempts at violating the constitution and acting outside of his role as governor.
Did the limelight get to Jaspert?
The CoI revealed that Jaspert felt he was acting within the constitution and didn’t seem to care about the concerns of the elected government or that they were taking legitimate offence to his style and actions.
One of the issues that Mr Jaspert fought the VI government for was to maintain responsibility of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) since he claimed it also involved the security of the territory, which is the responsibility of the Governor.
When the destructive Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, the first thing Jaspert did as Governor was to call a state of emergency, making the elected government useless.
The UK press had then hailed Mr Jaspert as a hero.
Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) told the CoI, Mr Jaspert was disrespectful towards him and had wrongfully accused him of doing things he did not do. Additionally, Governor Jaspert kept putting off swearing-in him as Premier and he and his elected members and team had to demand the Governor to swear in the Premier.
Premier Fahie described the relations with Mr Jaspert as abusive.
Meanwhile, the headline of The Guardian’s story was ‘BVI inquiry hears claims of systemic corruption and jury intimidation’ and the subheading was ‘Allegations aired against senior figures include selective granting of citizenship and drug running’.
One paragraph of the article reads: ‘More than 50 lengthy public hearings, and voluminous written evidence, have revealed a dark underside to the BVI, one of the biggest tax havens in the world, as well as exposing a deep well of resentment among some of the Caribbean island’s politicians at the controls placed on them by London’.
The Virgin Islands has refused to accept a loan guarantee from the UK for hurricane recovery and development without the UK adjusting the borrowing ceiling in the Protocols for Effective Financial Management (PEFM), a document allegedly forced on the VI by the UK.
Many see the UK as attempting to subtly take control of the Virgin Islands finances, even though it does not contribute financially to the VI, and to ultimately take control of the territory so it has a window of opportunity to implement its policies under its Global Britain agenda.
Additionally, through the Recovery and Development Agency, another entity forced on the VI by the UK, the UK wanted all monies for recovery and development to go through the RDA, which would again give the UK control of that aspect of the territory’s finances.
This was seen as a backward step for a country with ambitions of self-determination.
Was Jaspert only being vindictive?
Jaspert, who repeatedly told the CoI that the VI government was being hostile towards him, had said he called for the commission of inquiry as a last resort “due to cumulative concerns about good governance” and other allegations.