British Virgin Islands: UK minister visits for talks on governance
The United Kingdom government has sent a minister to the British Virgin Islands after an inquiry called for a return of UK rule.
In a turbulent week for the overseas territory, its leader Andrew Fahie was arrested in the US for alleged drug trafficking and money laundering.
After his arrest, a report led by a British judge was released recommending direct rule be imposed from London due to corruption concerns.
But the acting leader of the BVI has said he opposes the UK taking control.
The BVI is a British overseas territory home to more than 35 000 people and made up of more than 40 islands, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico.
It operates as a parliamentary democracy, with the premier acting as the head of the elected government alongside the governor, who is appointed by the UK government and represents the Queen.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Amanda Milling, the minister for overseas territories, was travelling to the territory for talks with BVI governor John Rankin and other senior figures on Saturday.
She said the UK government would outline the next steps for the island’s governance following the discussions.
Rankin, who it is recommended should take over the rule of the territory, has said his main concern would be the best interests of the BVI’s population.
However, acting premier Natalio Wheatley has said the territory opposes efforts by London to impose direct rule.
“What this would mean in real terms is that there would be no more elected representatives who represent the people of the districts and the territory in the House of Assembly where laws are made for our society,” he said.
“There also would be no government ministers to advance the public’s priorities or a cabinet to approve policy. All of this authority would be vested in the governor.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight the BVI could address governance problems without resorting to UK direct rule – and said he did not believe the BVI’s people wanted to see the constitution suspended.
“Every country in the world has challenges with governance, including the UK,” he said.
Wheatley said he had had productive talks with Milling and was expecting those to continue when she arrived in the territory on Saturday, although he said some conversations might be “uncomfortable”. (BBC)