Protests in British Virgin Islands over plan for UK to impose direct rule on territory



Protests have taken place in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) against plans for the UK to take direct rule of the territory following the arrest of its elected leader.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside of Government House in Tortola, the residence of the governor-general John Rankin, on Monday, after an inquiry led by British judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom into corruption recommended the islands be governed from London for two years.

However, many BVI residents are resisting this suggestion which has been described as “colonial” given the region’s history as a former British slave colony and undemocratic as there are no plans to put the matter to the public.

Protesters blocked traffic outside the governor’s house and chanted slogans such as ‘no to British rule’ and ‘no going back to chains’.

One speaker told the crowd: “How can you speak for us if you have not have a conversation with us, the people? It is possible for us to condemn the actions of corrupt leaders and also believe that we can be authorities on good governance as well,” the speaker continued, likening the proposal to “colonialism”.

Bishop John Ivan Cline, of the New Life Baptist Church, who attended the demonstration, told local media: “This is a very significant, historical moment in the life of the Virgin Islands. The UK has decided after 70 years of self-governance that they want to take our rights and deny us the opportunity of having a democratically elected government,”

(The Independent)

“They want to tell us that one man should be able to make the decisions for 30,000 people, they want to tell us that we don’t have the necessary competence to run our country and we are saying we will not surrender our rights.

“We welcome the UK’s help – but a democracy and a dictatorship are two different things. We want the opportunity to go back to the polls and elect a democratic government to rule over us. But this colonialist mind that you will tell us what to do is wrong, unjust and we will not stand for it.”

The protests come after the arrest of BVI premier Andrew Fahie in Miami on Thursday on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges in an operation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The territory’s director of ports, Oleanvine Maynard, was also arrested.

The report was unrelated to the incidents in the US last week, although its publication was brought forward following events in the US last week.

The UK’s minister for the overseas territories, Amanda Milling, arrived in the British Virgin Islands on Sunday for a three-day trip in which discussions will be had about future leadership of the region.

However, the content of these discussions have been shrouded in ambiguity, protesters have said, as they called for Ms Mulling to include BVI residents in conversations about the country’s future.

The British Virgin Islands has a population of 35,000 people is currently governed under a 2007 constitution, giving it limited self-rule under a governor who is the ultimate executive authority as the representative of the Queen.

“Do we not think there are good people in this country who we can elect as worthy leaders of the BVI? This is our future and should be in our hands,” another speaker said.

“This is our country! It’s our responsibility to take charge”.

“I want to say to her Majesty, the Queen: tell your people to be fair with us. This is not justice,” another speaker said.

In a statement earlier this week, the acting premier Natalio Wheatley said he was “very concerned” about the recommendation.

Andrew Fahie, the elected premier of BVI, was arrested in the US last week

(AP)

Mr Wheatley said: “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.

“There would also 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.

“The benefit of representative democracy to the public is the understanding and responsiveness of their elected representatives to their challenges, who also serve as conducts of their views, especially on reforms.”

BVI Governor General John Rankin

(Supplied)

This follows widespread protests against royal visits to countries in the Caribbean and calls for slavery reparations from Britain over the past two months.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been approached for comment.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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