BVI PREFERS TO REMAIN UK TERRITORY
By Giorgio Migliavacca
Virgin Islands Constitutional Review report indicates that the people of the
Territory prefer the continuation of "a sharing of responsibilities between the
Government of the Virgin Islands and the Government of the United Kingdom". At
the presentation of the report on 22 April His Excellency Governor Thomas Macan
said that the sharing "must be on terms which are agreeable to both parties,
where the risks and liabilities which each bears are acceptable".
Constitutional Commission was appointed on 15 April, 2004, and was given one
year to complete the task. Commission Chairman, Mr. Gerard StC Farara, QC, noted
that the last 12 months have been quite a journey for the members of the
Commission. He described the Commission's experience as one of enlightenment and
fulfillment — "it has been a taxing but fulfilling experience for us all".
Counsel Farara pointed out that the report represents a compendium of the views
and recommendations received by the Commission and recorded from the public
during a series of consultations. The Chairman stated that the 148-page report
contains 116 recommendations and outlines the constitutional history of the
Territory from 1493 to date.
pointed out that the largest gathering was the mass meeting at the Briercliffe
Hall on 28 January when 106 persons were in attendance; the first public meeting
on Virgin Gorda was attended by 63 persons, "an excellent turnout for such a
relatively small community".
"If there is
one aspect which was somewhat disappointing to the Commission it is the small
number of persons who took the time to make written submissions…however, we
found the quality of the contributions, both written and oral, to be generally
of a high caliber," the Chairman said.
Minister Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith described the Constitutional Review as
the single most important event to take place in the BVI and certainly in the
life of his administration. "As we think about our Constitution we cannot focus
on the next year - but rather on the next 20 years. I want to know that my
administration helped to lay the foundation for a better and brighter future for
all our people," the Chief Minister said.
Dr. Smith is
expected to present the report to the Executive Council and afterward to send
the document to the Legislative Council — thus making the document public. "My
hope is that the people's views reflected in this document will indeed be
reflected in what we will proudly tout as a new constitution for the people of
the BVI," he said.
Governor and the Chief Minister praised the Commissioners’ work. The Queen’s
Representative said that the Commission's "every move has been tracked and
chronicled by the media, even to the extent of identifying the Commission's
members who took copious notes at your meetings.” “You can take pride in
your achievement," Mr. Macan told members of the Commission.
took evidence from three United Kingdom Sources: from the Parliamentary Under
Secretary in the Foreign Office, Mr. Bill Rammell; from the Overseas Territories
Constitutional Advisor Mr. Michael Bradley; and from the BVI Governor.
told the Chairman that the overwhelming body of the people's opinion favors "a
continuation of the Status quo in respect of the Virgin Islands' relationship
with the United Kingdom. That is to say remaining an Overseas Territory.":
Constitutional Review Commission is headed by Mr. Gerard StC Farara and includes
the following members: Mrs. Joanne Williams Roberts, Mr. Edison O'Neal, Mr.
Vance Lewis, Ms. Persia Stoutt, Mr. Elihu Rhymer, Mr. Audley Maduro, Mr. Carvin
Malone, and Mr. Stuart Donovan. Additionally, Ms. Kimberly Crabbe provides
administrative support to the Commission.
For the first
time in BVI History, the process of Constitutional Review was initiated by the
local Government and not by the UK. It is also the first time that the
Commission’s members represent a cross section of the BVI citizenry.
exercise of this nature took place in 1993, with a three member Commission:
Former BVI Governor Walter Wallace, Montserrat’ Speaker of the House Dr. Howard
Fergus, and Former BVI Deputy Governor Mr. Alford Penn.
The report of
the Constitutional Commissioners 1993 was presented to the British Parliament in
April 1994. The document ended with a lengthy summary of recommendations: 22 for
action by Her Majesty's Government and nine for action by the BVI Government.
Only a small number of the 1993 recommendations were acted upon, and in February
1995 a constitutional amendment added four Territorial (at-large) seats to the
House' nine district representatives. Later amendments to the Constitution were
approved in the year 2000, and included revisions to the definition of a person
who belongs to the Virgin Islands. Further amendments dealt with the functions
of the Deputy Governor, disqualifications for elected membership, and the Public
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