The reduction of some of the powers that the Governor holds is one of the areas to be discussed as Government moves forward with constitutional reform plans.
Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith told reporters on 12 October that reform is being considered as the BVI’s Constitution approaches the ten-year mark.
“As our Constitution turns 10 years old it is only appropriate that we consider modifications to our current constitutional arrangements to better enable us to meet new and emerging challenges in the 21st century,” Hon. Smith said.
He also pointed out that he will be travelling to the United Kingdom soon and intends to discuss the matter of constitutional changes there: “I will also raise this in the UK Parliament at the House of Commons where OT Leaders will meet members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee’s support will be critical in building momentum for constitutional changes.”
On the local level, Hon. Smith disclosed that a meeting on the proposed reform was already held: “We’ve had one meeting so far to organize how we will be taking forward the discussions. We are about to appoint a group of persons who will be responsible for taking the discussions through the Territory.”
As it relates to the proposed changes he said: “What we will be looking at really is what the people of the country would like to see as far as constitutional reform is concerned. We (lawmakers) of course would have some ideas…We are looking at how the governor can have less responsibility for the territory, and the elected officials of the territory have some more responsibilities.”
The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 established a new Constitution for the Virgin Islands, to replace the Constitution of 1976. The new Constitution included, for the first time, a chapter setting out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual and provisions for their enforcement. It provides for a Governor as Her Majesty’s representatives in the Islands, and for a Premier and Ministers who form a Cabinet together with the Attorney General. It provides for an elected House of Assembly, which together with Her Majesty forms the Legislature.
The third chapter of the 2007 Constitution, which is made up of articles 35-45, states that there shall be a Governor of the British Virgin Islands and describes the appointment process for that office. The chapter also sets out how the duties and powers of the Governor are determined, making reference to the role of the Queen through her Secretary of State. Article 37 of the chapter describes the times when an Acting Governor is required and the appointment process for that position.