Yes For a Better Constitution, No For Independence: Says Queen’s Counsel Farara

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“Certainly, at this stage of our development, it is accurate to say that there is no discernible ground swell for taking this Territory to independence,” Queen’s Counsel Gerard St.C Farara announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Farara who in the past served as Chairman of the 2003 Constitutional Review Commission and member of the Constitutional Negotiating Team for the BVI denounced the calls that were echoed in various Territorial fora for the BVI to consider self-governance.

Over the last months the discussion on whether the BVI should consider taking on more autonomy were canvassed in talk show programs, fora with political speakers and at public events most recently the annual Emancipation celebration.

However, the calls were dismissed by Mr. Farara: “In recent times, we have begun to hear the drumbeat of constitutional review and further advancement. It is being sounded by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and by some social commentators.  It is not a steady drum beat by no means. I guess the end of the 10-year-period, the normal rule of thumb, is approaching, since the existing Constitution was brought into force by Order in Council of Her Majesty the Queen on 13 June 2007. There is even talk, in some quarters, about independence or preparing for the inevitable, for becoming an independent country. I suspect that in the coming months, some will continue to beat that drum,” the Queen’s Counsel commented.

The highly esteemed BVI lawyer stressed that there is no proper supporting argument to justify such a move at this time even if it is a call for partial independence: “Certainly, at this stage of our development, it is accurate to say that there is no discernible ground swell for taking this Territory to independence, whatever that expression means in the context and realities of a modern world fueled by globalization and with it the surrender of some elements of real sovereignty. This prevailing world order is accepted as beneficial, and to be embraced except, perhaps, for those who are BREXIT supporters, or dare I say, ardent supporters or members of the TRUMP brigade in the USA,” he said.

Although Farara noted that in his opinion the time for the Territory to go independent has not arrived; he indicated that at this stage the BVI should lead the charge of creating a new more workable format of governance for Overseas Territories.

“In my considered view, we here in the BVI, ought to take the lead in carving out a new model Constitution for the Overseas Territories, a new constitutional construct; one that is better suited to governance of a small territory, with a small population, and scarce human and natural resources,” Mr. Farara suggested.

The Queen’s Counsel explained that the format he has in mind is one that seeks to better engage and utilize the BVI’ human capital (be it in the public or private sector). One where greater participation and representation at all levels of governance can be fostered, enhanced and made more meaningful and effective.

“To achieve this we must, first and foremost, strengthen our democracy, by strengthening our democratic institutions, our oversight functions, our checks and balances. Greater transparency and accountability must not just be buzz words spewed when it suits our purpose, but must become the new reality, the new norm,” he noted.

The former Chairman of the 2003 Constitutional Review Commission further called for the Territory to free itself from the Westminster Model of a Constitution: “We must no longer be slaves to the Westminster Model of a Constitution. We need to carve out a 21st century system of governance, one which not only allows for greater participation and decision making by our elected representatives in all matters and at all levels, but one which further empower and protect those who are being governed. It must provide for far greater access to information and documents, in a timely manner, relative to the functioning and decision-making of Government, at both the legislative and executive branches.”

“What we have is understandably an imperfect democracy, as is all democracies. But this must not be used as an excuse for accepting the current normal or the current constitutional model,” he added.

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