Talks about Territorial independence are of little interest to the new Premier who indirectly announced that going independent at this time might not be in the BVI’s best interest.
Although it was clear that he was responding to previous public calls for the Territory to reconsider its relationship with the mother country, Hon. Fahie never used the word “independent” in his 2019 Budget Address that was delivered on 2 April.
During the address Premier Fahie instead spoke about why it would be prudent for the Territory to maintain the Constitutional relationship it currently has with the UK.
In his constitutional mention the Premier said that his administration will not seek to change the current relationship: “I am only too aware that given our constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom our futures are intricately entwined. I am committed to continuing the process of cultivating a mutually beneficial partnership with the United Kingdom – in any healthy relationship there are obligations and benefits. The record will show that under successive administrations the BVI has not only taken its obligation seriously, but has stepped up to the plate and honoured those obligations. Under this Administration, there are no proposals for change in this area.”
In making his point clear that his government wishes to keep things as they are the BVI Leader said: “I care not to involve this Territory in any partnership from which it is patently obvious that only damage and loss will flow to our economy and by extension our entire Territory.”
He said that changing the current relationship will affect the way of life of residents: “This damage and loss of which I speak will only result in pain and suffering for you the people. Damages such as: lack of adequate income/money to provide food, clothing and shelter for yourselves and families; inability of this Government to provide the public goods and services that any modern society needs to function (healthcare, education, transportation, etc.); and disregard for our way of life (culture, morals, religion).”
Nonetheless, Hon. Fahie said that he would seek to have conversations with the United Kingdom aimed at strengthening its partnership with the BVI. “I am anxious to become engaged in a partnership with the United Kingdom founded on the principles of mutual respect for each other’s way of life centred on the basis of: partnership for progress, development and prosperity, mutual recognition and responsiveness to obligations and a willingness to support the flow of benefits and the rule of law.”
Residents Not Interested in Independence
Back in August/September while in the capacity of Leader of the Opposition Hon. Fahie had meetings with residents throughout the Territory to garner views for the inquiry by the Special Select Committee of the UK to ascertain the future relationships between the United Kingdom and the 14 Overseas Territories (OTs).
Based on those discussions it was announced that residents from Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda are not in favor of the BVI becoming independent.
The view that the BVI should remain part of the United Kingdom was mentioned to Hon. Fahie and the representatives from the five subcommittees that he tasked with gathering information for the UK’s select Foreign Affairs Committee.
During a press briefing on 3 September Jamal Smith who was Chair of the sub-committee that dealt with the Inquiry subject of Governance of the OTs disclosed that the residents expressed that they are not in favor of independence.
Smith told the media: “Very few people, in fact I don’t recall even one person advocating for independence at this time, many people were saying they need to prepare for that eventuality, but I think constitutional advancement isn’t something that any review of the Constitution would be necessary for at this time.”
He explained that the people seemed more keen to see constitutional changes as opposed to independence. “We got a lot of support for things that would lend to constitutional reform, so I suspect that Constitutional reform must be something that the British Government sees as important out of this report,” Smith noted.
“What people want to see is an improved system of government that puts the proper checks and balances in place and ensures that we have better systems. As it relates to the relationship with the UK there was a lot of discussions in relations to,” he added.