Premier Discusses Constitutional Changes & Independence

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Should the BVI seek independence or should there be urgent constitutional amendments? These are the questions that have split views as residents throughout the BVI continue to react to the United Kingdom’s venomous push for a public financial services register by 2020. Since last week, Tuesday (1 May), many have responded by suggesting that independence should be an option.

The two point of views were therefore presented to Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith during a press conference on 2 May. In response Hon. Smith did not indicate whether he or his government were for or against independence.

Instead Hon. Smith announced: “The matter of independence is something that is in the air right now, it is in the air from time to time. I think it is the right for any country or any people to seek self-determination and that is no different for the BVI, and certainly these discussions will give impetus to those thoughts and those suggestions.”

On the other hand the Premier does not mince words about the fact that he thinks that constitutional amendments are necessary. “What I do know is that we do not see that this is right constitutionally, because when we negotiated our constitution in 2007 it gave us a responsibility for things such as financial services, tourism and other things – even matters of the Caribbean. It also says that any decision to have any policy that would interfere with our sectors there will be discussions with the BVI on it; so it is a constitutional matter,” he said.

In fact, Hon. Smith alluded that the UK action is tantamount to constitutional intrusion and he said that government will not take this move lightly: “Just as the other Territories such as Bermuda, such as Cayman we would be seeking advice from a constitutional expert on this matter.”

“We are looking at the whole constitutional relationship, just like with other Territories like Bermuda, Cayman we are looking at our constitutional implications and so we will have to …have discussions with a constitutional lawyer to see the implications,” he added.

In reference to the BVI Constitution Premier Smith said that amendments to the 2007 document commenced in 2017 but were disrupted by the killer hurricanes of September 2017: “It is something that we would continue to work on.”

The Premier said that this push by the UK to use imperial legislative power to hit the Territory’s financial services sector can be ascribed to various other violations. “There is the matter of privacy. I don’t think anybody would like to see their bank accounts being made public and this is a major fact as well. There is also the question of human rights here we are as a Territory we had severe natural disasters…there were three things flooding, hurricane Irma, hurricane Maria [they]left us devastated and I think it goes beyond human rights provisions to be able to go and say we are going to take away the other part of your economy doesn’t sound good does it?!” he explained.

Therefore, Hon. Smith mentioned that the discussion during the amending of the constitution would include conversation on imperial legislation impositions. “We have discussions about constitutional review we look at the whole gamut of things and a lot of it has to do with the relationship between the UK of course and the British Virgin Islands. Relationship between the Governor and the ministers of the country how they work together — that kind of thing,” he pointed out.

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