The British Government is considering imposing direct rule on the British Virgin Islands after the local Premier was arrested in a drug sting by US authorities in Miami.
It is alleged that Andrew Fahie told undercover US agents, posing as Mexican drug traffickers, that they could use BVI ports in exchange for a payment of $700,000 (€664,000).
"I have plenty of people, and I don't sell them out to the British with their plans... they always want to capture people, but me I see what they are doing and I protect the people," Mr Fahie is quoted as saying.
The British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory located to the east of Puerto Rico and is home to 35,000 people. The territory is a parliamentary democracy with an elected Premier responsible for the islands’ domestic affairs. Foreign affairs and defence are handled by the British Government in London who are represented by a Governor.
In the wake of Mr Fahie’s arrest, a long awaited report into the islands’ governance has been hastily published and concluded that local democracy is in an “appalling” state.
“Almost everywhere the principles of good governance . . . are ignored,” retired judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom wrote.
Sir Gary has recommended that local government be suspended for a period of two years and authority handed to Governor John Rankin.
We’ll ensure governance standards in the British Virgin Islands are restored. @amandamilling will travel there immediately for talks. She will report back to me and we’ll announce the way forward next week.
We are committed to BVI & its people 🇬🇧🇻🇬https://t.co/cANYO5jRPA
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) April 29, 2022
Such a decision would not be without precedent - in 2009 London imposed direct rule on Turks and Caicos amid allegations of corruption - but BVI officials say they are fiercely opposed to rule from London :
"What this would mean in real terms is that there would be no more elected representatives who represent the people of the districts and the territory in the House of Assembly where laws are made for our society," acting Premier Natalio Wheatley complained to the BBC.
"There also would be no government ministers to advance the public's priorities or a cabinet to approve policy. All of this authority would be vested in the governor."
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the inquiry demonstrated, "clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance".
Main image: Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands of the Caribbean. Picture by: Alamy.com.