Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has cautioned residents not to make premature conclusions ahead of talks with United Kingdom (UK) Overseas Territories Minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith which are expected to be held in the BVI next week.
Among other things, Premier Wheatley is expected to resume dialogue with Lord Goldsmith on the issue of removing the Order in Council for the BVI held in reserve in the UK parliament.
Since previous discussions on the removal of the Order in Council with former Overseas Territories Minister Amanda Milling last year, Dr Wheatley said his government has shown much dedication to achieving governance reforms as set out in the framework agreement signed with the UK.
That agreement stemmed from a damning Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on the state of the territory’s governance and helped to stave of direct rule by the UK, as recommended in the report.
“I think since then we’ve shown a great commitment to the reforms,” Premier Wheatley told reporters at a press conference yesterday.
He continued: ”It may have been premature to engage on that (requesting to remove the order) before making such a strong commitment to the reforms [and letting] them know that we’re serious about the question of reform. And really, having a Order and Council is not the right way to encourage and to engage further engagement.”
Dr Wheatley dismissed assertions that he was not persuasive enough in his arguments with the UK to have the order in council removed and also argued that he was taking the views of residents into consideration during his discussions.
“I would say don’t prejudge the outcome of the meetings. As I said, the meetings are ongoing. Let’s at least see how the meetings go before we judge whether I’m effective or persuasive or not,” the Premier said.
According to Dr Wheatley, his challenge was not simply one of being persuasive, but rather about showing a real dedication to the BVI’s partnership with the UK.
“It’s a matter of showing a real commitment to the partnership – a real commitment to transparency, accountability, adherence to the rule of law – all of those things make a difference in terms of us making a case. And of course, the voice of the people of the Virgin Islands is of paramount importance in terms of this particular issue,” the Premier added.
Dr Wheatley declined to indicate that he was confident that the Order in Council would be removed, arguing that it was ultimately the decision of the UK Foreign Secretary.
According to the Premier, his government has been engaging positively throughout talks with the UK and will give them every reason to have the Order in Council removed.
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