BVI News

Gov’t reluctant to submit Cabinet audio to COI

The Ralph T. O’Neal Administration Complex where the main government offices are located.

The BVI government has expressed a reluctance in submitting audio recordings of Cabinet meetings to the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI), largely citing legal, security and privacy concerns.

While Cabinet was willing to submit its agendas, finalised minutes of meetings, drafts and notes on these meetings, as well as Cabinet Decisions (part of the Cabinet minutes); it was not in favour of releasing any audio recordings.

This was according to its attorney, Hussein Haeri, who appeared on behalf of Attorney General Dawn Smith during the COI’s first live-streamed hearing on Wednesday, June 2.

He argued that the recorded details of the exact words of a private conversation can make more impact and cause greater embarrassment than a formal summary of the Cabinet’s deliberation and decision-making.

Here’s a clip on how the government-hired lawyer argued that point:

Haeri further pointed out that electronic recordings of Cabinet meetings were not ordinarily created, but there was an exception because of the volume of meetings that happened last year.

Ordinarily, he said, only 40 Cabinet meetings might occur in any given year. But last year saw 94 Cabinet sittings. Some 51 of them were said to be special meetings to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and the government’s response to it.

Attorney Haeri noted that Cabinet was offering the written minutes from those meetings in the interest of cooperating with the COI and notwithstanding a policy in Virgin Islands Cabinet Handbook that explicitly states, “Cabinet discussions are not open to the public until after 30 years”.

Make a ruling

The Lone Commissioner of the COI, Sir Gary Hickinbottom was asked to issue a written ruling on the matter.

“We would respectfully invite your adjudication to weigh and balance whether the public interest of producing such recordings to the COI outweighs the important principles of Cabinet confidentiality and collective responsibility in this territory,” Haeri said.

The principle of collective responsibility is outlined in Section 2 of Cabinet Handbook which effectively says ministers and Cabinet members are bound to support Cabinet’s conclusions in public and should refrain from identifying personal views that may have been said during actual deliberations.

Cabinet had no idea their every word could be publicly disclosed

Haeri then told the COI that “former Governor [Augustus] Jaspert and the ministers could have had no idea at the time that every word they spoke in Cabinet could be publicly disclosed after the hearings had been recorded”.

“The principle of open and frank discussion in Cabinet may not happen in the same way if Cabinet members were to perceive that a Governor at any time — an unelected element in terms of the governance of this territory — could get the discussions that are ordinarily subject to strictures of confidentiality and collective responsibility.”

Sir Gary in response repeatedly asked how he would be expected to decide, in the public interest, the confidentiality of the recordings without first listening to them.

The Commissioner gave this example:

Since Haeri accepted that listening to the recordings was a matter for Sir Gary to decide and weigh in the public interest, the Commissioner ruled that he will use the recordings on a case-by-case basis.

Sir Gary said: “In relation to the recordings, I will not make a ruling that the COI will not seek disclosure of any of them. I reserve the right to identify a particular recording — no doubt it will be a part of a longer recording — to consider; either myself of the COI team … I do not consider that we will have to listen to many or much of the recordings which are available,” Sir Gary ruled.

Follow BVI New’s coverage of the 2021 Commission of Inquiry on Instagram @BVINewsOnline #TrackingTransparency at www.bvinews.com.

 

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20 Comments

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  1. yes sah says:

    I wonder what Fahie is really about. Well in his own words ” Put up or shut up”.
    If there is nothing to hide.

    Like 35
    Dislike 2
    • Bean says:

      Why should anyone care how embarrassing it is for the cabinet members to have us hear what they say in cabinet?
      If they don’t believe what they say, or shouldn’t say it, don’t say it!

    • Pointed says:

      It makes no sense to say nobody expects the audio to be made public or be given to an inquiry. What do they think is the point of the audio otherwise?

  2. play the tape says:

    I’m so glad for you-tube, I’m right here looking @ it again, yesterday’s lay out was DEEP, I like how the Commissioner talk, lol.

    Like 26
  3. Doh says:

    Omfg

    Wow. Just wow. These ID10TS are so sr3w3d.

    I cannot wait for UK to take over BVI!

    Like 38
    Dislike 9
  4. Hmmm says:

    Cabinet records every meeting because that is how they transcribe. Ask former ministers. The lawyers only saying what they’re told say or making up things as they go. Set of deceivers.

    Like 18
    Dislike 1
  5. AND says:

    What is that telling you. People have big things they are trying to hide.

    Like 27
  6. Wondering says:

    If I am being recorded in any setting, I know that all I say is recorded and at some point could be listened too. Isn’t this the purpose of recording? What are they afraid of?

    Like 45
    Dislike 2
  7. WEW says:

    My guess is HOA doesn’t want people to how really terrible their language is.

    Like 33
    • Facts says:

      They don’t want ANYONE TO HEAR THE BAD GRAMMAR OF A BUSHMAN. AYO INSTEAD OF EVERYONE. MEHN KNOW INSTEAD OF I DON’T KNOW. I BARNNN YAW. MISON SHUT YO MOUTH. AYO DONOT KNOW WHA AYO TALKING ABOUT.

  8. Say it again.. Acts of suspicion says:

    If I am A muderer that have dead bodies burried in my back yard why would I welcome the Bachoe to dig my back yard up..?

    Like 45
    Dislike 2
  9. HUH! says:

    The CoI website apparently said that the FCDO was a joint data controller of all information held in an electronic form by the CoI.
    The Government attorney made the point that this gives the FCDO access to all such information.
    The CoI Counsel says that its own website is wrong, and that it (without specifying what ‘it’ might be) has been changed and that the FCDO is not a joint date controller. It is telling that he did not say that it has never been a joint data controller!!!
    The CoI has its main office at the FCDO, the Secretary of the CoI is a FCDO employee, other FCDO staff appear to be in the CoI team, and Counsel to the CoI is a on the Treasury Panel A for the UK Govt. Lots of UK Government involvement but no local participation in the CoI team! The CoI has not even employed local transcript writers!
    Why did Counsel to the CoI get so worked up when the problem was pointed out – saying ‘I am not going to argue with you’ – not very professional for a lawyer.
    Both the Commissioner and the CoI Counsel became very vexed about any suggestion that the independence of the inquiry might be compromised – I don’t know whether it is, but any suspicion that it might be is entirely its own fault. The reaction suggests that there might have been a problem, and that they are cross that it had been discovered.
    Robust consideration of the independence of the inquiry should be welcomed by the CoI, and it is bad form for them to get so visibly irritated. If they believe that there is no ground to suggest that the independence has been compromised, why not just say so without getting so angry. Why not explain whether the FCDO is or has ever been a joint data controller, and why the CoI website asserted that it was.
    The hostile reaction of the CoI to a reasonable concern about the access of its files by the FCDO it is marked contrast to the non hostile (albeit not very welcoming) response of the BVI Govt to the appointment of the CoI.

    Like 6
    Dislike 12
    • wait says:

      could u explain that again so we all, perhaps could understand what you are trying to convey to us??

      Like 20
      Dislike 3
    • Well said says:

      You are right!

    • Anonymous says:

      There does not need to be any local involvement on the investigation side of the COI. Indeed, there probably cannot be by definition, given that it is investigating BVI-based corruption.

      The concerns over independence of the investigation is wrong. It means independent in terms of being impartial. Which should mean that any findings will be factual, rather than biased. Regardless of whether you believe the COI can/will be unbiased or not, these are big differences that matter.

      The COI is the UK saying ‘we ultimately have responsibilities towards this territory/nation/ pieces of land/ people. If the BVI want independence, fine, but there needs to be a managed process. The BVI may not want independence. Also fine, but we the UK government (who underpin the BVI’s international financial credit rating btw…) need to ensure the very small, economically advantaged, political elite are being responsible when they are elected to power, rather than exploiting the hard-working, honest local BVI Islander’.

      I know, I know:
      the very small, economically advantaged, political elite in the UK are also behaving disgustingly. Their time will come. It is an equally valid conversation, but it does not stop the valid conversation about the COI continuing at the same time.

      Anyone can chose to believe the above or not, but it is true – the UK Government does not care about BVI; the OT’s; or anyone else, unless they are willing to bring some money to the UK. The BVI will never ever ever ever EVER provide a net gain to the UK financially so, trust me, a take over is not a desirable state for the UK Gov. Instead, ironically, a takeover would be to help get BVI to a state were it could credibly choose to go independent.

  10. @ WE ARE LEARNING says:

    THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE / AND HOW THESE WIGGLERS FUNCTION ( WHEN WITS MEET SPARKS FLY ) EVEN WHEN THEIR COFFIN CLOSES , THEY WILL STILL TRY TO WIGGLE THEIR WAY OUT OF IT

    Like 2
    Dislike 3
  11. LG says:

    if you have nothing to hide then be transparent as have been promised.

  12. Free up the Audios.. Too wicked says:

    They promised in their campain that cabinet will be open up for the public to hear whats going on…Liars..I Hope COI take a look at the Resident and belonger process, the files, the cabinet audios and see the Bias, the oppression, the victimization, the hate, the curruption….people here for 40yrs cant get status because someone in the System dont like them, they hiding people files, they dont like, or keep putting some people files they also dont like at the bottom of the pack..or finding something bad to say about someone just to deny them…Free the Cabinet audios..Wicked people… when one news site dont post ur blog put it on another one…Thats the beauty of the BVI, cnt shut the people up.

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