By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
Deputy Premier Dr Kedrick Pickering said the BVI’s Decision March was effectively a declaration of war on the United Kingdom (UK).
At the time, he was addressing the colossal crowd of protestors that marched to the Governor’s residence in Road Town on the island of Tortola, yesterday May 24.
The march signals the territory’s displeasure towards UK legislators for using what is being described as “constitutional overreach” to pass an amendment to their Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act — a law that is feared will cripple the BVI’s main revenue earner, the financial services.
“We recognize that while we stand here today (yesterday) we have declared open war against the UK … there ain’t no turning back,” said a fiery Dr Pickering, who then noted that the territory’s “divorce from the UK” does not have to be a bitter one.
“Let us just separate in a nice and agreeable way. Let us sit down and have a conversation,” he said.
“We want you (the UK) to do something for us … that can put us on our feet to be able to lead our destiny because you are treating us unfairly. We can’t live with you any more. It does not mean we cut all ties but let us go our way.”
The Deputy Premier then told members of the BVI public to prepare for battle and stay tuned to the various strategies that will be unfolding in the coming months.
Independence not the only option
Dr Pickering’s statements have caused persons to speculate whether the BVI — whose leaders are known to occasionally threaten going independent — is truly taking a more serious consideration at breaking from the UK.
But the Deputy Premier said independence is not the only option for the BVI.
“This is a new world, this is a new economic order. There are ways we can find to separate ourselves from the UK and chart our own way forward. We have the brain power to do it and we must do it. Now, I am not telling you that independence is our only option because that’s not true.”
“There are no independent nations in the world today. Everybody is associated with somebody,” he reasoned.
Recommendation to employ scholars to help transition
In the meantime, Dr Pickering said he is recommending that the BVI solicit assistance from three scholars to assist the so-called breakaway.
He said the idea would be to employ intellectuals from as far as the Asian-Pacific, Europe, and the Latin America-Caribbean region.
He further said the scholars would be tasked to come up with suggestions on the nations that would be best to associate with, and what path the territory should take.
Pickering said that recommended plan would include being a part of various bloc of countries in the region such as the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States — more commonly known as OECS; the Caribbean Community, which is commonly referred to as CARICOM; and the Economic Commission of Latin America.
Additionally, the Deputy Premier said business, religious, and other community leaders will be teaming up with the political leaders as the territory moves forward.
He said the projected roadmap for the BVI is to ensure the territory’s economic survival. Meanwhile, protestors yesterday signed a petition that Governor Augustus Jaspert will eventually present to the UK.
An explanation of Britain’s amended Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act
The UK law being protested is forcing the BVI and other British Overseas Territories to implement what are known as public registers of company beneficial ownership. These registers mean the BVI is required to publicise the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in the territory.
Effectively, beneficial owners are persons who own property rights to a company even though the legal title of the property is in another person’s name.
Publicising the names of these beneficial owners could discourage them from doing business with the BVI as it relates to financial services.
The BVI’s financial services sector accounts for 60 percent of the territory’s annual revenue.
Notably, the UK has imposed the law to tackle financial crimes such as tax evasion, which they claim is rampant in the BVI. The territory has been described as a tax haven which has been associated with financial scandals such as the Panama Papers leak back in 2016.