For the second time in more than a decade, Britain has moved to re-impose direct daily rule on one of its five colonies in the Caribbean in the wake of last week’s arrest of British Virgin Island Premier Andrew Fahie in Florida on suspected international drug trafficking charges, just as London releases a report detailing widespread alleged corruption and poor governances practices.
Fahie, 51, was nabbed in South Florida late last week after an extensive undercover federal investigation into officials in the BVI about an elaborate and high-level scheme to protect international drug shipments transiting the islands. Oleanvine Maynard, the local ports authority head, and her son Kadeem were also entrapped in the sting operation that has sent shockwaves throughout the islands and in the wider Caribbean Community in which the BVI is an associate member.
Fahie, who had allegedly told undercover agents that the “British didn’t pay me much,” is to appear in court on Wednesday to answer charges that he was planning to set up a scheme to protect Colombian cocaine shipments to the U.S. and other destinations on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
His arrest triggered the release of a report by retired British judge Gary Hickinbottom which heavily criticized the style of rule on the island near Puerto Rico, suggesting that corruption was widespread and endemic and that poor governance ruled the day in the archipelago.
It stated that the 35,000 people on the island had been “very badly served” by their elected government as it noted “appalling failures” in systems. The report recommended direct rule from London for two years, then fresh elections to pick a new administration.
More than a decade ago, similar complaints about maladministration and the illegal sale of land to enrich the political class had led to the suspension of the constitution in the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) also a British colony in the region along with Bermuda, The Cayman Islands and Montserrat. Premier Mike Misick was arrested in Brazil and returned to the TCI to face corruption charges.
But opposition to the move is beginning to simmer and such opposition is being led by acting Premier Natalio Wheatley. He described the move as appalling.
“We have the strong belief that the people of the Virgin Islands are capable of working collaboratively with the United Kingdom to implement agreed recommendations of the inquiry report,” Wheatley said in a social media posting at the weekend. “We are preparing proposals towards this end. The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at reforming and strengthening the systems of government in the Virgin Islands. In my view, this can be achieved without the partial or full suspension of the constitution in which direct rule would apply.”
As the world watches developments in Florida and in the BVI, London has sent Overseas Territories Minister Amanda Milling to the region for talks with Governor John Rankin and other top officials.
Locals fear that if dire daily rule is imposed the cabinet would become useless and all powers would reside in the hands of the governor or queen’s representative. They also fear that the two-year recommendation might be extended and dragged on unnecessarily.
“Every country in the world has challenges with governance, including the U.K. 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,” BBC quoted Wheatley as saying.
The island makes much of its revenues from its offshore financial services sector, tourism, and from investments and spending from a brigade of American and European retirees who hang out there soaking up the sun, sea and sand.