Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley
Premier and Minister of Finance
11 November, 2022
Launch of Constitutional Critique General public Consultations
Honourable Chief of the Opposition and Agent for the 3rd District, Honourable Julian Fraser.
Mrs. Lisa Penn-Lettsome, Chair of the Constitutional Overview Fee.
Commissioners Dr. Charles Wheatley and Dr. Reverand Melvin Turnbull, we are grateful for your presence right here.
And I am also grateful to the media for currently being listed here to seize this crucial occasion.
A nice Superior Afternoon to you all and customers of the listening and viewing general public.
The Constitution is most likely a person of the most critical files for any society.
It sets out the regulations by which the members of that local community concur to govern by themselves. It establishes the institutions of Federal government, the parameters and procedures by which these establishments run and interact with one particular a further, and how the connection among the folks and their Government is to be managed.
The Constitution generally features this kind of things as elementary legal rights, the powers and limits thereof of Constitutional actors this sort of as the Governor, the Attorney Common, elected Associates and Ministers, to title a couple. In our case as an Overseas Territory, our Constitution also defines elements of the romantic relationship in between the United kingdom Government and the elected Territorial Authorities.
These are very important capabilities for a Constitution. And one particular of the most vital items to notice is that when a penned Constitution is enacted, its material can’t be modified very very easily – even if the performance or relevance of a provision gets to be an issue thanks to variations in the society around time. So, you have to dwell with and abide by that text till the time arrives around to generate a new Constitution or you have to go by way of the rigorous course of action necessary to make the needed amendment.
What this signifies is that in coming up with our new Structure we require to place deep imagined into what we want it to say and what we want it to comprise. We also have to appear in direction of the potential and gauge what our upcoming wants from a Constitution may be so that those difficulties can be taken into account throughout the Constitutional Evaluate procedure.
Considering the fact that the return of legislative functionality to our shores in 1950 – 72 decades in the past – the Virgin Islands has experienced four composed Constitutions. Our latest Constitution, the Virgin Islands Structure Order 2007 was enacted 15 several years ago. The Constitution prior to that was enacted in 1976 – 31 many years prior to the 2007 Constitution. So, individuals can enjoy why it is critical to get the provisions suitable.
Individuals would recall that when the latest Structure was enacted, the intention was that it would be reviewed immediately after 10 many years. In 2017, the then Leading Dr the Honourable D. Orlando Smith experienced said the Government’s intention to begin a Constitutional Review. This effort was thwarted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Constitutional Review remained a stay subject, and in June 2020 the Residence of Assembly permitted the institution of a Constitutional Evaluation Commission with Terms of Reference. The intention was to set all the things in area so that the Fee would be able to get started do the job when the restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic abated.
Of system, we all know that the pandemic was protracted. This pushed again the timeline and the Commissioners received their instruments of appointment in December 2021.
The report of the Sir Gary Hickinbottom Fee of Inquiry, at web page 691, acknowledges that the latest Structure “cannot choose the fat it has to bear” and, at Suggestion A2, calls for urgent evaluation of the Constitution. Sir Gary Hickinbottom details out that we ought to intention for a new Structure “that will help the persons of the BVI to meet their aspirations, which include people in regard of self-federal government within just the context of modern-day democracy,” and which will also allow the progressive advancement of our personal political establishments.
The COI Report advisable some difficulties that need to be integrated in the Conditions of Reference of the Constitutional Assessment and amendments to the composition of the Commission, and these have been taken on board by the Household of Assembly in a Resolution accepted in September 2022.
Other preparatory perform acquiring been concluded, the Constitutional Critique Commission, less than the Chairmanship of Mrs Lisa Penn-Lettsome is all set to get started partaking the community for its enter into the improvement of our new Structure. The Fee has established up a web page: www.yourconstitution.vg. Make sure you look at it out.
Sir Gary Hickinbottom, in his Report, outlined the alignment of the Structure to our aspirations as a Virgin Islands folks, and the challenge of our self-determination. These are not new topics to us, but it is very good to see that he has acknowledged them and their job in the Constitutional Critique training.
We should note that considering that 1949, our fore dad and mom have articulated a eyesight for Virgin Islanders to have bigger control and say in their individual governance – and even before that we can go back to people persons who rebelled against slavery. These principles have carried ahead through the many years. The Preamble to the 2007 Structure also speaks to the importance of our one of a kind cultural id that has been shaped, and which continues to evolve, over generations, and our quest for social justice, financial empowerment and political progression, as well as self-willpower.
I mention this mainly because our political position is a subject matter that is confident to arrive up as the Constitutional Evaluation Commission engages in dialogue with the public as it proceeds with its perform. Self-perseverance is not a subject matter to shy absent from. No subject that is expensive to any specific really should be shied absent from.
But with regard to self-resolve and the political standing of the Virgin Islands, not only has the COI Report highlighted its worth and relevance, but the United Nations Constitution, Posting 73, also prices Non-Self-Governing Territories and Administrating Powers with the responsibility to provide an end to colonialism and its remnants. The United Nations has committed four consecutive many years to this mission of resolving and regularizing the political standing of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
It is also value noting that the Virgin Islands Evaluation of Self-Governance Sufficiency in Conformity with Internationally-Recognised Expectations Report, ready in 2021 by Carlyle G. Corbin, International Advisor on Governance, has also emphasized that our current Constitutional preparations are no extended suitable to furthering the transition that is necessary by Post 73(b) of the UN Charter and the transfer of power doctrine under the Decolonisation Declaration.
Mr Corbin also suggests that we must have a new Constitution, and a Constitutional arrangement, that is appropriate to the decolonization/ self-perseverance objective, with an appropriate timetable for replacing the existing “asymmetrical dependency governance model” with a single that does not have a democratic deficit and which will truly facilitate the Virgin Islands individuals currently being in a position to go after and achieve their aspirations.
Addressing the issue of political status necessitates us to assess, define and articulate our vision and aspirations as a people today. The Structure, by developing and strengthening institutions, and defining, limiting and regulating the powers and roles of the political actors, designs and equips the institutions for political progress and improvement. Thus, our new Constitution will be the car for taking us where ever we, as a collective culture, decide we want to go – and when we would like to get there. We have to make positive it is fit for objective.
The how, where by and when is also dependent on the role the Uk will engage in in our governance and the powers that will be reserved for the Governor. Recommendations A2 (iii) and (iv) of the Sir Gary Hickinbottom Report also discuss to these concerns – and the House of Assembly have included them into the Terms of Reference for the Constitutional Overview Commission. Those two sub-Suggestions entreat the Virgin Islands people to have their say on what powers really should be reserved to the Governor, and mandate for the new Constitution to have a mechanism for the transfer of reserved powers to the devolved Virgin Islands Governing administration in the future, without a even more change to the Constitution staying essential.
So, these are very vital difficulties, and it is crucial that as quite a few people as feasible come ahead and share their views and have their voices listened to on these matters. I know that the Constitutional Critique Fee will be conducting some community education and learning physical exercises, together with general public consultations. Additionally, the public is previously currently being invited to get ready prepared submissions to the Commission and to established up appointments to meet with the Fee if they so desire.
I want to urge all persons to make sure that they are involved in the dialogue and be certain that their views are listened to – and to take part in a respectful method. If you do not make use of this possibility, it may be a very very long time ahead of another 1 provides by itself.
I know that the customers of the Constitutional Assessment Commission and all our Constitutional actors are completely knowledgeable that if a constitution does not replicate what the individuals want, then that contradicts anything a Constitution is supposed to stand for and it tends to make a mockery of the approach.
This is why I believe that it is risk-free to say that the Constitutional Overview Commission aims to make certain that the new Structure demonstrates the aspirations and the will of the Virgin Islands people today – who are the individuals, alongside with the long term generations, who will be most right impacted by the Constitution when it is composed and place into influence.
The Virgin Islands we want to produce for the potential and the future we want for our people rely on the Constitution we are about to develop.
But, for the Fee to know what is in the hearts and minds of Virgin Islanders, we all have to come forward and inform them – whether or not in open up meetings or in created submissions.
I consider this prospect to thank all the users of the Constitutional Review Fee for their provider and for the diligence with which I know they will solution this assignment.
I look ahead to huge general public participation, and I search forward to us possessing a sturdy, applicable and purposeful Structure that is aligned with our aspirations and eyesight as a men and women, and which will enable us to comprehend the desires of our fore-bearers who carried the torch for generations in advance of us.
I thank you, and may God carry on to bless and shield our Virgin Islands and its persons, and may possibly he carry on to guideline us on the path to achievement and prosperity.