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Leaked letters show pressure from FCO for independent Recovery Agency

- The Director for Overseas Territories demanded of Premier Smith that the independence is an absolute essential
Left: Part of a letter dated March 22, 2018 from Ben Merrick of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL), right, who it has been revealed was pressured into establishing an independent Recovery and Development Agency to manage monies received as loans for the recovery of the Virgin Islands following the hurricanes of September 2017. Photo: Team of Reporters
Mr Ben Merrick, the Director for the British Overseas Territories, has told Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL), the United Kingdom ‘has no intention of putting back the constitutional journey of the Virgin Islands, or to be perceived to be doing so.’ Photo: SXM Talks
Mr Ben Merrick, the Director for the British Overseas Territories, has told Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL), the United Kingdom ‘has no intention of putting back the constitutional journey of the Virgin Islands, or to be perceived to be doing so.’ Photo: SXM Talks
The conclusion of the letter dated March 22, 2018 from Ben Merrick of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL). Photo: Team of Reporters
The conclusion of the letter dated March 22, 2018 from Ben Merrick of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL). Photo: Team of Reporters
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- While some backbenchers, residents and civil society are not sure what is in the amended Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Bill 2018, letters unearthed from senior National Democratic Party (NDP) sources show pressure from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over the Bill.

The Bill was passed in the House of Assembly with amendments on March 27, 2018 by 10 in favour and 2 against after a two-day spirited debate, however, there remains conflicting information as to what is in the Bill.

Leader of the Opposition Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), who voted for the Bill, claimed that he got some amendments he requested; however, Premier and Leader of Government Business, Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) said it was not so.

Letter from FCO dated March 19, 2018

Our newsroom is aware that one of the items in the amended version of the Bill is that the Recovery and Development Agency’s (RDA) Chief Executive Officer has to be a local or a Belonger.

However, days before the Bill was passed, in a letter from Ben Merrick of the FCO to Premier Smith dated March 19, 2018, he made clear that “can I stress that this independence [of RDA] is an absolute essential for the UK Government…”

Many have said that the Recovery and Development Agency was like another government and the items demanded from the FCO may prove them right.

In the FCO letter of March 19, 2018 they outlined three areas of concerns and sections of the Bill that they wanted to be changed to avoid political interference from the NDP Administration. They were happy, according to the letter, to see the Agency will be “responsible for all procurements” as set out in the Bill in Section 6 (2).

Mr Merrick, the Director for the British Overseas Territories, made clear he was delighted for the Bill and Cabinet “have shown in establishing a structure and legislation which will engender international donor and investor confidence in the BVI.”

Letter 2 dated March 22, 2018: We are happy- FCO

In another letter dated March 22, 2018 from Mr Merrick, following a telephone conversation [between Smith/ Merrick], where he used more diplomatic language and softened his stands, he praised the Premier and his Cabinet for making the amendments the UK suggested.

The UK via Mr Merrick said, “the CEO could be appointed in concurrence with Cabinet, provided that Cabinet can only withhold their concurrence, if they have justifiable reasons and may do so only once.”  

In the British normal diplomatic language, they claimed that “the UK has no intention of putting back the constitutional journey of the Virgin Islands, or to be perceived to be doing so.”

Dr Smith caved; What else we don't know!

With the UK Government getting their way out of Premier Smith, the Overseas Director said he was “grateful for the impressive leadership that you’ve shown in establishing the RDA and we look forward to continuing to support you in that.”

It is unclear what were in the other letters that Premier Smith did not share with either his Ministers or the Backbench, along with the most recent correspondence after the Bill was passed.

See copy of leaked letter dated March 19, 2018:

30 Responses to “Leaked letters show pressure from FCO for independent Recovery Agency”

  • Trump (04/04/2018, 15:42) Like (21) Dislike (1) Reply
    Okay, let the games begin. Shit now hitting the fans.
  • LOL (04/04/2018, 15:44) Like (3) Dislike (8) Reply
  • wize up (04/04/2018, 15:45) Like (13) Dislike (8) Reply
    all some of us down here in little BVI doing is giving the United Kingdom good reason to invade: after some of we finished exposing our dirty laundry in public, will be in for a big surprise should the uk take over the governance of this territory: when the UK set up her shop and open for business they will be no need for local elections in this territory(there once was a boy who cried wolf; when the wolf showed up ask the poor boy what happened)
    • TOTAL (05/04/2018, 00:02) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      The current administration and yourself need to stop with this same outcry.

      They are not listening and the people are out here suffering while the cost of projects are way over priced and then still over ran on top of that.

      I was talking to a representative last night, and the representative simply put seemed disinterested in conversing, and this is not the first instance.

      The Government has placed us in this position, as well as those we see "leaking" information. They seem to be incapable of running our affairs.

      I here where yoir coming from and that is not a bad solution if we can go in a meeting and discuss things with these representatives; however, this is not the case. What do you suggest we do sir, to get some justice in our country?
  • Mitch (04/04/2018, 16:08) Like (34) Dislike (9) Reply
    Mitch was right ..more to come
  • wow (04/04/2018, 16:41) Like (21) Dislike (25) Reply
    But this actually makes the Premier look good and the naysayers look bad. Please read carefully.
  • Hmmm (04/04/2018, 16:46) Like (54) Dislike (14) Reply
    The Premier is a deciever
  • fact (04/04/2018, 16:51) Like (27) Dislike (5) Reply
    The NDP corruption is why the UK have us by the balls now.
  • VIlander (04/04/2018, 17:30) Like (20) Dislike (4) Reply
    Why are they trying to reassure us that they're not trying to colonize us? That usually means they are.
    They also absolutely do not trust smith and his gov to handle these funds without corruption and to play politics with it b/c they seen that he was being secretive with us.

    • Remember (04/04/2018, 20:06) Like (13) Dislike (14) Reply
      We are all aware and most especially the UK, that Premier Smith's leadership is not forever.Waiting in the wings is a party whose actions caused the introduction of restrictive protocols regarding the country's finances. Said party was not allowed to access even a small loan. That is the party biting at the bit for power and is the party with the most concern about the having independent financlal oversight for 400 millon dollar 1% loan..a party so disloyal to its country it has launched a an international effort for its destruction with scurrilous statements and ubstantiated accusations. We got only because of the character of our current chief. After he is gone the guarantee must be in place for the future no matter who is in power. has to be stringent safeguardsre must be er even to the extent of disloyalty to the ur own BVI with scurrilous unsubstantiated accusations. ould moeGov
      • VIlander (05/04/2018, 07:05) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
        I don't care what gang you belong to but I don't see Ralph O'Neal or Omar Hodge running. I don't see Mark was with the same gang & Myron was a part of it too, but now they're great for us bc they switched gangs? The foolish spin might work on some but the rest of us too woke for that. Smith and this infighting gov has failed us if you had the audits they asked us for, which we agreed to do, we would've had our recovery done a long time ago. Now we're last in the region in this regard.
    • Railway (05/04/2018, 16:07) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      We are already a colony. How can we be colonized? Honestly,some people are so paranoid. Why would the UK even want to do that when they control the important bits here anyway. They saw what happened with petty contracts and hands in the cookie jar and they want to stop that. Sounds reasonable.
  • cay (04/04/2018, 17:49) Like (32) Dislike (7) Reply
    Anytime the NDP get back UK gone with the bvi
  • Clearly (04/04/2018, 18:53) Like (43) Dislike (4) Reply
    The CORRUPTION of the NDP has destroyed the BVI.
  • SMH (04/04/2018, 19:02) Like (9) Dislike (1) Reply
    Slowly smh...
  • qc (04/04/2018, 19:18) Like (6) Dislike (2) Reply
    We are in for it now
  • ann (04/04/2018, 19:20) Like (20) Dislike (6) Reply
    We just shot ourselves in the foot and Orlando Smith pulled the trigger.
  • ---------------- (04/04/2018, 19:22) Like (22) Dislike (3) Reply
    These people are incompetent and for the sake of our next generations do not trust them to rearrange the economy.
  • Help us lord. (04/04/2018, 19:45) Like (30) Dislike (9) Reply
    Ndp is the worse government in the history of the bvi. Smith not leading.
  • Yeasayer (04/04/2018, 20:09) Like (36) Dislike (0) Reply
    What you all want to happen? All the money given out on promise of votes, you my friend, you my friend? We deserve better. Independent agency means fair tenders best price best job no grease my palm politics
  • Truth (04/04/2018, 21:16) Like (23) Dislike (8) Reply
    We need people like fahie Ferrara Willock Carl Fraser Ronnie etc to negotiate with the British not joky Mark and Smith
    • lmao (05/04/2018, 07:53) Like (3) Dislike (15) Reply
      Ronnie and maybe carl are the only two with a chance so stop dreaming.
    • @ truth (05/04/2018, 07:55) Like (10) Dislike (2) Reply
      I will add one or two more names to that list that has the BVI at heart and under stands the issues like Guy Hill and Sowanda
  • Truth (05/04/2018, 07:06) Like (17) Dislike (13) Reply
    I would prefer if the U.K. take over. This place to corrupt. I lived in the U.K. and to be honest things better so why not.
  • Local (05/04/2018, 08:01) Like (15) Dislike (0) Reply
    Look! While we may not like it, the truth is, we need transparency. Do we really expect the U.K. Government to take on this liability without ensuring that the money will be used for the purpose for which it is intended? Tell me which bank will approve a loan for someone to build a home and sit back and allow the borrower to use the money to purchase a boat? All I am saying is we cannot expect the U.K. to take on such a liability and no impose certain conditions which we will be expected to adhere to. In this case is for an independent body to ensure the money is spent sensibly.

    Look at what happened with the cruise pier. Millions of dollars over budget and not a single person was held accountable. Same thing happened with the hospital. Truth be told the Governments of the BVI have a port track record when it comes to transparency and financial accountability. Until our politicians behave responsibly with tax payers money there will always be a need for the U.K. to step in and ensure transparency and accountability. It’s our fault, not the U.Ks. As a people we have lost our way. People willfully overcharge the government and yes it’s almost certain there are those whether civil servants or whoever who benefits for this type of behavior. The love of money and greed brought us to the point where we are.

    We need honest God fearing politicians who will look after the interest of all Virgin Islanders rather than a few. Let the U.K. do what it must to ensure that the money is spend to rebuild the BVI in a reasonable way.
  • Gumbs (05/04/2018, 09:20) Like (2) Dislike (12) Reply
    Why don’t the BVI become part of the USVI......or would that interfere with the main business people !!!
    • GEESH (05/04/2018, 16:08) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
      Stupid comment ... We are trying to AVOID being like usvi
    • Local (06/04/2018, 07:57) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      The prison would be full of politicians, civil servants, contractors etc. if we were a US territory.
  • doc (06/04/2018, 10:58) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    see guys didn't i say we have freedom of information

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