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The British are coming! Is the Virgin Islands next?

Premier of the Caymans, McKeeva Bush (left) has been stripped of the Ministry of Finance after signing a Framework for Fiscal Responsibility. The Ministry is now run by a Board headed by the Deputy Governor who represents the UK. The relationship between the UK and Caymans has deteriorated. VI's Premier Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith also signed in April, Protocols for Effective Financial Management. It has already caused direct intervention by the UK on a major signature project of the VI Government, the Port Expansion project. Premier Smith has told the public that his budget does not have to be submitted to the UK for approval however, that claim remains in dispute. Photo: VINO/File (right) ieyenews.com (left)
The UK has suspended the democratically elected House of Assembly/Government in the Turks and Caicos and imposed direct rule in what many have labeled colonialism in the 21st century! They did this after accusing the former Premier, Michael Misick (right) of corruption. Meanwhile, the UK continues to harass the elected government of Anguilla. They demanded that Chief Minister Hubert Hughes cut civil servants, their salaries and have refused to approve their budget. The Chief Minister said that the UK is trying to reach a point where they will suspend the constitution of the duly elected government and do to Anguilla what they did to the Turks and Caicos. Photo: tcweekly.com
The UK has suspended the democratically elected House of Assembly/Government in the Turks and Caicos and imposed direct rule in what many have labeled colonialism in the 21st century! They did this after accusing the former Premier, Michael Misick (right) of corruption. Meanwhile, the UK continues to harass the elected government of Anguilla. They demanded that Chief Minister Hubert Hughes cut civil servants, their salaries and have refused to approve their budget. The Chief Minister said that the UK is trying to reach a point where they will suspend the constitution of the duly elected government and do to Anguilla what they did to the Turks and Caicos. Photo: tcweekly.com
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - Within the last three to four years the United Kingdom (UK) has exerted more pressure, oversight and intervention on her Overseas Territories (OT) in the Caribbean region than any other time in the relationship’s over 50 year history.

In this investigative article we look specifically at the Turks and Caicos Islands, Caymans, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands and their deteriorating relationship with “Mother England.”

Turks and Caicos Islands

In August of 2009 the UK dismissed all international, democratic principles and suspended the Turks and Casicos Islands (TCI) elected Parliament, taking direct control of the day-to-day running of the Island.  Many progressive countries and none-governmental organizations around the world including the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and others labeled it as recolonization in the 21st century.

The action by the British to force out a democratically elected government through an act of its own Parliament, imposing its direct rule was triggered amid ongoing allegations of widespread corruption in the TCI.

Local elected government in the islands, which lie 500 miles south-east of Florida in the Atlantic, as of today is still suspended while their affairs are put back in "good order", according to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

TCI former Premier Michael Misick has been accused of building a multimillion-dollar fortune financed from questionable dealings that gave property developers access to crown-owned land.

In 2009 then Chris Bryant, the FCO Minister, said: "After careful consideration I have instructed the governor to bring into force today an Order in Council which will suspend ministerial government and the House of Assembly for a period of up to two years, to allow the governor to put the Islands' affairs back in good order. The islands' governor, Gordon Wetherell, denied that the step was a "British takeover".

Among the controversial deals Misick has been accused of is building a Dubai-style luxury resort off one of the islands. He had denied any impropriety.

The islands have been subject to extensive development which contributed to higher income for the locals and a high standard of living for most residents of the TCI. However, many of the luxury developments have provoked allegations that they were the product of corrupt deals between local politicians and foreign businessmen.

The imposition of direct rule was hugely unpopular with the Turks and Caicos's political class, the ordinary citizens, and TCI residents living and working overseas who have accused Britain of a "return to colonial rule". Misick himself has hit out at London for flexing its "strong arm of modern-day colonialism", while the islands' media have accused the British government of having double standards on the issue of corruption.

Earlier in the summer of 2009 the Turks and Caicos Islands' Sun newspaper contrasted the UK's tough stance on the islands with the UK MPs' expenses corruption scandal at Westminster that rocked British politics where for example British tax payers money was used to pay for a dog in an air condition kennel, however there was no one to take over the UK Government.

The islands, which are a popular playground for Hollywood stars and musicians, attract 300,000 tourists a year.

Cayman Islands

Very recently, the UK Government has stripped the Cayman Islands of the Ministry of Finance. The conditions imposed on the Cayman government’s 2012/13 budget by the UK have essentially removed most of the functions of Finance. The UK has given conditional approval to the current administration’s final budget, however with four stringent conditions, in particular the establishment of a ‘budget board’ headed by the Deputy Governor, which means that the role of the Finance Minister established by the Cayman Islands 2009 constitution has been handed back to the UK rather than the elected government.

Among the four conditions laid out by the Overseas Territory’s Minister Henry Bellingham was the creation of a board or committee that will manage and oversee future budgets, with the Deputy Governor at the helm, not the Finance Minister, Premier McKeeva Bush.

Mr. Bellingham also required that the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) agreement signed between himself and Premier McKeeva Bush last November (also signed by the Virgin Islands Government referred to as Protocols for Effective Financial Management) be passed into law before the end of September 2012; that the FCO’s economic advisor who established the framework for this budget (and who Bush complained about, claiming that he moved the goal posts throughout the process) be allowed to review the state of public finances every quarter; and that there be no supplementary budget.

The conditions will remain in place for the next three years when the Cayman government, according to the latest financial three year plan, should be back in line with the five principles of sound fiscal management as set out by the Public Management and Finance Law.  Many believed this action by the UK is another step backwards for OTs in the region.

Anguilla

There is no secret about the public bitter and hostile relationship between the Anguilla Chief Minister, Hubert Hughes and the UK appointed Governor Alistair Harrison. Their public hostility and poor working relationship, has intensified so much so that Hughes wants no dealing with Harrison and is demanding independence from Britain for his tiny 35 square mile island.

The quarrel is over the Governor’s refusing to give his assent to the budget, which was passed in the Legislative Council before Christmas 2010. Instead, Harrison wants the expenditure to be slashed by 30 percent, which means that the government will have to cut public servants’ salaries and wages and implement new belt tightening tax measures.

Hughes said that, if his government complies with the governor’s wishes at this time, it will have the adverse effect of plunging the Territory into further financial difficulties and create previously unimaginable social hardships.

He added that London is refusing to allow his government to borrow any money “unless we do what they dictate”.

Hughes said during the Overseas Territories Conference in London last November, to the delegates “that the Governor of Anguilla is a virtual dictator and that he manipulates every system…to suit his whim and fancy”.

Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that the Chief Minister added that there are rumours that the British want to call fresh elections although his government has only been less than two years in office — far from the five-year term in office.

Hughes said that the British are setting up a situation to justify them suspending the constitution of Anguilla and imposing direct rule through the governor, like they have done in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

According to media reports the Anguilla Chief Minister said the UK appointed Governor’s objective is also to undermine the economy of Anguilla, but there is a conspiracy with the FCO to make sure that Anguilla does not have a foreign economy.

“My only way of sending that message is civil disobedience in Anguilla and this is what we will conduct until the British government gets the message, because there is no way they will come in Anguilla and create a Turks and Caicos here,” a reference to the decision by London to yank that island’s Constitution and rule it from Britain.

The tension continues with direct and unpresentenced inference by both the local UK Governor and from the FCO in most, if not all of Anguilla’s internal affairs especially, its budget and economical matters, such UK actions not seen before the last three to four years.

Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands (VI) and its relationship with the UK under the current National Democratic Party (NDP) Government is still a work in progress but there are lessons learnt with what has transpired with the three other OTs.

In April of this year the VI Premier, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith signed the protocols for Effective Financial Management with the UK’s Henry Bellingham. Many who have now gone through the protocols in recent months, have labelled the document as a sell out of the Territory’s financial authority, despite one controversial and rookie Minister telling the local Parliament that Dr. Smith’s negotiation skills were superb and how Dr. Smith had Minister Bellingham “eating out of his hands.”

There remains confusion as to whether the VI Budget has to be sent to the UK like that of Anguilla, Caymans and of course the TCI before approval by the House of Assembly (HOA).  Many believe despite the denial of Premier Smith that the budget has to be sent to the UK for approval before being passed in the HOA.

However,  in a couple of months the truth will be told.  The UK has also dictated that the VI Government amend its Public Financial Management Act.  The amendment should include many of the demands of the UK that will affect the VI’s Finances, ability to carry out projects and ability to get projects off the ground without going through a long laundry list of UK imposed restrictions and rules. 

The UK has labelled these new restrictions with the usual code words of value for money, risk management, accountability and transparency.

Take for example just a few months ago a signature project of the new government, the cruise pier expansion project on Tortola. The Project was full speed ahead and being spearheaded by a government Minister responsible for Communications and Works. The aim was to get the project started by middle of August 2012.

However,  despite all the promises and meetings by the subject Minister,  Premier Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith announced late last month that the project must now go to Public Tender.

The pending halt to the project was reported earlier in July by this news site. The Ministry of Communications and Works and the Minister Hon. Mark Vanterpool had already announced on radio, TV and on talk shows and interest group meetings that the project will be executed via Tortola Ports Partners consisting of a consortium of US-Based United Infrastructure and Cashman Groups.

The Premier was seen to be contradicting his Minister because of pressure from the UK and the perception that the way in which Hon. Vanterpool was going about the project, violated the Protocols signed by the Premier.

In an attempt to save face the Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool told a media site that there will be no scaling back of the project and claimed that his government invited the UK Government to review the project. However, sources close to the project contradicted his claims and the Premier himself reportedly contradicted his Minister who continues to insist that “the project was full speed ahead”.

“The project could not be full speed ahead, if the Premier has now announced a public tender process, so who is fooling who?” a senior government official told this news site.

To register there concerns, an official from the UK’s FCO in the person of Steve Johnson, visited the VI to deliver the UK’s position to Premier Smith and Hon. Vanterpool.

It is this news site’s understanding from its team of reporters and well-placed sources close to this project that the FCO opined that the project was not compliant and not within the spirit of the recently signed Protocols for Effective Financial Management penned in April of this year, between the Smith Administration and the UK Government through Hon. Henry Bellingham, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for the Overseas Territories.

It was believed the FCO objections were related to section 10 of the Protocol and the issue of ‘Delivering Value for Money’.

It left the local Government in a publicly embarrassing situation caused by the direct intervention by the UK following its enhanced power via the Protocols. The Government was left scrambling by holding meetings with senior civil servants, including the Minister for Communications and Works, the Financial Secretary, the Ag. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works and the Ports consultant Claude Skelton-Cline, to iron out a revised proposal and approach that fits what the UK requires.

All eyes are now on the Airport runway expansion project and await to see if the UK will exercise direct interference due to the protocols. Under the same protocols that one Minister claimed was well negotiated to the point of the Premier having the FCO Minister “eating out of his hand”, states that on request, the VI must give the UK updates on all capital projects, details of the composition of debt, interest rate structure, proposed capital investments, alternative forms of private finance and implications for public expenditure to name a few.

The relationship between the VI and UK have gotten tense in recent weeks with one Minister of Government calling for the VI to begin discussions locally that will lead to self-governance, rather than depending on guidance and instructions from the UK.  It was the same Minister who was the point person for the project stopped by the UK for violation of the Protocols.

It remains unknown, if this is the position of the Dr. Smith NDP Administration; however, this idea seems to be unpopular among the ordinary citizens.

The Minister Hon. Mark Vanterpool told the public at a public ceremony that after 178 years since the declaration of the Emancipation of slavery, the Territory is still not free to determine its own destiny in this day and time of our history.

Is the VI next for the UK to impose its will and power? We will be waiting and watching over the next three years to determine the real intentions of the controversial one sided protocols for Effective Financial Management!

30 Responses to “The British are coming! Is the Virgin Islands next? ”

  • ABC (03/09/2012, 10:29) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This is without question a "cat and mouse game' in which case only the cat can win. I have been monitoring the activities of the two Ministers who are involved in the sea and airport projects and I am concerned that on their present course, both facilities will end up in the hands of wealthy foreigners with the local authorities standing in as mere bi standers. When our revenue bases are removed and handed over to foreigners then we will all go back to "granting aid" from the UK. It is reasonable to assume that the UK will have a say in a matter of this nature.
  • well saw (03/09/2012, 10:44) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This is an interesting article VINO….
  • yellow (03/09/2012, 11:21) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Of course the budget has to be send to the UK who he trying to fool? eh
  • in the news (03/09/2012, 11:25) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This article is deep and must be read by all Virgin Islanders
  • BREAKING NEWS (03/09/2012, 11:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I blame VIP for putting us in this MESS!! Spending our money so DUMB over the last 4 years !!!!
    • liat 521 (03/09/2012, 17:07) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      please but the VIP would have never negogiate that sell out mess dat Smith did boss
    • bigger picture (03/09/2012, 22:44) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      The potential ignorance and corruption goes beyond the last 4 yrs. Each party has their cross to bare including NDP who threw its weight around in trying to develop beef island against many people's protests. They are trying to ammend that behavior in trying to "listen" better. but the fact of the matter is they put the rediculous cruise ship plan on hold not because it is a lousy plan but because they are formally putting out bids to fulfill the protocol signed with UK. This is not independent decision-making... that the development needs more thinking, but to apease the document. They originally gave developers a week or two to come up with another plan for the cruise ship park, a task no one could fulfill and do a good job, thus reverting plans back to the original bad idea... I am glad that UK is looking into this and asking the correct questions.
    • cat man (03/09/2012, 23:26) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Myron go get a life and stop focusing so much on what VIP do or did not do….you jealous evil piece of Sh…
  • Game (03/09/2012, 11:57) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Them just don't want us to shine. Gone are the days of picking cotton
  • mother hen (03/09/2012, 12:06) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This seems to be a serious situation and I hope the BVI is not next
  • ooooo (03/09/2012, 13:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    2015 come quick...ah cant wait!
  • ooooo (03/09/2012, 13:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    2015 come quick...ah cant wait!
  • concerned (03/09/2012, 13:56) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Now, that you have started please complete the story by telling the Virgin Islands how much of the document was part of the NDP Agenda from 2003-07. You see the NDP desire proper Financial Management, and were preparing for it. We are concerned that others got in the play, just watch the waves as they are traversed
    Yes, The NDP Government wants to grow the economy and there fore must search for developers / investors. Yes in the process they are conscious of the challenge of Foreign Direct Investment and the need to ensure that Locals get their share of the opportunities.
    The NDP Government welcome your challenge it will be used to strengthen the Government as negotiations take place with those who are Investors. Look for and do support the efforts introduced to aid the Locals - the Business Bureau, setting aside parts of projects for locals, and others measures.
    The task is challenging, but take a good seat and cheer the NDP Government as they improve the quality of life for all.
  • Albion (03/09/2012, 14:02) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I think there are a lot of different issues which are getting blurred into one. The situation in TCI was very different - the country was essentially bankrupt, and Mr Misick had been accused of sexually assaulting an American tourist. The country was a real mess, bogged down by corruption and financial instability. I have not met anyone from TCI who was sad that the British ousted the Government at the time, although they clearly seem to have waited too long before restoring the country to democracy.

    Cayman and Anguilla on the other hand are in trouble simply because they refuse to balance their own budgets. Both are wilfully refusing to control spending, which is out of all proportion to Government revenues. Countries are allowed to do that of course, but Britain has to guarantee the debts of all the offshore territories. So if it sees countries steering a financially reckless course, it is sensible to try and intervene to get them to take a more prudent approach. The Premiers of Cayman and Anguilla have been particularly wilful in refusing to do the prudent and sensible thing, and that of course creates tension.

    By the grace of God, the public finances in the Virgin Islands are holding up - even if they are clearly not in great shape right now. Whilst the UK Government is keen to keep a watchful eye given the reckless spending of some of our Caribbean neighbours, I think we are a long, long way from Boyd McCleary suspending the VI Constitution.
    • watch and pray (07/09/2012, 00:35) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      not so fas "Albion" watch the new minister of the overseas territories and never trust McCleary
  • Quiet Storm (03/09/2012, 21:51) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Are only Caribbean OTs having financial challenges? The UK has 1 4 OTs and several crown dependencies but the article only only addresses Caribbean OTs relationship with the UK. Are Virgin Islanders to assume that Bermuda and Montserrat, along with the other OTs, are not experiencing any financial difficulties? Is this a management by exception situation, i.e., if a process or function or activity or even a country is working fine, it is left alone and focus on things that are having problems?

    Nevertheless, the Virgin Islands have an advantage over the TCI, CI, and Anguila. They can learn from the missteps and. Shortcomings.





  • BVEye (03/09/2012, 22:01) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Same same as ever. Yes the British government has intervened in these situations but NOT because it wants to control these islands for some slavery or racial reason. It is LIABLE for the behavior of these small islands that it still has responsibility for. When independence time came it was generally agreed that all these islands were just too small to survive or thrive as 'nations', so the UK was left holding them even though it didn't want to. They - we - are about the size of a small town or large village in the UK, Europe, the US. For us to act as if we are some kind of big ting in the world - or as if we WOULD be if these damn slavers would stop bossing us around, is just childish mentality. Yes, we need to watch out and fight for our side of the bargain every time - of course! - but the big news is that none of these islands has got any bigger since the 1950s and 60s (aside from a whole lot of landfill). We are still micro economies with micro populations. All this bluster about 'they stopping us shining' and 'we just like any other country wanting to be independent' - it's just nonsense. It is short man syndrome. We want to be big but we can't admit that we aren't. So instead of being wise - which is how we will really get ahead and create a good quality of life for ourselves and our descendants - we keep ramming headfirst into the wall and shouting like spoiled kids. If it comes down to the UK's opinion vs our opinion, we'd rather see corruption and bad decisions than transparency and well-thought through development - even if it makes our lives worse. I think we just need to get over this whole victim mentality and start being smart, honest and principled, so that we are big enough to agree with the UK when they are right, and fight tooth and nail against them when they are wrong. Don't just fight them because they are 'whites' or foreigners. Be intelligent and make our government and our decisions work for us in wise and moral ways.
    • watching you (03/09/2012, 23:29) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Hats off to the virgin islands news for such an in dept and well researched article!!! You could not have chosen a more suitable topic at this time....BVI they watching you.....
      • BVEye (04/09/2012, 11:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        Watching you ... That could read as a sinister response.
        It could sound like threat against someone expressing opinions you don't agree with.
        Are we already gone down that route? Like Haiti back in the day? Like Russia, China and Cuba?
        Hmmm ...
  • dd (03/09/2012, 22:54) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    all 13 members of the legislative council need to read this article
  • nolline (04/09/2012, 03:23) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    It time we start uniting as a people, as we have much bigger fish to fry. We need to stop this nonsense about who from here and who not from her like a fool and focus on the really issues.
  • Mary J (04/09/2012, 17:03) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The bvi is NEXT its just a matter of time and issue!!!
  • not anymore (06/09/2012, 14:16) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    They cannot take over the BVI because Orlando got the UK eating out of doc hands!!!! NOT!
  • GONE WITH THE WIN (06/09/2012, 17:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    FREE AT LAST FREE AT LAST Mr. Bellingham IS GONE
  • office (08/09/2012, 10:27) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    What you mean the British are coming??? Where have you been they are done here!!!!


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