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Flustered CoI orders investigation into leaked position statement to VINO

- is adamant the leak did not emanate from the Commission following short lunch break inquiry with staff
Commissioner of the Inquiry into governance, the Right Honorable Judge Gary R. Hickinbottom, has launched an investigation into a confidential document being leaked to VINO. Photo: VINO/File
The Commission of Inquiry has vehemently denied that it was responsible for the leaked document, saying its inquiries with the CoI team during its short lunch break was satisfactory. Photo: YouTube
The Commission of Inquiry has vehemently denied that it was responsible for the leaked document, saying its inquiries with the CoI team during its short lunch break was satisfactory. Photo: YouTube
The revelations of the leaked position statement by Ministers further lend to assertions that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was only called because ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, left, was aggrieved he was unable to get his way with the elected government of Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1), right. Photo: VINO/File
The revelations of the leaked position statement by Ministers further lend to assertions that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was only called because ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, left, was aggrieved he was unable to get his way with the elected government of Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1), right. Photo: VINO/File
WICKHAM’S CAY II, Tortola, VI- The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into governance paused its questioning of witnesses this afternoon, June 16, 2021, to turn its attention to Virgin Islands News Online’s (VINO) article published today with the headline: ‘CoI document reveals ‘turf war’ between Ex-Governor Jaspert & VI Gov’t’.

The apparently flustered Commission vehemently denied that it was responsible for the leak, saying its inquiries with the CoI team during its short lunch break was satisfactory,  but has pointed fingers to others and has ordered that the Attorney General provides some answers by 9:00am tomorrow, June 17, 2021.

The CoI specifically took issue with the portion of the article that said the document was shared with our newsroom by senior sources within the Commission of Inquiry (CoI).

Leaked document

The article on the leaked document had revealed that Ministers, in their position statement on governance, were of the view that ex-Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert fought against the Virgin Islands Government’s agenda aimed at achieving greater autonomy and self-government for the Virgin Islands.

It had also accused Jaspert of breaching the Virgin Islands Constitution and that the United Kingdom (UK) did nothing to intervene despite being informed of Jaspert’s alleged actions.

The revelations further lend to assertions that the CoI was only called because Mr Jaspert was aggrieved he was unable to get his way with the elected government of Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1).

Counsel to the Commission, Mr Bilal Rawat, who is being accused of operating illegally in the VI in his capacity with the Commission, raised the matter with the Commission, stating that the 33-page position statement was filed and served with the CoI on behalf of elected Ministers on June 1, 2021.

Rawat claimed that prior to that date the document had been shared by 2 members of the House of Assembly (HoA) who are represented by Silk Legal.

“It has not yet been published by the CoI, save for one exception…it has not otherwise been provided to any other participant or individual or body. What has occurred and this was with the agreement of the Attorney General, was that you directed that the position statement be shared with the Governor’s Office.”

Bilal said this was because the content of the position statement raised issues that firstly required obtaining further disclosure from the elected ministers, but also putting those who were the subject of their criticism on notice of the content of the document.

“All those who received documents from the CoI in the accepted manner are bound by a duty of confidentiality to you as Commissioner. In so far as it needs to be that has been made explicit in the CoI rules but it is in anyway a convention by which all legal representatives are used to operating in any forum.”

It wasn’t me! - CoI

Noting that himself and the Commissioner have discussed the contents of the article, and its position statement emanating from senior sources within the Commission of Inquiry, Bilal said: “If I may clear, leaving yourself aside, commissioner, the CoI team here numbers 5 people, including myself. Inquiries, therefore, have been made of all members over the lunchtime adjournment and I am satisfied and Commissioner I believe you are also satisfied that this document did not emanate from within the CoI or indeed any source; however, senior or junior.”

Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom said he wanted to make it clear that the substance of the leaked document will be the subject of the CoI.

“In the document, the Ministers make serious allegations that Governor Jaspert and the United Kingdom Government have acted improperly, unconstitutionally, and illegally in the sense they have acted against international law in respect to matters of governance.

“Contrary to speculation in the media and indeed by some of the participants in this inquiry of course I will investigate such criticisms, but the criticisms that have been made have to be investigated in the proper way.”

AG & Ministers fine with document being published as is

The Commissioner noted that the Attorney General and the seven ministers who have signed the position statement have confirmed that they have no redactions that they would wish to make prior to its publication.

“I stress that this document will be published with any appropriate redactions as soon as I have received submissions in respect of what redactions that need to be made. The position statement contains various personal information which the Attorney General has a duty to protect as do I as Commissioner.”

Hickinbottom also claimed that the leaked document contains information that the Attorney General has said may be confidential “and she has indicated that those who may have the benefit of that confidence include the Governor and the United Kingdom Government.”

He said that is why “I have directed that the position statement and its appendices be sent to the Governor’s Office so that he may make any submission that he wishes to make in respect of redactions, both of personal data and other confidential information that he considers should be made prior to a determination by me and then publication of this document.

Hickinbottom also said he has directed the Attorney General for legal submissions on the criticisms made; however, he is yet to receive them.

CoI clears itself during ‘short lunch break’!

Meanwhile, Hickinbottom said during the lunch adjournment he and Rawat caused inquiries to be made of the small CoI team here.

“They were relatively easy inquiries to make because the entire team, save for the secretary who is working literally next door, are here in the hearing room.

“I have received comfort as have you that the leak did not emanate from anyone in this team. To that extent, this article is simply wrong. But that means that the leak must have come from somewhere else and it must have come from someone who owes a duty of confidence to me as Commissioner in this Inquiry. I take that extremely seriously.”

AG ordered to provide answers

Hickinbottom then directed that the Attorney General and the Governor’s Office write to him by 9:00am tomorrow, June 17, 2021, with the list of every single person who has had access to the document and identify inquiries that they have made to ascertain who may have leaked the document.

“I will, once I have received those letters, make any further inquiries that I consider appropriate, but this Commission of Inquiry will be conducted on the basis of proper confidentiality with all of the participants and all of those who are engaged in this process complying with their obligations of confidentiality to the full. This inquiry simply can’t be conducted under any other basis.”

Hickinbottom said an order will follow later today.

“The direction of course will include any individuals who have had access to it, have disclosed information. It will in that sense have a waterfall effect,” Hickinbottom said.

IS CoI hypocritical or trying to intimidate media?

Persons speaking to this newsroom on condition of anonymity said the CoI is wasting time with trying to find out who leaked the document as most of what was revealed were already public knowledge and that the Commissioner has already claimed he is committed to transparency but is yet still trying to hide public documents.

Further, some speculated that the CoI may just be seeking to intimidate the media, particularly Virgin Islands News Online, which has been exposing the CoI as possibly flawed, hypocritical and imperialist.

14 Responses to “Flustered CoI orders investigation into leaked position statement to VINO”

  • RubberDuck (16/06/2021, 19:28) Like (20) Dislike (104) Reply
    Vino we stand with you
  • say what (16/06/2021, 20:55) Like (17) Dislike (67) Reply
    somebody needs to urge mr man to go where he from and investigate his own kind & stop mucking around with the well-being of black peoples

  • resident (16/06/2021, 21:33) Like (70) Dislike (4) Reply
    The Commissioner didn’t look flustered to me. He looked some one who would have his rules complied with; and if they weren’t there would be consequences.
  • White supremacy (16/06/2021, 22:34) Like (12) Dislike (52) Reply
    It’s about black and white the British has a history
  • the view (16/06/2021, 23:11) Like (47) Dislike (1) Reply
    Reasons why we are excluded from important involvements and outsiders are favoured in sensitive positions.
    Any consideration for leniency or generosity of kinder consideration in the COI findings are now gone.
    This COI came about as a result of idiotic behaviour and advice by the self serving.
    We are our own worse enemies.
  • Well known fact (16/06/2021, 23:13) Like (18) Dislike (1) Reply
    There is no confidentiality, Lets face the fact.
  • Pot and kettle (17/06/2021, 06:43) Like (6) Dislike (4) Reply
    Who investigating the leak to the uk media concerning the COI?
  • asking for a friend (17/06/2021, 08:01) Like (2) Dislike (7) Reply
    So when he going investigate who kill the man who use to work at the governor’s office?
  • vex (17/06/2021, 09:15) Like (1) Dislike (5) Reply
    its clear they do not support transparency they coi have things to hide
  • Reporter (17/06/2021, 09:56) Like (18) Dislike (3) Reply
    One of the old time adage says that you don’t fight fire with fire. Whether you like the Commissioner or not that’s beyond the point.He is here to do a job. This CoI is happening as a result of a special request; hence the investigation must take its course regardless of who are involved. And, as a community of people with a high level of intelligence I think it would be in our best interest to desist from making such unnecessary inflammatory comments which on the other hand does not define us to be the intellectual people that we are. At this time of uncertainty, we can only hope for the best when the investigation is concluded.
  • Concern Virgin Islander (17/06/2021, 11:44) Like (3) Dislike (9) Reply
    Is it only me, feeling like this COI have awhole lot of axes to grind.
    We have the COI lawyer not straight to practice law in the Virgin Islands but the head Man is ok with that, We have our local laws being broken by this man with no regead. He insulting or elected officals and mothers and sisters with no problem. He is talking down and giving us insulting comments, but no one crying out. Are we so afraid to say anything, or we still have the white man is better than the black man out look on life.
    ps by the way all question and answers by the COI lawyer should be null and void. since he is not a register to the bvi bar.
  • Nationhood (17/06/2021, 15:49) Like (0) Dislike (1) Reply
    So the Commissioner in carrying out his investigations "met with the Governor and his 3 staff" this morning to investigate the leak rather than summon these persons to testify publicly about it to satisfy himself that the leak did not emanate from their office. Was the CoI set up at the Governor's Office....was there a transcript to record the questions/enquiries of the Commissioner and the statements from the Governor and his 3 staff? OPEN JUSTICE MEHSON... how can we trust the legitimacy of this CoI if he is going to do that.
  • Nationhood (17/06/2021, 15:58) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    So were the Governor and the 3 Governor's staff sworn under oath before their statements were taken so that the Commissioner could be PROPERLY and legitimately satisfied.

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