Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley has said the completion of the report by the Constitutional Review Commission signals constitutional progress and the evolution of the Virgin Islands’ democratic system.
The completed report of the full review of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 was officially handed over to His Excellency the Governor, Mr. John Rankin CMG and Premier Wheatley on Monday, November 27.
Premier Wheatley stated, “I am grateful to the Chairman and members of the Constitutional Review Commission, who worked diligently to complete and present a report that is representative of extensive public and private consultation, thoughtful and engaging deliberation, and meaningful research and consideration.”
This report the Premier added, is helpful not only in addressing several recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, but also the Territory’s aspirations for advancement including the checks and balances towards the development of an even greater democracy that our people deserve.
The Premier said, “This report will be received by Cabinet, then subsequently laid on the table of the House of Assembly (HoA) where it will be the subject of parliamentary debate. The document will then be available for public review which will inform the next steps, including the establishment of a negotiating team.”
In July 2020, the House of Assembly (HoA) passed Resolution No. 15 of 2020 to approve an 11-member Commission following Cabinet’s approval of the establishment of a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) for the purpose of conducting a full review of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007.
Following the receipt of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report and the approval of the Framework for the Implementation of the recommendations, Cabinet on 29th June, 2022 rescinded the previous decision and appointment of 11 members and approved the increase in membership from 11 to the following 16 members:
Mrs. Lisa Penn-Lettsome, Chairman; Ms. Janice Stoutt, Deputy Chairman; Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron; Ms. Maya Barry; Mrs. Tanya Cassie-Parker; Mr. Sendrick Chinnery; Ms. Susan V. Demers; Ms. Noni Georges; Dr. Steve Lennard; Mr. Coy Levons; Mrs. Bernadine Louis; Dr. Benedicta P. T. Samuels; Mr. Ronnie W. Skelton; Mr. Rajah A. Smith; Rev. Dr. Melvin A Turnbull; Dr. Charles Wheatley, OBE.
Commissioners Ms. Janice Stoutt, Mr. Ronnie W. Skelton, Mr. Coy Levons and Mrs. Bernadine Louis resigned prior to the Commission submitting its report.
The Commission has conducted its work from July 2022, through various fora and media. The methods included generating feedback via the website www.yourconstitution.vg, town-hall style public meetings, private consultative meetings, radio and television interviews, infomercials, secondary schools outreach, a consultative meeting with Virgin Islanders residing in the United States Virgin Islands, and a signature educational and consultative event which was live-streamed and made available for re-viewing.
The report is intended to be comprehensive, which is reflected in the general terms of reference that were approved, as follows:
i. to re-evaluate the vision of the people of the Virgin Islands, as expressed in the preamble to the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007, and to amend accordingly, if necessary;
ii. to evaluate the current Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007, and determine whether it is in strategic fit to facilitate the people of the Virgin Islands in achieving the revised vision in (i) above;
iii. to identify any gaps in relation to (ii) above;
iv. to make recommendations for constitutional reform,
v. to review the next step towards self-determination for the Territory of the Virgin Islands; and
vi. to consider how best, the law enforcement and justice agencies can sit within the constitutional framework.
The handover of the CRC’s report signals the completion of another action in the COI Recommendations.
The Government of the Virgin Islands remains resolute in the promotion of the overall development of the Territory through the continued pursuit of constitutional goals inclusive of our commitment to democratic ideals, good government, and sustainable transformation.