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Regional 04 May, 2023 Follow News

Premier Wheatley BVI

Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent

Dr Natalio Wheatley remains as Premier of the British Virgin Islands following the British Overseas Territory’s general election on Monday April 24th.

Dr Wheatley who had set up an all-party national government in May last year following the arrest in Miami on cocaine smuggling charges of then-Premier Andrew Fahie, led his Virgin Islands Party(VIP) in securing six of the 13 seats at stake.

He brokered a deal with independent candidate Lorna Smith who ran as an at-large candidate under the banner of the National Development Party(NDP), previously led by her husband and former Premier Dr Orlando Smith.

Dr Smith retired from politics following the previous election which his party lost to the VIP, then led by Andrew Fahie.

Mr Fahie remains under arrest in the United States where he is awaiting trial.

In the BVI’s electoral system, nine seats are contested as constituencies with the other four assigned to territory-wide ‘at-large’ candidates who run as independents or as members of a party.

Among the key issues in the election campaign, which pitted parties in the national unity government against each other, was the aftermath of a UK Commission of Inquiry into corruption which has left the BVI facing the threat of British direct rule.

The territory remains under a UK Order-in-Council pending the implementation of the recommendation of the 2021 Commission of Inquiry ‘to review the Territory’s governance and make recommendations for improvement’.

One controversial matter which flared up during the campaign was the historic recalling of the House of Assembly after it had been dissolved when the election date was announced.

The Assembly was recalled by the BVI’s British Governor John Rankin to review and confirm the status of close to 700 people who had recently been granted Belonger Status under the Virgin Islands Party-initiated Fast Track Citizenship Scheme.

Large numbers of people from other countries living in the BVI have been languishing in a state of uncertainty over their citizenship for years. Their eligibility to vote in the election was also a controversial campaign issue.

One of the priority issues facing Premier Wheatley’s Virgin Islands Party-dominated two-party coalition administration is the implementation of the recommendations of the UK Commission of Inquiry.

Governor Rankin has threatened to release several reports on recommendations from the inquiry over concern that the previous national unity administration, also led by Premier Wheatley, was dragging its feet.

The BVI government had said it was reviewing some of the COI conclusions as it had reservations about them.

The British government has given the BVI a new deadline of May 2024 to implement the full raft of recommendations after several extensions had been granted.

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