UK Set to Impose Direct Rule on British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie

The UK is set to impose direct rule over the British Virgin Islands following the arrest of the Caribbean territory’s on drug charges in the US, and the findings of multiple failings in Andrew Fahie’s government by a UK-appointed inquiry.

Fahie appeared in federal court in Miami yesterday charged with cocaine trafficking and money laundering, following his arrest in a DEA sting on Thursday. Shortly before his court appearance, the commission of inquiry published its findings of widespread abuses in government, including mis-spending millions of dollars of public funds.

The commission’s report recommended that the territory should have its constitution suspended and its government dissolved, with direct rule imposed from London.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss did not immediately act on the recommendations, but said that the report demonstrated “clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the BVI are entitled to”.

It appears highly likely that Truss will decide that the current government needs to be dissolved at the very least, and should this happen Governor General John Rankin – who reports directly to Queen Elizabeth – would be expected to take control of domestic affairs, at least in the interim. As is usually the case with British overseas territories, defense and foreign policy is already set by London.

The report from the commission, which was chaired by Judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom, was due to be published following consultation with island politicians, but UK officials decided to bypass this step in light of Fahie’s arrest.

Amanda Milling, The UK minister for the overseas territories, is set to fly to the islands to discuss the situation with officials from the BVI government. It appears that any decision over direct rule will be made following the outcome of those discussions.

The last time the UK imposed direct rule on an overseas territory was in 2009, when it took control of the Turks and Caicos Islands.