Commissioner of the ongoing UK-backed Commission of Inquiry Sir Gary Hickinbottom expressed to Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie that the inquiry is no place for his political rhetoric.
Premier Fahie made another lengthy speech during his appearance before the CoI on Tuesday, October 12, and Sir Gary said he was not pleased about the constant lengthy speeches that appear to be the norm with the Premier during his testimony.
The territory’s leader informed the CoI that he had a ‘very short’ statement to make, based on some bullet points he created the night before.
Among the topics that he covered was about writing to the UK for help and being refused help where he was told that UK money is for UK taxpayers and that the BVI must fend for themselves. He argued that now the BVI had taken care of its people in the form of a COVID-19 stimulus, the matter is now under investigation, while the UK is turning a blind eye to its own systematic corruption.
“We ask to weigh us against our accusers when doing so. I have stayed quiet for a little while and allowed you to do your work, but I cannot sit idly by and see the reputation of our country be tarnished without coming to give evidence and putting things in context and to give you all the information that I have,” he said.
He continued: “Now you may say and some of your team that some people say that and they end up to be guilty before but Commissioner… but I don’t think you could find that here. There’s not a dime that could not be accounted for, and if someone is caught that cannot account, the system would have to deal with those persons, and I pray God that it never happen to our people in the Virgin Islands.”
Before he ended his speech, he thanked the Commissioner for the opportunity to speak.
He said: “Mr. Commissioner, I thank you because you did not have to allow me to say those words, but I needed to say them to form part of the record and to also crave your indulgence to be etched in the walls of your conscience and your soul and your legal mind so that we will all be married when you are writing your report knowing some of these information.”
However, Commissioner Hickinbottom replied to him that he misled him because he said his speech would be short.
“…Although shortness is a relative term that was not short. Nor Premier was that relevant to my terms of reference,” he said
Premier replied: “It very much is.”
Commissioner continued: “there are platforms for political rhetoric, many of them, but Premier, this is not one of them.”
Premier replied, “It is.”
Commissioner Hickinbottom said the CoI was to probe specific areas that fell within his remit.
“The manner in which the United Kingdom has dealt with the COVID-19 crisis is not within my terms of reference. I have enough to do to hear the evidence, come to conclusions and make recommendations on those terms of reference and that in itself is a challenge enough and I will continue to focus on governance; I will continue to focus on information which may disclose serious dishonesty in public office in the BVI and if I find that information that will then appear in my report,” he pointed out.
I Won’t Be Deflected!
The CoI’s Commissioner then said he would not be sidetracked on his mission.
“I will not be deflected by political rhetoric, and I will not be deflected by inappropriate comparisons with other places. I will stick to my brief, and I will only focus on meeting my terms of reference.”
“Premier, with respect, I have been patient, but my patience is not infinite. That was a prepared speech, it was not in response to any questions, that was a speech of a political nature which I did not find helpful in considering the terms of reference which I have to do,” he added.
Sir Gary said if the Premier wanted to make future speeches, he would have to present him beforehand with a copy so that he would be aware of what he planned to speak about.
He said there was no reason why he could not have been privy to the speech prior to the hearing.