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The Government of the Virgin Islands has successfully applied to the Commission of Inquiry (COI) for all Ministers, Ministries and devolved government entities, including the Cabinet, to have the status of a participant and to be represented in the whole of the Inquiry by the Attorney General, Honourable Dawn Smith, together with counsel Rt. Honourable Sir Geoffrey Cox QC and members of law-firm Withers.
Status as a participant under Section 12 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act allows the Government to be represented at all hearings and will also provide Ministers and Cabinet with a fair opportunity to express their views on matters that are the subject of inquiry by the Commissioner.
The Members of the House of Assembly have been granted similar status and are separately represented.
Following the commencement of hearings of the COI, the Government has reiterated its policy of co-operation and transparency with the COI and welcomes the Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom’s comments thanking public officers for their hard work and good faith in conducting the extensive disclosure that has resulted in the provision of over 5,000 documents and over 85,000 pages of documents to the Inquiry since March. At the request of the COI, further checks are now being carried out by public officers to ensure that all relevant documents have been gathered and disclosed.
The Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, as well as other senior Ministers and public officials, have attended hearings of the COI in the last few days to give evidence to the Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom.
The Government of the Virgin Islands is mindful that the COI does not during this stage of its proceedings wish to give notice to witnesses of the matters and documents on which it intends to ask questions. The Government understands that the COI has decided to hold these first hearings in private so that any sensitive information, such as that affecting national security, can be considered before the transcripts are published.
However, in pursuit of its policy of full cooperation and transparency, the Government of the Virgin Islands has consented to publication of the full transcript of each day of the Inquiry without editing, with a single exception on a matter of national security, thus making available to the BVI public a complete record of the COI’s formal proceedings so far.
Commenting, Premier Andrew A Fahie, said: "I am pleased the Government has been granted full participant status and has the right to be represented at the whole of the Inquiry. From the outset the Government has stated its policy of co-operation and transparency and in keeping with that policy, we have voluntarily answered all requests for hearings and have supplied thousands of documents. This has required considerable effort and has been time-consuming, for which I thank all public officers. The Government continues to do all it can to assist the Commissioner and I am happy that Ministers will soon have the opportunity to present their views to the Inquiry on governance and other important matters."
The Government of the Virgin Islands is encouraging all citizens, residents and Government employees to cooperate with the COI. The Government’s desire is to see a robust, fair, transparent and balanced process.