17 December 2009

BVI Premier to UK - "Don´t Treat Us Like Minions"

On December 9, the Overseas Territories Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom Chris Bryant hosted the eleventh meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in London. The meeting was attended by Premiers, Chief Ministers and other representatives of the UK Overseas Territories - Anguilla, Ascension, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Islands. . This was the first OTCC meeting hosted by Mr. Bryant, who followed Gillian Merron in the post of Foreign Office Minister. The meeting was preceded  on 8th December  by a ten-year review of the 1999 Government White Paper “Partnership for Progress and Prosperity - Britain and the Overseas Territories.” No formal statement on the review or Council Meeting was made available. The British Virgin Islands delegation to both sessions was led by Premier Hon. Ralph O'Neal whose interview with the BBC about the meeting was reported by BVI Platinum:

"At times we disagree and I (Premier O'Neal) have disagreed with one action the Governor took and I still disagree with it and I will continue to disagree. So maybe I might be the next one to get the axe, but to treat us like minions...or like children begging their father to give them a piece of bread...I cannot understand that mentality and it makes me think there is the warship diplomacy still in progress."

Those were the words of Premier Hon. Ralph T´ O Neal as he responded to a question posed by Mike Jarvis of BBC Caribbean, on if local Governments do not expect that they will have to accept certain dictate tactics from the administering powers if they remain Overseas Territories.

During the interview which was aired on Monday, the Premier was at the time also speaking on his position on Cabinet´s involvement in determining the awarding of British citizenship in the Territory. Premier O'Neal said it is wrong for the British-appointed Governor alone to naturalise people to stay in the BVI.

"...They can apply for naturalization after they have been there (BVI) for a certain number of years. That is granted under the British Nationality Act which I think is time to get that amended. The Governor deals with that, he doesn´t even inform Cabinet, but I must say he invites me to the ceremony to speak and I go. But I think it´s improper of a Governor to grant nationality without even referring it to the Cabinet or the Premier, even for information."

The Premier was questioned on why the latter was not dealt with during the period of Constitutional Reform and how close are Overseas Territories such as the BVI on the issue of independence.

"The question of the granting of nationality was not a matter discussed at the conference. Independence comes with price. We set up a committee to consider the cost, implications and liabilities of independence," Premier O´ Neal told BBC Caribbean.

BVI Platinum
15th December 2009