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Virgin Islands protests UK’s direct rule plan after premier's arrest in US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protestors in Road Town, on the island of Tortola, chant slogans and hold placards condemning the UK's plan of direct rule over the British Virgin Islands.

Hundreds of people in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Monday protested against a proposal by the Queen of Britain to put the overseas British territory under the direct control of the United Kingdom.

The demonstration on Monday came days after the BVI premier was arrested in the US city of Miami on money laundering and drug-related charges.

The protesters rallied outside Governor John Rankin's house in the capital, Road Town, on the island of Tortola, chanting slogans and holding placards reading "No UK rule!"

Rankin serves as Queen Elizabeth’s representative in the self-governed territory.

A report released on Friday, which was commissioned by Rankin, said the BVI should be governed directly from London to “restore the standards of governance” that people there “are entitled to”.

Protesters strongly took exception to the proposal, pouting into the streets in large numbers.

"Our message to the United Kingdom government and to the world: there will be no direct rule in this land," a protester Luce Hodge-Smith was quoted as saying.

The rally coincided with a visit to the islands by Amanda Milling, a British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East, to discuss the findings of the report.

“Yesterday I arrived in the BVI following the publication of the Commission of Inquiry,” Milling wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Yesterday I arrived in the BVI following the publication of the Commission of Inquiry. I look forward to engaging with a range of people inc BVI leaders, opposition, community groups and sector experts to listen to views on what is in the best interests of the people of BVI.

— Amanda Milling (@amandamilling) May 2, 2022

“I look forward to engaging with a range of people [including] BVI leaders, opposition, community groups, and sector experts to listen to views on what is in the best interests of the people of BVI.”

A day before the report was released, Andrew Fahie, the elected head of government of the British overseas territory, was arrested was jailed over alleged cocaine trafficking and money laundering.

The US Justice Department said it charged Fahie with “cocaine trafficking and money laundering conspiracies for agreeing to facilitate the safe passage through BVI ports of tons of Colombian cocaine headed to Miami”.

Fahie’s lawyer in a court filing on Monday claimed that his client enjoys immunity from prosecution in the US as the constitutional head of government of the British overseas territory.

The arrest and the UK's subsequent announcement of its direct rule plans has raised suspicions of a preplanned scenario to overtake the territory.

The BVI is a self-governing Caribbean archipelago, made up of more than 40 islands and home to approximately 35,000 people.

The UK is already responsible for defense and foreign policy in the BVI, but the proposal will allow the country to take charge of all BVI domestic policies and budgets.


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