The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) has unveiled a series of recommendations aiming to reshape the powers vested in the governor as outlined in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Constitution.
The recommendations, revealed in the CRC’s recently published report, highlight the need for greater consultation and transparency in the governance structure.
A pivotal proposal from the CRC involves amending Section 81 Subsection 6 of the BVI Constitution.
The Commission advocates for a requirement that the governor consults with the premier before exercising discretion under this section. Section 81(1) presently grants the governor authority to expedite the passage of a Bill or motion in the House of Assembly if urgent compliance with international obligations is deemed necessary. If the House fails to act within a determined timeframe, the governor can unilaterally declare the Bill or motion to have effect.
The CRC’s report sheds light on the heavy criticism received during the consultation process regarding the governor’s reserved powers under Section 81. Members of the public reportedly expressed concerns about the governor’s ability to declare a Bill passed in the absence of a requisite majority vote, viewing it as a “vestige of the territory’s colonial past.” This perception was viewed as contradicting the envisioned modern partnership between the UK and the BVI.
Another crucial recommendation from the CRC calls for the removal of the ouster clause in Section 40(6) of the Constitution. This clause currently bars any inquiry into whether the governor has fulfilled a function instructed by the Constitution in consultation with a specific person or authority.
Drawing inspiration from the Cayman Islands, the Commission highlighted the UK Overseas territory as a notable example where the precedent was set for the removal of a similarly worded ouster clause.
Additionally, the CRC proposes a significant change to the governor’s powers under Section 103 of the Constitution related to the Consolidated Fund. The Commission recommends that the governor consult with the Minister of Finance before exercising the discretionary authority to withdraw funds.
Currently, the Constitution allows the governor to withdraw funds from the Consolidated Fund without approval from the Cabinet or the Minister of Finance. These recommendations signal a potential shift towards a more collaborative and transparent governance structure in the BVI.