Council Disolved, Election Called In British Colony
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands (AP) _ Chief Minister Cyril B. Romney dissolved this colony’s nine-member Legislative Council six days before it was to debate a no-confidence motion against him.
Gov. David Robert Barwick, Queen Elizabeth’s II’s representative, announced in a four-minute radio speech Thursday night that elections for a new council would be held before the end of the year.
Barwick said Romney ″signed a proclamation dissolving the Legislative Council with immediate effect.″ Romney and his three ministers, also council members, will run the government until a new council takes office.
″The constitution provides for a general election within two months ... and arrangements for the election will be announced within the next few days,″ Barwick said.
The call for a no-confidence vote next Wednesday was linked to Romney’s ownership of the Financial Management Trust, a company allegedly used for laundering narcotics money.
Romney, the government’s top elected official, was not personally implicated in the money laundering scheme, authorities said.
But opposition leader H. Lavitty Stoutt, a two-term former chief minister, charged that Romney’s ownership of the company was ″unbecoming a minister of government and was in conflict with his public responsibilities.″
Barwick did not directly mention Romney’s ownership of the company. But he said: ″In a democratic country like the British Virgin Islands, when issues arise in this way, the proper course is for the people to decide those for themselves″ in an election.
On Wednesday, Stoutt urged members of the governing United Party to support his bid to oust Romney and form a coalition government. He then filed the no- confidence motion against Romney and asked him to resign.
Voters in the British Virgin Islands, which are just east of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, last voted on Nov. 11, 1983. The next election had been scheduled for November 1987.
Romney defeated Stoutt’s Virgin Islands Party in the 1983 election. Stoutt was chief minister in 1971-75 and 1979-83. He was not available Thursday night for comment.
British authorities initially charged Shaun Murphy, managing director of the Financial Management Trust, in connection with the money laundering scheme. They dropped the charges April 25 when he agreed to testify in upcoming trials in Britain and the United States. Murphy, a Briton, has long been a resident of the islands.
No charges were filed against Romney, and a government spokesman said the chief minister had ″never been questioned about the matter.″
The laundering scheme allegedly involved hiding the origins of profits from a drug smuggling operation connecting the Caribbean, the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, Britain and the United States, authorities said.
The 36 islands in the British colony cover 59 square miles and are home to 12,000 people. The islands have been under British control since 1666.