Premier Fahie announced just moments ago that, after much consultation, meditation and prayer, he has decided to ask the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Julian Willock, to reconsider his position and to swear-in Mr. Mark H. Vanterpool as the representative for the 4th District at the next Sitting of the House of Assembly.
“I am of the view that this matter, which is pending before the Court of Appeal, has been hanging over the Territory for an inordinate amount of time and has become a source of discord and bitterness that is undermining the harmony and family spirit which is the soul of our society,” he said today, June 16.
On May 2, Justice Ann Marie Smith ruled in favour of Vanterpool, who filed a Fixed Date Claim, seeking that the court declare that he did not vacate his seat in the House of Assembly and that the Speaker be ordered to swear him in. However, through his lawyers, Mr. Willock appealed that decision.
The whole issue surrounding the District Four seat began when Mr. Vanterpool announced that he would be retiring from representational politics, and sent a resignation letter to the Clerk of the House of Assembly (HoA). There was not a Speaker in place at the time.
Mr. Vanterpool subsequently changed his mind, after Hon. Willock was appointed as Speaker of the House, and announced that he wished to be sworn in as the District Four Representative. He had pointed out that his resignation letter was also invalid as the Clerk informed him that it was supposed to be penned to the Speaker of the House.
Residents have been calling on the Premier to intervene.
Premier's Full Statement:
Fellow Virgin Islanders,
After much consultation, meditation and prayer, I have decided to ask the Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly to reconsider his position and to swear-in Mr Mark H. Vanterpool as the representative for the 4th District at the next Sitting of the House of Assembly.
I am of the view that this matter, which is pending before the Court of Appeal, has been hanging over the Territory for an inordinate amount of time and has become a source of discord and bitterness that is undermining the harmony and family spirit which is the soul of our society.
No political or legal victory – whether you are right or you are wrong – is worth the loss of our soul.
My request is without prejudice to the strong legal and moral stance that has been adopted by the Honourable Speaker.
I am firmly of the view, based on advice that I have received, that the 4th District seat was indeed vacated by the resignation of Mr Vanterpool on March 5, 2019 - a mere 8 days after the February 25th General Election and 7 days before the 4th House of Assembly was convened to commence business.
One of the reasons I felt the Speaker was right to pursue this matter to the fullest extent in the courts is because the fiasco created by Mr Vanterpool exposed an apparent lacuna in the Constitution; one that should be adjudicated upon for future reference.
Regardless of Mr. Vanterpool’s erroneous addressing of his resignation letter, he was pellucidly clear in his video address of his intention to abandon his responsibility to the constituents who elected him, albeit by a very small margin.
His conduct was a slap in the face of our democracy, an insult to the constituents of the 4th District - in particular those electors who voted for Mr. Vanterpool, and a betrayal of the sacred trust that forms when a constituent gives their vote to a nominee for office.
Mr Vanterpool made a mockery of representative politics.
Notwithstanding all that is wrong with Mr Vanterpool’s conduct, the welfare of the Territory comes first. And in this regard, I have humbly intimated to the Honourable Speaker that it is my view that the time has come for the Territory to move past this dark episode so that the House of Assembly and the people of the Territory can focus on some of the very pressing issues that require our urgent attention.
While the four Territorial At Large representatives, who belong to the government, have been providing excellent representational support to the constituents of the 4th District, I believe that this still hamstrings the constituents compared to the citizens of the other 8 electoral districts, which have an individual District Representative as well as the support of the four Territorial At Large representatives.
As I have strived to emphasize since the start of this fiasco on March 5, under the Westminster Parliamentary system, the Speaker has authority over the management of the affairs of the House – not the Executive. Therefore, it is ultimately left to the judgement and authority of the Speaker to do as he believes best in line with the responsibilities and duties of his office.
I hope these words help to bring some resolution to this unfortunate and messy situation.
I welcome the presence of Mr. Vanterpool in the House of Assembly as I believe there are a number of distressing issues with which he is ideally equipped to assist the Territory as a Minister of the immediate past Administration.
One such issue is the accounting for tens of millions of dollars sunk into the Pier Park project for which the paperwork has conveniently vanished.
God bless our British Virgin Islands.
I thank you.