After grilling several members of the House of Assembly (HoA) during the past two weeks on the Register of Interest Act, Counsel to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Mr Bilal Rawat said the evidence is clear that past and present members of the HoA had no regard for the Act or the Registrar of Interest.
“What I am going to suggest to you is that the evidence that the commissioner has heard regrettably are an example of is that irrespective of party, irrespective of experience, irrespective of the length of time in the HoA, repeatedly, this is an obligation – a statutory obligation –members of the HoA, current and past simply had no regard for and the Registrar as the person reminding them was someone that they simply had no regard for,” he said on Friday, June 18, 2021, while interviewing Premier Fahie (R1).
Mr Rawat told the Premier that he was also in breach like the other members of the House in declaring his interests at least twice.
“So the system doesn’t work, and the reason the system doesn’t work is the legislators do not accept that it applies to them; they don’t see it as important, do they?” Mr Rawat asked.
Premier Fahie stated, “Well, that is your conclusion, but with due respect, I don’t see it totally as you have stated.”
“You have flagged an area, and rightfully so that needs improvement, and I will sit right here and admit to that. This is an area that we are weak in, but it does not define who we are as legislators; it does not define who we are as a people. It isn’t because we don’t think it is important, it isn’t because we are rogue representatives, it is one of those things that just happen over the years that we intend to fix now. I am not going to let this one thing define the territory or define us.”
“We also show we are open to criticism with it to make sure that we get better because we are the ones who went and made this public to yourself because the law originally did not allow the CoI to go to the Registrar to get any information.”
He added: “So we knew that going into it, some of us would be late and you would find this but to assist the CoI, because we have nothing to hide, we went as a legislature, all of us, Government and Opposition agreed to get this legislation amended to give you access.
“We knew that this access would show the deficiencies of this particular important piece of legislation, but at the same time too, we did it with confidence knowing that we are working in the back with this and other legislation to strengthen it.”
He said legislations like the Whistleblower Act and the Contractor General Act were some examples of the territory’s attempt to be on the right track to police itself and ensure good governance exists in the Virgin Islands.