According to the HoA Order Paper released today November 2, 2020, in addition to several other pieces of legislation, Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) will move motions for the introduction and first readings of bills including the “Disaster Management Act, 2019” and the “Police Act, 2019.”
Leading the objections over certain aspects of the bill was Opposition Legislator, Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) who said that the bill seeks to repeal and replace the Police Act Cap 165 and said that imperative the VI people know what this replacement is, “not just us but the public. The public should have a say in what this bill is going to be.”
The Police Act, 2019, no stranger to the HoA, was debated during the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly in July 2020 but was moved to a special select committee of the whole House.
Leading the objections over certain aspects of the bill was Opposition Legislator, Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) who said that the bill seeks to repeal and replace the Police Act Cap 165 and said it was imperative that the VI people know what this replacement is about.
“Not just us but the public. The public should have a say in what this bill is going to be,” he argued.
Several other concerns raised included; that members of the disciplined force, such as Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner would escape trial for offences including for discipline and that officers convicted in a court for grave or repeated offences would face demotion or charge.
“Unless he was convicted by a court for speeding there should be no reduction of rank, they should be fired. It’s a police officer we [are] talking about,” Hon Fraser said.
Other issues highlighted by the legislator was that the bill also allowed the police officers to return to the force after prison time and he called troubling, Clause 185 of the bill which provided immunity for police officers acting under the authority of a warrant, amongst other concerns.
Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) had also agreed with the concerns of Hon Fraser.
He had said he was aware the act needed updating as there were many things the current act did not take into account; however, there must be a balance between the power of the police and the rights of civilians.
Dr Wheatley had also said it is “not nice” to live in a society where persons have to fear those commissioned to serve and protect and that it was important the Virgin Islands does not allow its police force to get to that place.
He said he noted some occurrences during the COVID-19 lockdown where persons were being tased and said attention must be paid to that and to ensure that police brutality and police misconduct do not become a norm in the Territory.
Regarding the Disaster Management Act 2019, Opposition Legislator, Hon Mark H. Vanterpool raised objections during the Third Sitting of the Second session of the Fourth House of Assembly July 28, 2020, and the act would never pass as is.
Meanwhile, regarding the Disaster Management Act, 2019, Opposition Legislator, Hon Mark H. Vanterpool (R4) raised objections during the Third Sitting of the Second session of the Fourth House of Assembly on July 28, 2020, and said the act would never pass as is.
Hon Vanterpool highlighted that the act gave the Governor of the Virgin Islands too much power since it gave him authority to run the Territory in an emergency, calling it one that takes the country backwards.
“Who knows the people more, of the country, who knows what their needs are more… who knows how to deal with situations more than the Premier of the country?” Hon Vanterpool questioned.
He said it is not right that the Premier would have to be 'tiptoeing' behind the Governor to make decisions in times of a disaster.
“I hope we could get that change fast because me ain't signing on to no Disaster Preparedness Act that says somebody outside of the Premier should be in charge [in an] an emergency... the Premier should be in charge!” Hon Vanterpool said.
The Disaster Management Act, 2019, was also sent to a select committee of the whole House in June 2020.
The sitting of the HoA will be held at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff’s Bottom, Tortola at 10:00 am and will be streamed live on the HoA's Youtube page as well as on local broadcast television and radio stations.