All 13 elected members will be sworn into office as legislators and official members of the House of Assembly (HoA) at the First Sitting of the Fifth HoA scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 2023, at 10:00 AM at the Multi-Purpose Sports Complex, in Road Town, the capital city.
The first order of business, according to section 69 of the Virgin Islands constitution, is the election of a Speaker followed by a Deputy Speaker. This must be done before any other business of the Legislative Chambers goes forward.
Sources familiar with the selection process have told our news center there has been intense lobbying of elected Members on the Government side, as to who should become the new Speaker in the Fifth HoA.
The First Sitting of the Fifth House of
Assembly is scheduled for Thursday, May 18, 2023, at 10:00 AM at the
Multi-Purpose Sports Complex, in Road Town, the capital city.
The race is on!
The same source has suggested that it could be down to a two-women race between former Speaker Corine N. George-Massicote, who had a short stint after the resignation of former Speaker Julian Willock, and Mrs R. Dancia Penn OBE KC.
Some in the public domain have advocated for a strong speaker because the tri-party Opposition, made up of members of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), National Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressives United (PU), is perceived to be strong while others believe it does not matter who the Speaker will be, as all elected Members and the Attorney General must abide by the rules of the House as set out in Standing Orders.
It appears that more residents now have an interest in what goes on in the HoA, with the rise of political activists, online news sites, and active talk shows.
It is unclear who the ruling Virgin Island Party (VIP) will choose, however, it is also believed a dark horse could emerge as the Speaker.
The Opposition led by Hon Ronnie W.
Skelton, left, of Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) has
promised to give the Government a ‘hard time’ and bring a number of
motions of no confidence against the young administration of Premier Dr
Natalio D. Wheatley (R), right.
Give her a second chance
Many praise the immediate former Speaker Mrs George-Massocate for doing a great job stepping in to fill the shoes of Mr Willock. Many in the public think she should be given another chance so she can serve a full term as she is young and professional.
However, others believe Mrs. Penn can bring a mature voice and experience to the table and can charm a politically hostile Opposition that has promised to give the Government a ‘hard time’ and bring a number of motions of no confidence against the sitting Dr Natalio D. Wheatley young administration.
A Speaker under the constitution can be nominated from outside of the chambers (the long tradition) or inside, once that elected member is not a Minister.
As the Premier and his team close in on a pick, they have about two weeks to come to a final decision. The Speaker of the HoA is the head of the Legislative branch and is a Member of the HoA.
History in a Deputy Speaker?
In addition, a Deputy Speaker will be selected, most likely making history coming from the Opposition benches, as no Minister can become a Deputy Speaker, since all seven Government Members on the VIP side are Ministers and Junior Ministers.
The speaker's responsibilities include presiding over the HoA and in committees, chairing about one or two HoA Standing Committees, and looking after current and former Members of the HoA. The Speaker is guided by Standing Orders, Erskine May and the Virgin Islands
Constitution. The Speaker is elected by a majority in the HoA and is nominated by the Premier, who is the Head of Government business.
The Opposition Leader can also nominate someone to be Speaker, but he or she usually does not have the votes for his nominee to win.
Additionally, a Speaker is a member of the HoA and he or she must also meet the same qualifying requirements under section 65 of the constitution in order to serve as Speaker just like any other of the 13 elected Members.