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Opposition pledges to make life difficult for ruling VIP Gov't

Opposition pledges to make life difficult for ruling VIP Gov't

Promising no-confidence votes and filibustering, His Majesty's Loyal Opposition has said it will do all it possibly can to achieve its agenda when up against the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government in the Fifth House of Assembly (HoA).

It was during a joint press conference of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), National Democratic Party (NDP) and Progressives United (PU) held on April 27, 2023, that Members of the tri-party Opposition were asked by a reporter how they intended to hold the government accountable.

'We have the bully pulpit'- Hon Ronnie W. Skelton

Opposition Leader and PVIM Chairman Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton (AL), who is also Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), registered his intention to make the meetings of PAC public, as he pointed out that the Opposition has ‘the bully pulpit’.

“While the government can pass bills in the House of Assembly, collectively we have ‘the bully pulpit,’ so to speak, and we will allow the public to know what is happening so they can talk to their representatives; and based on that we believe we can control a lot of stuff that is in the interest of this country and make sure it happens,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition Hon Ronnie W. Skelton (AL), left, and Member of the Opposition Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8), right, at the joint Opposition press conference on April 27, 2023.

Opposition to 'push' for Committee Stage of HoA to be public

Opposition Member Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) was in full agreement, adding that the Opposition also wants the Committee Stage of the House of Assembly (HoA) to be made public, as he had discussed on the political campaign trail.

“The Premier agreed with this…We want to make sure that we are fully transparent with the process so the public can see the machinations in terms of how things happen, the changes that we’re making and the decisions that we’re making that are going to impact their lives, not when it comes out in a gazette. They need to understand clearly the process. And I’m going to push and I hope I have the support of my colleagues here to push to ensure that those committee stages are made public so the public can have full transparency of the legislative process moving forward,” he said.

Hon Skelton also agreed that he will push for these proceedings to be public as well.

“I will push to have a real office of the Leader of the Opposition where people can actually understand that we’re building institutions, where we will be on the road to some internal self-governance,” he said.

'If we have to resort to filibustering we will'- Hon Fraser

Meanwhile, Opposition Member Hon Julian Fraser, RA (R3) also called for the meetings of the PAC to become public as he pledged his full support.

Hon Fraser said they will resort to filibustering if they need to, in an effort to ensure this.

Filibustering is the ‘activity or practice of obstructing progress in a legislature, especially by speaking at inordinate length.’

“We have to, for the first time, attempt to prevent the House of Assembly from being a ‘rubber stamp’ to the executives… If we have to resort to filibustering we will, and the committees of the House of Assembly has to work. They have been established but not functional, and in order to serve the public in the way it was intended by the Westminister system our committees has to work,” Hon Fraser said.
Opposition Member Hon Julian Fraser, RA (R3) has said debates in the House of Assembly are going to be vigorous and embarrassing.

Motions of non-confidence ‘predicted’

Hon Fraser, acknowledging that the VIP administration has a slim majority, said he doesn’t think it will change the dynamics as far as votes are concerned.

“It’s going to be almost impossible for us to sway a member of the government to vote with us, but I could tell you whatever the issue is we are debating, it is going to be difficult to move forward with the kind of Opposition it will receive.”

Further, Hon Fraser said he sees at least two motions of no-confidence on the horizon.

“I don’t see any challenge coming from the Government side as far as the health of a debate is concerned, Opposition versus Government, [but] what I can predict right now is you will see not one but more than one, probably two, motions of no confidence coming before the Fifth House of Assembly. I can predict that is going to happen and the debate is going to be vigorous, embarrassing, it’s going to be everything,” Hon Fraser said.
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