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Premier blasts Governor for misleading public on tardiness of Police Bill

Premier blasts Governor for misleading public on tardiness of Police Bill

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) spared little words in letting the public know that Governor John J. Rankin, CMG was being bluntly untruthful when he laid the blame on the Unity Government and the House of Assembly for the controversial Bill entitled Police Act 2023 only now reaching the HoA.

The Bill had its first reading on Thursday, February 2, 2023, in the HoA and was slated for a second and third reading in the HoA on Friday, February 10, 2023, but was postponed to allow for more consultations, following serious concerns by the public.

Governor blames Gov’t & HoA

During a press conference called by Governor Rankin on February 14, 2023, he was asked why he was now trying to rush the Bill through the HoA weeks before an expected general election.

“As regards the timing of when the Police Act was introduced into the House of Assembly, that with respect is a matter for the Government and the House of Assembly. I would have wished it to be done earlier but I hope, nonetheless, that the act could be given appropriate consideration,” Mr Rankin responded.

‘Misinformation’- Premier Wheatley

Premier Wheatley; however, is not giving the Governor a pass on that blame-shifting.

Appearing on the International Morning Braff Show on Tola Radio VI this morning, February 20, 2023, Dr Wheatley said he was appreciative of the opportunity to clarify some of the “misinformation” presented at the news conference and one of them was concerning the Police Act 2023, and that Governor Rankin, in response to a question asked, had suggested that it was the Government who was responsible for the Police Act reaching late to the House of Assembly.

Hon Wheatley clarified that the police is under the Governor and therefore the Bill was being prepared through the Governor, Deputy Governor and Police.

He said it was last year that the former Premier Andrew A. Fahie asked him to get public feedback on the Police Bill in his capacity as Deputy Premier and Member of the National Security Council.

He said consultation meetings were held on the four main islands, including several on Tortola and as a result of the consultations there were amendments to the Bill.

Dr Wheatley said, apparently, there were additional amendments made at that particular time and the process of these amendments took very long, “and literally for months I was begging for the Police Act to come forward because I didn’t want to happen what is happening right now.”

He said he would often make the call in Cabinet for the Bill to be brought forward.

Dr Wheatley said the Bill was brought to Cabinet by the Governor the day before it was scheduled for a first reading in the HoA.

“And of course, when it became a public document and everyone would have had the opportunity to look at it we saw all these additional amendments that we who did consultations were not aware of,” Premier Wheatley said, explaining that it was still the democratic process and that legislators are unable to make changes to any Bill from the Governor until it reaches the House of Assembly.

“When that gets into the House of Assembly it belongs to the House of Assembly and no longer belongs to the Governor or the Deputy Governor.

“And that is why it then becomes a public document so that the public can look at the Bill, see some of the challenges with the Bill, which is happening now. This is the democratic process. While some people might be upset with the Bill, you don’t have to be upset. What you have to do is go through the Bill and see what needs to be changed, and then the Bill has to come to the House for debate, and based on the feedback from the public, and based on every Member’s reading of the bill, we then debate the Bill and the public has to listen to the debate to hear all the points being made on the Bill.”

Dr Wheatley further explained that after the debate the Bill would then be taken in Committee Stage where the changes to the Bill can be made based on the outcry of the people. He said once the changes are made and the Bill is passed in the House the Governor will then decide whether he wants to assent to the Bill or not.

‘I just bring the Bill on behalf of them’- Premier

“But unequivocally I can say to you, the reason the Police Bill came so late [to the House] is because of the process of making those amendments between the Governor and Deputy Governor, Attorney General’s Chambers and Police.”

“I just bring the Bill on behalf of them and when they got it to Cabinet finally, we were able to bring it in one day to the House of Assembly,” Premier Wheatley stated.

The Police Bill in its current form raises serious concerns about police being given opportunities to abuse their powers and strip the people of their human rights.

The Police Bill 2023, in its current form, raises serious concerns about police being given opportunities to abuse their powers and stripping the people of their human rights.

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