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Preparation in high gear for 1st HoA Sitting; Uncertainty looms over Speaker & Deputy!

Preparation in high gear for 1st HoA Sitting; Uncertainty looms over Speaker & Deputy!

It was in 2019 when the then Andrew A. Fahie-led Virgin Islands Party (VIP) won eight seats out of thirteen at the polls.

On the first day of the Fourth House of Assembly (HoA), on March 12, 2019, they nominated Julian Willock as Speaker. Mr Willock was unopposed, as the Opposition did not put forward a candidate. Many regarded Mr Willock as a strong Speaker, but believed he was too loyal to the former Premier Mr Fahie. After the VIP was no more, following a vote of no confidence and a Coalition Government made up of three political parties (Government of National Unity) took over, they asked Mr Willock to resign so the Unity Administration could get its own Speaker.

In an interview, after he resigned in May of 2022, the former Speaker noted many of his accomplishments, including restoring interest in the HoA and bringing back the dignity of the institution.

Either former Speaker Corine N. George-Massicote, left, or Mrs R. Dancia Penn OBE KC, right, will be voted in as Speaker of the Fifth House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands on May 18, 2023.

Willock had his critics

His critics; however, believe he should have gotten rid of the wig, a colonial relic, while others believe he should have always relied on the advice of the Attorney General, who remains in a compromising position having to advise both the Executive and Legislative branches of Government, which are two separate and independent institutions.

The Fifth HoA will convene at Multi-Purpose Sports Complex on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at 10:00 AM and there is uncertainty as to who the Speaker will be. Many members of the ruling VIP Government of Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) support former legislator R. Dancia Penn KC, OBE; however, it’s unclear if the Party Boss has the votes to get her elected as Speaker in keeping with Section 69 of the Virgin Islands constitution.

It is believed there might be one or two within the VIP 7-member caucus who believe Mr Willock’s replacement, Mrs Corine N. George-Massicote, should be given another chance to be the Speaker of the legislative chambers. She is young, bright and has done an excellent job in filling Mr Willock’s shoes.

There are; however, those who believe she may not be strong enough to handle the tri-party Opposition, with personalities such as Hon Julian Fraser (R3), Hon Myron V. Walwyn (R6), and others.

It is unclear as of publication time what is the way forward.

There has been widespread lobbying on both sides, with some for Mrs Penn, a former Deputy Governor and Attorney General who is 72, while others are strongly in the corner of Mrs George-Massicote, an attorney at law and the face of youth and a new generation.
Former Speaker Mr Julian Willock is in support of Mrs Corine N. George-Massicote becoming Speaker of the Fifth House of Assembly (HoA).

Willock supports George-Massicote

There is also a new suggestion that if there is an impasse Mr Willock should be considered again. When reached by our newsroom; however, Mr Willock, a businessman, only said he supports Mrs George-Massicote because “she has demonstrated she can command the respect of Members'' and that it is “a matter for the 7 Members on the government side”.

History could also be made as the Deputy Speaker of the HoA will come from the Opposition side of the aisle. At tomorrow’s meeting, a Deputy Speaker must also be named and none on the Government side can be the Deputy Speaker, because they are all Ministers, according to Section 69 (4).

From time to time, the Junior Ministers can act as full Ministers and may have to attend Cabinet. The tri-party Opposition has a right also to put forward a candidate for Speaker. They have been tight-lipped about their intentions although they have been meeting and another meeting is expected today, May 17, 2023.

So at Thursday’s meeting, unless the VIP has its 7 votes intact or can get a vote from the Opposition, it could be a showdown as to who the next Speaker will be. No business of the Fifth HoA could proceed without a Speaker, according to Section 69 of the constitution.

The Clerk of the HoA, Mrs Phyllis Evans, will start the proceeding until there is a Speaker elected.

Nevertheless, according to reports reaching our news centre, the selection of a Speaker by the VIP is expected to be resolved before tomorrow’s much anticipated Sitting.

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