Recalling the unprecedented and highly-controversial move by former Governor John Duncan to dip into the Consolidated Fund to pump funds into the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force back in 2017, Premier Andrew Fahie is pushing to change the section of the constitution that gives any sitting governor that power.
During his closing arguments in the debate for a review of the constitution, Premier Andrew Fahie described that provision as a constitutional “loophole”.
“That needs to be amended to reflect what is the reality on the ground. In the constitution where there is a ‘warrant’ [that can be] issued by the governor. [This] means the governor can take up and go to the Treasury and get what he sees fit; especially if it is dealing with subjects around him that he thinks need more money,” Fahie said.
“That in itself is a retrograde step in our constitutional advancement,” he added.
The Premier then questioned whether it was right and fair to allow anyone to override the minister responsible for the territory’s finances.
“How can two people be in charge of the same chequebook and spending out of the same chequebook at the same time? Nine out of 10 times you are going to have an overdraft, and when the overdraft comes, it is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance. We see the paradox in this?” Fahie questioned.
I will respect the post of Governor
Meanwhile, the Premier said his comments are not meant to disrespect the Office of the Governor.
He, however, declared that he will not sit by and allow himself to be disrespected either.
“I am going to respect anybody in the post of governor but I am not going to be sitting down there and let them disrespect me because there is a constitution that is giving them power. That has to be reviewed,” Fahie argued.
Duncan, who is Governor Augustus Jaspert’s immediate predecessor, had used his constitutional powers to force the government to allocate an additional $1.8 million to law enforcement and legal services.
The move angered many local politicians but Duncan defended his action, adding that his milder attempts to get the money had failed.