Amidst the Belongership brouhaha that overshadowed proceedings during yesterday’s House of Assembly (HOA) sitting, Ninth District Representative, Vincent Wheatley, said he felt strongly that the entire affair could have been resolved in a much more private fashion.
The issue of lawmakers being recalled to the HOA to validate the status of 688 Belongers created a new talking point on the campaign trail. However, Wheatley expressed that lawmakers were being asked to address a very real problem and said he agreed with Governor John Rankin
in trying to put the issue to rest.
“To put people and to politicise this, it’s very distasteful. It’s very distasteful to make people feel like somehow something sinister went on [or that] something foul went on…” Wheatley said.
Wheatley pointed to a report being tabled in the HOA on the review of lawmakers’ discretionary powers and said there was nothing illegal about this power, despite the fact that some might feel differently. “It might not be what some persons call good governance or whatever you want to call it, but it’s not illegal,” Wheatley commented.
He continued: ”I have the discretion to choose. It’s not illegal, but to make it seem like something was intentional … and then you come back now and want to shake up and affect the election; no, that is wrong. I think that is wrong and I agree with [Julian Fraser] when he said, this should have been settled in a more discrete manner.
He further argued that the issue was not simply about the Virgin Islands
Party and whether they could survive after the upcoming general elections beyond the perceived debacle, but about people’s lives and how they fit into a community they can now rightly call their own.
“It didn’t have to be no public debacle where [House] members could get up in here, pontificating on all sort of stuff on a issue that was so necessary. It is important that when we are discussing these kinds of complex issues, we leave the emotions outside this House here,” he stated.
Wheatley dismissed suggestions by opponents that the issue was caused by ignorance of the law and reiterated that nothing illegal was done in making the oversight that caused the issue.
“If you’re going to say that for anybody to be in Cabinet, they must be versed in the law, then half the country can’t run for office,” Wheatley argued. “In our democracy, anybody should be allowed to run for office, once they’re qualified. You shouldn’t be a lawyer to be in Cabinet. What kind of democracy that would be? That’s why we have the technocrats.”
Although several observers have commented that there was no advance warning about the House sitting before last Friday, Governor Rankin signalled one week earlier that he would be forced to make several unreleased reports public if the government had not done so ahead of the elections.
Those reports have since been released to the public with the holding of yesterday’s extraordinary HOA sitting.