Members of the Opposition, particularly Premier aspirant and Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) and Second District Representative Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) have chosen to go the route of the protestors and have refused to entertain even a discussion of the facts surrounding the issue that led to Hon Willock filing an injunction to prevent three United Kingdom lawyers from working for the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) while not being called to the Virgin Islands Bar, a violation of the Legal Professions Act, 2015.
After Hon Willock did not get the support of the Attorney General (AG), he withdrew the case and Justice Adrian Jack ruled that Hon Willock was not acting in his capacity as Speaker when he filed the injunction and should pay the legal fees out of pocket. The legal fees reportedly amount to some $120,000.
Premier and Minister of Finance Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) subsequently successfully brought a motion to the House of Assembly for the formation of a Special Committee to consider all the facts available and then consider three possible recommendations in relation to whether the House of Assembly should stand the legal cost incurred by the Speaker.
Hons Penn and Turnbull erroneously argued during the debate that the motion was seeking to overturn the judge’s decision. Hon Penn even brought a counter-motion but it was defeated for lack of votes.
During his debate on the substantive motion, Dr Wheatley, who is also the Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, rhetorically asked whether anyone would march if the Governor is to use his powers afforded to him in Section 103 of the Constitution to take monies from the Virgin Islands’ coffers to pay for lawyers defending him and the CoI lawyers.
Governor John J. Rankin has indicated he will need legal representation at his next scheduled appearance before the CoI.
“We got a lot of energy for people who look like us. We got a lot of fire, we got a lot of picket signs, we got a lot of bullhorns. Let the Governor use his powers. He could take up a hundred and twenty [dollars], he could take up a million [dollars], not one will march,” Dr Wheatley pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hons Penn and Turnbull have sought to argue that their position is a courageous one; however, this was picked apart by Dr Wheatley, who said the Opposition in fact has taken the cowardly route by refusing to support a democratic process to please disgruntled ears.
“And then we talk about courage, who have courage?” Dr Wheatley asked as he related that he has had the unfortunate experience of having a police officer aiming a rifle at his head more than once and another time, during a visit to Africa, a soldier waved a machine gun in his face. “And they tell me when we got out of that jam, that it aint nothing for them to leave somebody just so in the bush, you never hear from them again.
“Don’t tell me about courage. Mr Speaker, I ain’t giving up my backbone for anybody,” Dr Wheatley, who is a strong believer that Africans and people of African descent need to unite to overcome their obstacles to prosperity, stated during the 12th Sitting of the 3rd Session of the 4th House of Assembly on November 4, 2021.
According to the former college lecturer, persons can agree to disagree on certain things; however, he wanted people to know that he would not sacrifice his conscience for anyone.
“And I say to you without a shadow of a doubt that there is an injustice taking place in this country. There is an inequality taking place in this country right now.
“There are persons who are blind to who the real enemy is right now,” Dr Wheatley asserted.
He said it was a “wise call” by the Premier to say “let’s sit down in a committee and ascertain the facts…all of those persons who are out there, who are upset, get the facts. Have a proper, impartial, dispassionate view of the facts and let’s come to a conclusion.”
Dr Wheatley also said that after the matter is taken through “a democratic process”, everyone should remain united.
“Let us not allow what the CoI has done here to divide us.”
Additionally, he pointed out that the CoI was imposed on the Virgin Islands at a time when the territory was struggling with a pandemic and hurricane recovery.
“No one can expect you to have a CoI and just lay down and let them take the country from us,” Dr Wheatley said, adding that all of the legal fees being incurred by the Government as a result of the CoI are a direct result of the decision of the United Kingdom.
Many have argued that the CoI, being called during the COVID-19 pandemic by the UK, which has hypocritically put off its own CoI due to the same pandemic, is not interested in a just outcome and could result in the UK imposing direct rule.
The CoI was announced on Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2021, by ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who fought with the democratically elected Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government that was strongly advocating for self-determination and preparing the Virgin Islands for the inevitable.
Mr Jaspert was accused of misinterpreting the VI Constitution to defend his actions, which were seen as provoking the elected Government. This was also revealed in the Commission of Inquiry.
Protestors outside of the House of Assembly in Duffs Bottom on November 1, 2021.
The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was announced on Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2021, by ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, who fought with the democratically elected Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Government that was strongly advocating for self-determination and preparing the Virgin Islands for the inevitable.
Opposition Leader Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8), centre, and Second District Representative Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2), right, have erroneously argued that the government is seeking to overturn the decision of Justice Adrian Jack.