British Virgin Islands

Friday, Jul 30, 2021

‘Be committed to the Rule of Law’- Speaker Willock tells new Gov Rankin

‘Be committed to the Rule of Law’- Speaker Willock tells new Gov Rankin

While giving welcoming remarks at Friday’s, January 29, 2021, swearing-in ceremony for new Governor John J. Rankin CMG at the Save the Seed Energy centre in Duff's Bottom, Tortola, Speaker of the House of Assembly (HoA), Hon Julian Willock noted that Mr Rankin came at an interesting time in Virgin Islands’ (VI) history.

Mr Willock, a conservative Speaker said the Governor came at “A time when the relationship between Governors who represent the United Kingdom, has been tested, particularly, within the last 4 to 6 years.”

The Speaker noted that Governor Rankin also came at a time, “when there are discussions, debates, blogs, articles and coffee table talk (in some districts it is called rum shop melee), about the future of the Territory and a path forward.”

Rule of law for all- Hon Willock

“Governor Designee, you also come at a time, when some believe we no longer need to fly the Union Jack, while others believe in Long may she reign over us,” the Speaker noted.

Hon Willock, who has been HoA Speaker since March 12, 2019, also said to the newly appointed Governor, “You will find a people that are resilient, hardworking, honest, and independent and this must never be taken for granted.”

The Speaker reminded the 14th United Kingdom appointed Governor that, “we expect you, Governor Designee, to play your role in improving the relationship where there has been mistrust. Today, we will celebrate a renewed commitment to the rule of law, due process and good governance, not only in theory, but also in practice.”

The Speaker went on to state, “Today, we must pelage on working towards a future, where we can become a more perfect and equitable society, one where the rule of law applies to Speakers, Governors, Premiers, Justices, Commissioners of Police and the common man and woman in the same way.”

The new United Kingdom appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands, Mr John J. Rankin and Ex-Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert.

Assent to bills; its democracy

In his brief remarks, Hon Willock further noted, “As Speaker of House of Assembly, it has always been my understanding, that the issue of assenting to a bill, passed by Parliament is a mere formality, as it has been for over a hundred years in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Parliamentary democracies.”

“Notwithstanding Section 79 (2), of the constitution, and in that case, you would have raised those matters within Cabinet, where a bill must be agreed to first before it arrives at the legislature.”

In the past, there has been contention between unelected Governors refusing to assent to Bills.

The last controversial Governor, Augustus J. U. Jaspert refused to sign bills passed by the House of Assembly and today, there is no record of the HoA Speaker receiving justification for what is now being considered an undemocratic practice.

Both the Premier, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) and Leader of the Opposition Hon Marlon A. Penn  also gave remarks at the Swearing-in for the new Governor.

Let freedom reign- Speaker

Hon Willock also warned the incoming Governor, “In this partnership, you must also appreciate the awakening of a people who wish to chart their own destiny, an awakening of a people who desire to be free. And I am encouraged that there is an understanding of the concept of letting freedom rain.”

Over the past six years, there has been tension between Governors and the democratically elected VI Government.

Political pundits had remarked that the last Governor Jaspert was reckless and had no regard for the VI constitution. He also claimed that the VI was corrupt and allegedly collaborated with the UK press to undermine the Territory when he called for a Commission of Inquiry.

While the inquiry has commenced, its terms are unclear and many legal experts have remarked that the CoI Act was violated as there has been no report laid from the Public Accounts Committee nor the Auditor General.

Former Governor a racist?

Former Governor Jaspert also incited outrage when he suggested that the names and symbolism of those who practised slavery and dastardly acts; including the raping and killing of mothers and children during slavery, must be preserved around the Territory.

Many saw his comments as insensitive while others alleged he was a racist.

Both the Premier, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1) and Leader of the Opposition Hon Marlon A. Penn (R8) also gave remarks at the Swearing-in for the new Governor.


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