The Governor’s request comes as the Government of Premier Andrew A. Fahie (R1) has been criticised by some for hiring legal representation against the CoI.
Further, Governor Rankin himself had expressed some concerns about it.
During Hearing Day 50 of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on October 19, 2021, at the International Arbitration Centre on Wickham’s Cay II, Tortola, Sir Geoffrey requested that Governor Rankin return another day so he can ask some questions “chiefly” on the public service.
He also said there are some aspects of the “Ministers’ concerns” as well as questions revolving on the “budgetary questions” on which the Governor gave evidence.
“It will be mainly in the area of the public service and the budgetary provisions and arrangements made. There may be one or two questions, if I have an opportunity to focus my thoughts on the earlier part of the questioning to the Governor, which revolves around the appropriate conduct and the constitutional comity and the elected institutions, but that will be relatively short.”
CoI Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom noted that the Governor was not “compellable” and he was not "obliged to answer any questions" at the Hearing but he was grateful that the Governor came as a witness.
Turning to the Governor, Mr Hickinbottom said ultimately it was up to his [Commissioner’s] discretion but it may be sensible to canvas the Governor’s views on the request by Sir Geoffrey.
Governor Rankin said he would be guided by Hickinbottom’s ruling on the matter; however, if there are questions beyond which were asked by the Counsel to the Commission, Mr Bilal M. Rawat, he would like to have legal representation.
“I did not ask for legal representation for questions asked to me by the Commission but I would wish to avail myself for legal representation if I am going to be examined.”
Governor Rankin said normally the Attorney General would be representing him; however, since the questions by Sir Geoffrey are being asked on behalf of the AG he would have to get alternative representation.
“That may take a little bit of time to organise,” adding that he is “actually hoping to go away for a few days next week but subject to that of course I would be happy to assist as best as I can.”
Governor Rankin also said he would need at least two weeks to return to the Inquiry with legal representation. “I want to give the best evidence I can.”
Sir Geoffrey was asked by Commissioner Hickinbottom to submit a letter with the areas he would wish to cover in the questioning.
“I am very happy to sketch them out,” Sir Geoffrey stated.
“But I hesitate to say that the Governor has nothing to fear from me. This will be a temperate and careful exercise. It really is a question of elucidation, noting more, on matters, which in some case have already been well covered, but I completely understand his desire,” Sir Geoffrey stated.
It is believed the Government of the Virgin Islands would now have to foot the bill for the Governor’s legal representation.
When criticised for hiring lawyers to represent Members of the House of Assembly, Hon Fahie had said while persons should be concerned with the cost of the local law firms, persons must not overlook the fact that 'we are fighting for the heart and soul of the Virgin Islands and for the name of the Virgin Islands," he said.
The Premier had also pointed out that the terms of reference of the CoI, as declared worldwide, is on investigation into allegations of corruption in the VI government and is something that must be fought at all cost.
According to Premier Fahie, while persons are fixated on the legal cost of the VI defending itself, no one is asking about the UK cost.
"The UK who called the Commission of Inquiry is paying a bill too, no one is asking what their bill is... they also have a cost for this inquiry,' he said.
"So if they are paying money to do the inquiry, then we can pay money to defend ourselves so that we can make sure that the name of the Virgin Islands is being properly defended," the Leader of Government Business reasoned during a press conference on May 20, 2021.