British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Jun 24, 2021

CoI lacks ‘prima facie’ by having no preliminary evidence - Attorney Richard G. Rowe

CoI lacks ‘prima facie’ by having no preliminary evidence - Attorney Richard G. Rowe

Attorney Richard G. Rowe of Silk Legal has said the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in the Virgin Islands is one that reinforces colonialism and suggested it may even be hypocritical as it comes in the face of the United Kingdom (UK) resisting its own internal CoI as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, yet imposing an inquiry on the Virgin Islands at the same time.

Citing an article from the Cayman Post on the May 4, 2021, edition of the 'Honestly Speaking' radio show, Attorney Rowe said the genesis of the inquiry, initiated by controversial Ex-Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert, also lacked prima facie evidence, by starting its investigation without preliminary evidence of wrongdoing.

In the legal system, prima facie is commonly used to refer to either a piece of evidence presumed to be true when first viewed, or a legal claim in which enough evidence is presented to support the validity of the claim.

On Monday, April 26, 2021, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Julian Willock brought into question, the powers of the Foreign Secretary to make such a decision against the spirit of a modern partnership between the VI and UK as laid out in Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.


CoI is a 'last lick' for the ex-Governor Jaspert


“It would appear to us that the Commission of Inquiry would have been, what is common terms amongst us in the Caribbean… a last lick from the outgoing Governor because the present government sought to govern itself rather than taking direct rule,” he said.

Attorney Rowe said instances of the power struggle came via constitutional breaches by the Ex-Governor Jaspert to assent to bills that were lawfully passed by the House of Assembly and doing so without any lawful justification.

The Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Act, 2020 was passed with amendments in the House of Assembly (HoA) since June 30, 2020.

Another Bill, the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act 2020, which seeks to decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and erase some previous convictions, has also not been assented to despite being passed in the HoA.

Section 79, (2) under assent to bill, the constitution states, “when a bill is presented to the Governor for assent, the Governor shall declare that he or she assents to it or that he or she reserves the Bill for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure; but unless the Governor has been authorised by a Secretary of State to assent to it, the Governor shall reserve for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure any Bill which appears to him or her, acting in his or her discretion.”

*  (a) to be inconsistent with any obligation of Her Majesty or of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom towards any other state or power or any international organisation;
*  (b) to be likely to prejudice the Royal prerogative; or
*  (c) to be in any way repugnant to or inconsistent with this Constitution.

According to Attorney Rowe, none of the discretions laid out in the constitution applies to the reasoning for the hold-up of the current bills.

Attorney Richard G. Rowe argument is that none of the reasoning for the hold-up of the bills is supported by the constitution of the Virgin Islands, as such, the UK Secretary of State Dominic R. Raab has no power to stay assent of bills based on the justifications given.


UK Secretary of State Dominic R. Raab violating VI constitution


He said the response from the United Kingdom (UK) Secretary of State Dominic R. Raab to await the findings of the CoI to assent to bills legally passed in the House of Assembly is in effect suspending the legislative power of the lawfully elected representatives of the Virgin Islands.

On Monday, April 26, 2021, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Julian Willock brought into question, the powers of the Foreign Secretary to make such a decision against the spirit of a modern partnership between the VI and UK as laid out in Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.

"By virtue of the Commission of Inquiry taking precedence over the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, the question we may now ask, is our Constitution being suspended?" he asked.

Attorney Rowe's argument is that none of the reasoning for the hold-up of the bills is supported by the constitution of the Virgin Islands, as such, the UK Secretary of State Raab has no power to stay assent of bills based on the justifications given.

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