In his inaugural Speech from the Throne written by the Government of the Day, Governor John J. Rankin, CMG today January 18, 2022, delivered the Fahie Government's legislative plan that included a strong commitment to the key pillars of Good Governance.
In new proposals, the Police Act (CAP.165) will bring an updated legislative basis for policing in the Virgin Islands and provide a strong constitutional and professional base for a modernised Police Force.
The Proceeds of Criminal Conduct (Amendment) Act will seek to amend the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act, 1997, to make provisions for unexplained wealth orders.
More legislation will include The Witness Anonymity Legislation to ensure the protection of witnesses and the preservation of their rights by providing for a court to make a witness anonymity order to protect the safety of the witness, prevent property damage, and prevent real harm to the public interest.
“This would be an invaluable tool in assisting with combating serious crime, and at the same time, it would also help to further strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system,” the Governor detailed.
Also announced was the Criminal Procedures Rules (the Criminal Rules) and, according to the Governor, the ‘Criminal Rules’ bill will make provisions for filing dates and deadlines for certain matters, case management procedures, disclosure, adjournments, bail, and service of documents, among other matters.
Amendments will come for The Magistrates' Code of Procedure Rules as well as a review for the Jury Act (CAP. 36) and an update of The Liquor Licence Act (CAP. 106).
For government workers, the Public Servement Management Code will seek to replace the General Orders, 1982, to be introduced to provide the terms and conditions for officers and employees employed in the Public Service.
Also proposed is the Flexible Working Arrangements Bill to outline the criteria and process for undertaking a flexible working arrangement.
“The implementation of this policy will come at a time when officers and employees continue to manoeuvre through their personal hurricane recovery efforts and the challenges caused as a result of COVID-19,” Governor Rankin detailed.
He said the Human Rights Commission will be introduced to provide for the establishment of the Virgin Islands Human Rights Commission following section 34 of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, 2007 and that The Freedom of Information Act will be introduced to govern the public's access to information held by public authorities.
For 2022, the Disaster Management Act, 2019 will also be amended to reflect the current modern partnership between the United Kingdom and the Government of the Virgin Islands.
The act originally proposed to take disaster management powers away from the governor and give them to the government, and legislators, however, it was refused assent since, according to the Governor, it infringes on his duties as laid out in the VI constitution.
Along the 2022 roadmap, the Governor added that Government will seek to introduce amendments to the Commissions of Inquiry Act (CAP. 237), which has been in existence since July 29, 1880, and this will bring the Act in line with the Virgin Islands Constitution and Human Rights Act to strengthen good governance.
He said further, Government will seek to repeal and replace the Register of Interests Act, 2006 (No. 5 of 2006) and provide an opportunity for all persons in public life to declare their interests in the form prescribed.
“The objective is to bring this legislation in line with the Virgin Islands Constitution and Human Rights Act to further strengthen good governance.”
According to the throne speech, the Elections (Amendment) Act 2019 will also be brought forward to improve the administrative process of voter registration and the accuracy and accessibility of the database of voters.
Other laws will include The Landlord and Tenancy Bill, which will seek to address some of the challenges experienced with the management of relationships between landlords and tenants.