British Virgin Islands

Sunday, Dec 05, 2021

Governor Rankin open to having Premier chair Cabinet, COI hears

Governor Rankin open to having Premier chair Cabinet, COI hears

Unlike what was seen with his immediate predecessor, Governor John Rankin has now said he is open to having Premier Andrew Fahie chair Cabinet in his absence.

During an appearance before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) yesterday, Governor Rankin said it requires patience and wisdom to navigate the conflicting opinions that have been offered in the debate on whether a Premier should chair Cabinet when a governor is away.

“In terms of my own position going forward, and in light of the wording of Section 49 of the constitution, in light of that exchange of letters, I do not preclude circumstances where the Premier would be asked by me to chair Cabinet, but I would expect them to be few and far between,” Governor Rankin said.

According to the governor, whenever he is in the territory, he fully expects to chair Cabinet, especially given the available technology.

Issue has been a sore point


The issue has been a sore point for some time, with Premier Andrew Fahie complaining previously that he was not allowed to chair Cabinet in the absence of the Governor, having been overlooked in the past for Deputy Governor David Archer Jr.

According to the Premier, former Governor Augustus Jaspert was disrespectful in having the Deputy Governor chair Cabinet while he (Jaspert) was absent.

According to Section 37 of the Virgin Islands Constitution, “during any period when the office of Governor is vacant, or the Governor is absent from the Virgin Islands or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, the Deputy Governor shall, during Her Majesty’s pleasure, act in the office of Governor and shall perform the functions of that office accordingly.”

But section 49 offers a different view on the matter altogether.

According to that section, “the governor shall, so far as is practicable, attend and preside at meetings of the cabinet and in the absence of the Governor there shall preside at any meeting of the Cabinet the Premier, or in his or her absence, the Deputy Premier.”

Conflicting advice from successive Attorneys General


He said Governor Jaspert sought advice on the issue in May 2020 from former Attorney General, Baba Aziz who advised at the time that he could authorize the Deputy Governor to perform all of his functions, including the chairing of the Cabinet.

But Governor Rankin said Premier Fahie later sought advice from current Attorney General, Dawn Smith, who offered a different view.

According to Governor Rankin, advice was also given by Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal counsellor, Susan Dickson, back in 2008. Her advice offered that the constitution does not preclude the Deputy Governor from presiding over Cabinet meetings, Rankin said.

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