In keeping with the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, Sec 67 subsection (7) and showing much transparency, the House of Assembly (HoA) has given Deputy Speaker Honourable Neville A. Smith (AL) an exemption in order for him to do business with the Government of the Virgin Islands without having to vacate his seat.
Long before Honourable Smith entered elective politics in 2019, he has been a businessman and the Government of the Virgin Islands has been one of his clients. The Deputy Speaker is a Director of Caribbean Security.
At the Eighth Sitting of the Fourth HoA on November 24, 2022, Hon Smith sought the exemption from vacating his seat because he competed legally and won a small contract to provide security and surveillance equipment to His Majesty’s Prison, a Government Department, for a total of $17, 633.93.
No contract has been signed for the surveillance equipment with Caribbean Security before Legislators granted the exemption on November 24.
Smith’s request for an exemption is lawful as set out in Section 67 of the Constitution, which allows for the member to remain in the House if they disclose the nature of the contract and their interest before entering into the contract with the government.
The Motion to have Hon Neville A. Smith
(AL) exempted from vacating his seat was brought to the HoA by Leader of
Government Business Premier Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), who
highlighted that the practice of elected leaders doing business with the
government is not new and is lawful once leaders declare their interest
according to the provisions set out in the constitution.
Was the CoI a witch hunt?
In what appeared as a deliberate attempt to paint the HoA Members as corrupt, the one-man biased Commission of Inquiry
) report claimed that after almost 30 years and over seven Attorney Generals from all over the world HoA Members, along with other legal scholars, had a wrong interpretation of sec 67, (7). However, Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom
, a retired British Judge, failed to offer a credible new interpretation of the provision.
The Motion was brought to the HoA by Leader of Government Business Premier Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7), who highlighted that the practice of elected leaders doing business with the government is not new and is lawful once leaders declare their interest according to the provisions set out in the constitution.
According to Dr Wheatley, “It’s important to note as well that the contract has not yet been entered into as the Member has been very careful to ensure he has not entered into a contract before coming to the House to receive this exemption,” Premier Wheatley said.
The Motion was passed unanimously, including strong support from the Opposition, allowing the member to remain in his seat.