Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley had a choice of dissolving the House of Assembly (HOA) and calling fresh elections once the United Kingdom (UK) government released the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report last year.
This was the position expressed by Governor John Rankin
this week while dispelling the notion that the only choice left to elected leaders following the COI
report’s release was to form the coalition Government of National Unity, as they ultimately did.
Governor Rankin told the media: “That’s my understanding. It would’ve been possible for a dissolution to the House of Assembly to be sought and I would have had to exercise my responsibilities under the Constitution. But the members of the House of Assembly chose to form a Government of National Unity and committed to the implementation of the COI
recommendations, and so that’s the process in which we’re now proceeding.”
report – which highlighted a myriad of governance anomalies in the territory – called for a temporary and partial suspension of the territory’s constitution and the implementation of direct UK rule through the governor for two years in the first instance.
But lawmakers from the Opposition benches joined forces with the governing Virgin Islands Party (VIP) instead to stave off that suspension, replacing two government ministers as part of the process.
The release of the COI
reforms also coincided with the unrelated arrest of former Premier Andrew Fahie
who was held in the United States on charges of drug smuggling and money laundering just one day before the report’s release. The arrest of Premier Fahie
led to his replacement as leader of the territory by then-Deputy Premier Dr Wheatley.
At the time of his appointment, Dr Wheatley said the move to revoke disgraced premier, Fahie
’s appointment and install a new government was an important step in stabilising the territory and moving forward to a brighter future.
“We had a vote of no-confidence against the Premier and of course, we were damaged badly in terms of our international reputation and even in terms of the confidence of our local people in their governance so that was an important step,” Dr Wheatley said at the time.