Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. Natalio Wheatley stated yesterday that he does not believe that the facilitation of House of Assembly sessions via Zoom was intended to accommodate for the absence of a single member, nor for the purpose of retaining a seat.
There have been ongoing public discussions about whether former Premier Andrew Fahie
, who is currently on bail in Miami, Florida should be allowed to attend HoA sittings in his capacity as the current First District Representative.
Dr. Wheatley contributed to this discussion by referring to an amendment that was made to Standing Order 91 2 A, during the height of the COVID
-19 pandemic, which allowed for the conducting of HoA meetings.
“Personally, on the question of Zoom, I don’t think that it should be used to facilitate someone just staying in their particular position. I don’t think that is the purpose of it. I think it is important for Representatives to be present and to represent the people,” Dr. Wheatley stated on Monday, June 20 during “Da Morning Braff” radio show.
When asked his thoughts on a Member attending a meeting from overseas while on vacation, Premier Wheatley again expressed that he does not believe that the amendment provided for situations like these, but for emergencies that might impede the ability of all Members from attending meetings.
“As I understand when we had the Zoom meetings, the whole House was on Zoom. It wasn’t just one person zooming in. It was either you had a physical meeting, or you had a Zoom meeting,” Dr. Wheatley stated.
He also stated that while he cannot make a pronouncement on whether former Premier Andrew Fahie
is guilty or innocent, he opined that Fahie
should prioritise concentrating on his current situation and his upcoming trial.
“In Hon. Fahies present circumstance, I don’t believe that he can adequately represent the people of the First District. I think that he has to focus on his legal case,” Dr. Wheatley stated.
Premier Wheatley’s views conflict with those of the immediate former Speaker Julian Willock.
Willock told BVI Platinum News, “The general interpretation of the amendment is that if there is a sitting, and a member is not physically there, he or she can be patched in virtually because during the committee stages it is done all the time.”