British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Dec 09, 2021

Willock chided for COI absence, criticises Commissioner Gary

Willock chided for COI absence, criticises Commissioner Gary

House Speaker Julian Willock was chastised on Monday after being absent and neglecting to respond to a summons for him to appear before the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI).

Through attorney Richard Rowe, Willock was told he was in breach of the Evidence Act, after his non-appearance for a reason not covered under the law.

In explaining Willock’s absence yesterday, Rowe said the speaker had been scheduled in an arrangement planned since 2019 to address the Commonwealth Association of the House of Assembly (HOA) and was therefore engaged in a pressing matter.

Rowe had reportedly submitted in writing that his client was protected by Section 16 of the Evidence Act which allowed for the Speaker to be excused if he was engaged in a sitting of the HOA or was absent due to a meeting of the committee, among other things.

Speaker’s absence in wilful default of summons

But COI attorney Bilal Rawat said no application was made on behalf of the Speaker to vary the summons sent.

The Speaker reportedly requested to attend the COI during the afternoon session instead after first being summoned to appear in the morning.

He was subsequently rescheduled to appear this coming Friday at noon.

“I appreciate that the Speaker has other obligations and important obligations to the House of Assembly. Those obligations are effected in the Evidence Act – which means that he’s not compellable when the House is sitting and he is compellable when the House is not sitting – which means that he’s in wilful default of the summons today,” Sir Gary Hickinbottom explained.

Speaker lambastes COI, Sir Gary

Even as the discussion about his absence continued, the Speaker was at the previously-mentioned engagement where he once again denounced the COI, this time taking particular aim at Sir Gary.

Willock’s gripe in this instance appeared to emanate from a request by the Commissioner as to how submissions should be made by members of the House on questions of good governance.

“The one-man Commissioner had the audacity to ask the 15 grown adult members of the legislature to write him an essay on what is good governance,” Willock said in his speech.

“Even more insulting and disrespectful was for him to tell professional men and women that we are to use numbered paragraph with no less than 1.5 line spacing and a font size that is no less than 12 and that footnotes should be avoided,” the Speaker added.

He further complained that Sir Gary was high-handed in suggesting that any statement that does not comply, will be sent back for amendments.

“Students nowadays in high schools and colleges are not even given such insulting instructions for a term paper,” the Speaker said.

According to the Speaker, the Commissioner continued to violate the rights of HOA members and held no regard for the schedule of the House.

Sir Gary was further accused of ignoring the HOA’s schedule which Willock alleged he was aware of in advance of issuing a summons for House members to appear this week during a House sitting.

Among other things, he further argued that the COI lost its legitimacy because items under the governor’s portfolio such as the police, and issues of spending and staffing within the Governor’s Office have been omitted out of the inquiry investigations.


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