BVI News

Ambiguity enshrouds HOA debate in Neville Smith’s exemption

Premier Fahie

A stirring debate about a section of law that allows a House of Assembly (HOA) member exemption from vacating his seat was a major point of contention during parliamentary proceedings on Thursday, July 29.

A motion/resolution to have government legislator, Neville Smith exempted, were brought before the House after his company entered into two contracts with the government.

Though one of those contracts was signed more than eight months ago, Premier Andrew Fahie yesterday argued that, based on the law, Smith had done nothing wrong in having the resolution brought belatedly before the House of Assembly.

What the law says

The segment of law in question — Section 67(7) of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order — says that, “if in the circumstances it appears just to do so“, the House may exempt an elected member from vacating his/her seat if he/she tells the HOA the nature of the contract his company is involved with and does so, “before, or as soon as practicable after becoming interested in a contract with the government”.

According to the Premier, anybody would know that the word “practicable” is very ambiguous as used in that context.

Fahie said while persons may dispute the meaning of the term “practicable”, there was no consensus that made it illegal for an exemption resolution to be brought before the HOA past a certain time.

He suggested the word needed to be properly defined and said this might be best done through a constitutional review. He suggested that the law be changed for persons seeking exemption do so within a three-month time frame, where possible.

He then went on to say some of the BVI’s systems are broken and needed urgent attention.

Gov’t had ample opportunities to raise exemption issue

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said a clear legal opinion on the matter was needed, and publicly sought the view of the attorney general yesterday.

He pointed out that there were ample opportunities to resolve the issue since there were at least five separate sessions of the House where the government could have sought the exemption for Smith.

Penn said while he agreed with the Premier on the need for a constitutional review, it was important to set the right precedent now; especially in light of the current scrutiny on the territory with the ongoing Commission of Inquiry.

No formal or forensic interpretation needed

In the meantime, Jo-Ann Roberts, sitting in for Attorney General Dawn Smith, offered that the terms under contention — “as soon as practicable” and “if the circumstances appear just to do so” — did not require any formal or forensic interpretation.

According to Roberts, a resolution of the matter simply required House members to look at the circumstances surrounding the particular motion/resolution and the information surrounding the debate.

Roberts said each legislator —  using the literal definition of the word ‘just’ as noted in the section of law — should determine whether they felt it was right to exempt Smith under the circumstances.

Ultimately, the resolutions to have Smith exempted from vacating his seat successfully passed in the House.

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40 Comments

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  1. A disgrace says:

    There was no ambiguity at all. The Prenier in his usual fashion sought to create ambiguity to confuse the public and the issues. The approach suggested by Hon. Penn was the most sensible one but because they knew what the outcome would have been they shut him down. The HOA should have asked for the attorney general to render a legal opinion on the matter. That would have taken the party politics out of the decision making. It was all politics and no good governance yesterday in the HOA. Nine months cannot be considered practicable especially since they had many meetings since November last year. Also, Hon. Smith was not truthful before the commission. They asked him if he had any contracts with government and he said no. Now we see he had two – one in April 2021 and the other in November 2020.
    The VIP is bent on destroying this country. In the middle of a COI this is the recklessness that they do. Hon. Smith should have been made to vacate his seat for this. Good governance are action words not just adjectives. It’s a disgrace.

    Like 57
    Dislike 3
    • To A disgrace says:

      Some of you are so amazing. The Government has not broken any laws but yet people like you still trying to paint the government in a bad light even when their actions are justified by the same law. Where were you when the lawyers for the COI failed to register for the BAR before they started practicing in the BVI? You all are a set of hypocrites.

      Like 4
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      • Nice spin says:

        The law that is broken is the fact that “as soon as practicable is the same as immediately, promptly, forthwith, without delay. This means that if you agree to a contract in 2020 you cannot approve it in July 2021..

        Like 36
        Dislike 1
      • To a disgrace says:

        This is the same language used by the Premier yesterday and you lapped up the koolaid so I could only assume that you are a cult member. As soon as practical cannot be 9 months later after you had soo many meetings since November. It is a breach of the constitution and if our Premier was any kind of leader he would have been defending this.

        Like 21
      • WELL SA says:

        They did not have to, when the charges are made and it is then in court that’s when he will need it, be educated don’t let them play on the ignorance of the people. The COI setting at the moment is just to gather info and their proof, he will need it soon as he did in a bit ago, gonna need it soon.

  2. Haha says:

    OJ, CSC, L Black, S Smith what do they all have in common? They are all former NDP candidates who ran and failed to get a seat and received either a consultancy contract or a top government job including Statutory body or in some cases both. We can argue about whether most were qualified but we know why they got those jobs, contracts and it was all because of the relationship to the party.

    Like 20
  3. 1st district says:

    Them is ALL ah set of thieves and covering for each other. Hickombott and Rowatt will have the last say. Just here with ah cup of Bush tea under a grape tree waiting for the laugh!

    Like 22
    Dislike 2
    • To 1st district says:

      Stop lying. You are not from the 1st district because the 1st district does not have such fools in it.

      Like 1
      Dislike 15
  4. Youth says:

    If no laws are violated then what is the issue. Some of you just living for hatred.

    Like 3
    Dislike 30
  5. Enough says:

    I have seen this government done more positive than negative but there are some of you who claim that you love this country and calling down this government all because you miss dipping into the treasury how you want.

    Like 3
    Dislike 35
    • @Enough says:

      Please get your glasses checked. And if you don’t wear glasses please get some because you cannot be seeing right

      Like 13
  6. Slavery says:

    We sit and watch the COI violate all our BVI laws and rights in the spirit that they say that they are trying to do right. NOT ONE of you holding them accountable. They have lawyers in the COI working without work permit. The COI have lawyers working who have not been admitted to the BBVI BAR. Where is the outrage? We only know how to go after each other. I am not a VIP but I am 100% behind our fearless leader FAHIE. He cares more than the few haters want us to believe.

    Like 2
    Dislike 44
  7. Positive says:

    I heard something in HOA yesterday that I didn’t know that government approved 52 Scholarships for the young people of the Virgin Islands. This is positive news but we as a people allow the few haters to always make us feel as if the government does nothing good. I commend the government for this.

    Like 4
    Dislike 26
    • @ positive says:

      That is what they say. Did you see names. Why do you suppose the names of publicly funded scholarships recipients have not been puplicly listed in b k ack and white for reading. No reason that us truthful nor positive.

      Like 14
      • Hiccup says:

        You should be alert to the fact that the Minister of Education did not make that statement or assertion. Much like the Farmers and Fisherman stimulus recipients.
        Pay attention.
        When Andrew moves his lips, he l**s.

        Like 14
  8. PT9 says:

    @Enough You have to be a blind man, someone must have told you that or you are a real die-hard VIP where they cant do no wrong in your blind site.

  9. legal eye says:

    It appears that even the Solicitor General/ AG(acting) got it wrong.the member of the house pursuant to section 67(7) of the VI Constitution Order 2007,has to declare his interest when he becomes a party to a contract or before he becomes interested or after he becomes interested declare same to the House as soon as practicable.As soon as practicable means the order paper ought to be laid at the next sitting once it is so convenient or the very next sitting of the House.One cannot have several sittings then present that motion.It goes against the spirit of the Constitution.There is an urgent need for a parliamentary Counsel , if there is none in order to guide the House members.

    Like 20
  10. heckler says:

    Time longer than twine

  11. awa says:

    @Enough you have to be a blind man, someone must have told you that or you are a real die-hard VIP where they can’t do any wrong in your blindsight. The Premier is doing whatever he feels like doing he is acting like he doesn’t have to answer to anyone, he is acting like we are independent just think what will happen to us if we were independent and he was Premier Dog will be better than us. He came into his position as Premier with a very cookie attitude and he is living by it. The second half of the COI is going to be interested because I know that the COI is keeping a check on this mob.

    Like 11
  12. Hmmm says:

    You sure?! Why they keep electing Fat Albert over and over with no signs of improvement in the district? White envelopes? Scholarships?

    Like 11
  13. Thoughtful Sailor says:

    “As soon as practicable” is not ambiguous at all, and our ambiguous Premier should know that! It’s just short of “As soon as possible,” and way sooner than “When I deem it convenient”! It needs no clarification. It reminds me of when Bill Clinton said ,”it depends what is, is.”

  14. Coming says:

    What’s worse is that any of our wonderful athletes win a medal, the government will use that to detract people from their shenanigans. Wait and see.

    • @Coming says:

      To be fair, if they won a medal and Gov’t said nothing about it, wouldn’t they also get attacked for that? That’s a no-win scenario: Damned if they do or don’t. There’s more than enough to get angry with the Gov’t for, but this is just being petty.

      • @@Coming says:

        If our wonderful Athletes win a medal they will announce it and make public record of the fact, next April. That is as soon as practicable or am I being ambiguous!

  15. @ positive says:

    That is what they say. Did you see names. Why do you suppose the names of publicly funded scholarships recipients have not been puplicly listed in b k ack and white for reading. No reason that us truthful nor positive.

    Like 1
    Dislike 1
  16. TellYo says:

    The glaring ambiguity Mr Fahie is your relationship with truth honesty transparency and your ” Great God of the Universe”.

  17. BVI Future says:

    This has nothing to do with Black vs White. This has nothing to do with the BVI vs. the UK. This has nothing to do with Belongers vs Undocumented people. Most of us will always find a classification to separate ourselves. However, this has to do with what is happening in this country. Is it fair for some people to make $7.00 an hour while some make as much as they want because they are political ministers? We all should have the opportunity to earn a decent salary and provide for our family. Jimmy Cliff sang he rather be a free man in his grave than a puppet or a slave. I rather live a righteous life and provide a decent life for my family and don’t care who is in power.
    Yes, the Premier can send 52 students away to further their education, but will the BVI have jobs for these students when they return to the BVI?
    The government asked for time to plan effectively for the covid outbreak that occurred 3 weeks ago. Since them, did the Premier and his ministers laid a plan out to the public?

    Like 10
    • The Govt is bad says:

      What do you call dishonest people? People whos dishonesty are been planned, pre-meditated…U call that “Not just bad people but wicked people”

  18. Just my 2 cents says:

    This is why there is no confidence in our legal system and government ministers. Unfortunately, its the right and duty of HOA members to vote to exempt.

    According to the constitution, request or exemption should be made and granted if the nature of the contract is disclosed “before, or as soon as practicable after becoming interested in a contract with the government”.

    This is crystal clear. Before the contract was entered into and not thereafter. As soon as practicable only applies to the time surrounding the member becoming interested in the contract… therefore once you are interested in it you should notify the House. After you have accepted a contract without notifying the house and the exemption granted then, makes the party in breach. Plain and simple!

    No excuse of justification. Its a shame that HOA members supported the motion and that subsequently it was voted in favour of.

    Like 11
    • Deh Watcha says:

      Not to mention the ‘acting AG’ at the sitting.

      Is this what we have to look forward to in a future AG?

      • Just my 2 cents says:

        Hhhhmmmm. The same question I have asked myself…but I guess the Government knew best when they opted to make the change.

  19. Foolish Politicians. says:

    The Word “Practicable” simple means “The First Possible / available opportunity” He had that opportunity more than once…This is not only dishonesty to the max but a big sin,.What I hate most they show no remerse,make no opology..They are acting like Gods ovet the land, but the one and only God is watching…Hope the Governor and COI look into

    Like 7
    Dislike 1
  20. 1EYE says:

    It actually means, “As soon as it’s able to be done”

    practicable
    [ˈpraktəkəb(ə)l]
    ADJECTIVE
    able to be done or put into practice successfully.
    “the measures will be put into effect as soon as is reasonably practicable”
    synonyms:
    practical · workable · achievable · attainable · realizable · viable · realistic · sensible · reasonable · within reason · within the bounds of possibility · useful · suitable · [more]
    able to be used; useful.
    “signal processing can let you transform a signal into a practicable form”
    synonyms:
    achievable · attainable · feasible · within the bounds of possibility · viable · reasonable · sensible · logical · workable · doable

    So the HOA is within it’s rights if they determined that this was the appropriate time as far as their priorities. And with Covid, COI & Hurricane Recovery, who can argue against that really.

    So there is no violation, but their PR is terrible. Maybe the Premier really does need a political advisor lol.

    This is nonsense that a dictionary could’ve clearly solved. Reading is fundamental.

    Like 2
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    • Strange says:

      Seems like you need to read yourself…and understand what you have read.

      …“before, or as soon as practicable after becoming INTERESTED in a contract with the government”.

      NOT AFTER RECEIVING OR WINNING OR BE GRANTED THE CONTRACT, AND TO ADD INSULT, WAITING MONTHS THEREAFTER.

  21. @1Eye says:

    The fact that he l**d under oath less than 2weeks ago when queried by the COI regarding his having contracts with the Government,negates the possibility that his intention was to seek exemption. Worse than that ,the Premier and others sitting were aware of the contracts. The whole lot of them should be shelved.
    They should be doing their utmost to reveal their worthiness of being called ” Honourable” but instead they shaming us and boldly putting the VI in a precarious position because of personal and selfish greed.

  22. Ya awl says:

    Wouldn’t it be good to see how an Hon Ministers personal wealth had grown whilst being in office. Thieves all of them. I’m sad to see many of my fellows working hard to earn $8 an hour whilst these so called representatives of us all earn $$$$$

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