By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
It is no longer a secret that the newly-formed Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM) is gunning for Deputy Premier Dr Kedrick Pickering to join the movement and possibly seek re-election under that party’s banner.
A question to be considered now is how the current political landscape would be affected if Dr Pickering was to align with the PVIM and, subsequently, cross over to the opposition side, which currently comprises five members in the House of Assembly.
For starters, there would be a six-for-six split majority between Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and the governing National Democratic Party (NDP) — the side on which Dr Pickering currently sits.
Queen’s Counsel and local expert in constitutional law, Gerard Farara, said there is nothing in the Virgin Islands Constitution that speaks directly to this scenario.
He, however, said if that scenario plays out, the NDP administration, “in a sense”, could be interpreted as a ‘minority government’ of the House.
“They (the NDP) wouldn’t have a clear majority because they would need seven to have a clear majority. But, that in and of itself does not necessarily trigger a ‘vote of no confidence’ and it does not necessarily trigger a general election,” Farara told BVI News in an invited comment.
“A very outside possibility, for example, is that another member (in addition to Dr Pickering) crossed the floor and you have a situation where the government has five and the opposition has seven. The members of the opposition, although sitting in the opposition could, technically, then go to the governor and say that … ‘the government is a clear minority government and the House ought to be dissolved and elections declared’,” the attorney reasoned.
He continued: “Or, there could be a situation where they go to the governor and say ‘the premier clearly does not command the majority support in the House’ which is what the constitution requires in order for somebody to hold the Office of Premier. And if that is the case, then the governor probably would be dissolving the House and calling General Elections.”
“I don’t want to speak for the governor as to what he will do but those are some of the scenarios that could arise. It is speculative at this point in time,” Farara noted.
Bad time for BVI to be in political/legislative limbo
The attorney said the NDP administration could completely lose its ability to pass legislation if any other of its members were to join former government legislators Ronnie Skelton, Archibald Christian, and Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull by crossing over to the now five-man parliamentary opposition.
This, in itself, might have damaging repercussions for the territory which, as at Monday (December 10), has 21 days remaining to implement an important piece of financial services legislation that is required to keep the BVI off the European Union’s blacklist of tax haven jurisdictions.
An NDP government unable to pass legislation now — at such a critical juncture for the BVI — could lead to a ‘motion of no confidence’ against them. And if this motion is successful, the territory would then be forced to have an even earlier-than-planned General Election.
“You don’t know what will happen if there is a motion or if there is a particular piece of legislation up for debate,” Farara said. “We don’t know how the people who would have left the NDP are going to vote on that. They might actually vote with the government and not with the opposition. Or the opposition might consider that piece of legislation as ‘important and proper’ that they, too, support it … We have to wait and see how it develops.”
Just last week, PVIM leader Skelton told members of the media that he would welcome Dr Pickering ‘with open arms’ to his movement.
Though admitting to having a number of political discussions with the deputy premier, Skelton said he will leave it to Dr Pickering to say whether he will join the PVIM.
Back in August, Dr Pickering made it clear that he was loyal to Premier Dr D Orlando Smith.
Typically, the House of Assembly comprises 13 legislators. But, with the untimely death of Fifth District Representative Delores Christopher back in October, the House now only has 12 living elected representatives. This unusual state of affairs will exist until the next General Election, which must happen by April 16, 2019, the latest.
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