As House of Assembly Speaker Julian Willock and representative-elect for the Fourth District Mark Vanterpool remain at loggerheads on whether Vanterpool should be sworn into office or whether a by-election should be held, Governor Augustus Jaspert is staying out of it — at least for the time being.
As governor, Jaspert is constitutionally the only person with the authority to call a by-election. But, he told members of the media on Friday that he will only issue a writ for a by-election if he is formally notified that the seat is vacant.
“At the moment we haven’t formally gotten to a point where I have received a formal indication for me to move forward with a by-election,” the governor said.
He said such a notification typically comes from the Speaker of the House, Willock, who so happens to be one of the feuding parties in the ongoing matter.
Advice being sought from Attorney General
The confusion began when Vanterpool submitted a letter addressed to the Clerk of the House outlining that he wished to resign. But the constitution says such a letter must be addressed to the Speaker. However, there was none at the time Vanterpool submitted the letter.
By the time the House appointed Willock as Speaker, Vanterpool changed his mind. Willock, however, contends that he has already accepted Vanterpool’s resignation, notwithstanding it being wrongly addressed.
Governor Jaspert said he is now seeking advice from Attorney General Baba Aziz.
“The attorney general is looking at this issue, is looking at the constitution and the laws of the territory, and will advise me accordingly,” the governor said.
For the time being, the governor maintains that “any issues for Honourable Vanterpool are issues for himself to answer but also importantly, any matters for the House are matters for the House to [handle]”.
Below are a few responses the governor gave in relation to the matter in question
Can you say at this point whether there will be a by-election?
Governor Jaspert: It’s up to me to issue a writ for a by-election. There will only be a by-election when I am formally notified of a vacant seat in the House.
Formally notified by whom?
Governor Jaspert: The process is the seat has to become vacant and then I am notified by the Speaker.
Is a seat vacant at this point?
Governor Jaspert: At the moment, I haven’t been formally notified of any vacancy.
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