Governor John Duncan has declared that he acted according to the Virgin Islands Constitution when he yesterday ‘revoked’ the appointment of Julian Fraser as Leader of the Opposition.
Andrew Fahie is now the Opposition leader.
Fraser argued last month that, while the Constitution empowers the governor to appoint, it does not give him power to remove a Leader of the Opposition.
Fraser made that claim after the Virgin Islands Party wrote to the governor, requesting that he (Fraser) be replaced as Opposition leader.
He, last month, reasoned: “Petitioning a governor to remove and replace a sitting Leader of the Opposition by a political party has no basis in the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007. The only provision that is constitutionally within the Governor’s remit at this point is [to appoint]”.
“Let me be clear. The governor has no role to play in this matter – neither constitutionally or otherwise. ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is not an extension of the governor’s office, and neither is the Leader of the Opposition an agent of the governor,” Fraser said.
It is not yet clear what action – if any – he will take now that Governor Duncan has done what it was said he couldn’t do constitutionally.
In a letter written to Fraser and published in an ‘extraordinary’ edition of the Virgin Islands Gazette published yesterday, Governor Duncan quoted sections of the Constitution that he said support his decision to remove Fraser as Opposition leader.
Section 70 (sub-section 3) of the Constitution that directly applies to the issue of revocation, READS: “If at any time between the polling in a general election and the next following dissolution of the House of Assembly the Governor is satisfied that, if the office of the Leader of the Opposition were then vacant, he or she would appoint to that office a person other than the person then holding that office, the Governor shall revoke the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition.”
Furthermore, Governor Duncan, in his letter dated February 6, 2017 told Fraser: “NOW, therefore, by virtue of Section 70 (3) of the said Constitution and all the other powers me thereunto enabling, I, John S Duncan, OBE, Governor of the Virgin Islands, DO by this instrument under the Public Seal revoke my appointment of you JULIAN FRASER as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands made on the 21 July 2015.”
The governor appointed Fraser as Leader of the Opposition back in July 2015 after the first standoff between him (Fraser) and Fahie over which of them should be appointed to the Opposition leader post.
Both arch rivals are the only members of the Opposition in the House of Assembly; hence there is no majority vote among them to break the deadlock.
That is the reason the governor repeatedly has been asked to intervene, and choose the Opposition leader.
In the 2015 scenario – as well as the current case – the governor has given the Opposition leader post to the chairman of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party.
Chairmanship of the party was among the deciding factors that the governor considered.
The Virgin Islands Constitution does not consider political parties or their chairmanship.
It however outlines how the Leader of the Opposition can be appointed or removed.
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