Arguing that the House of Assembly (HOA) is not a rubber stamp, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley said a measure by the House to implement a committee to oversee reforms was independent of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report’s recommendations.
The special select committee, referred to as the reform committee, is charged with ensuring continuous follow-up by the HOA on reform legislation pursuant to the framework for implementation of the recommendations of the COI report and other reforms.
“This provision was not a recommendation of the COI report, this is a commitment that we made in the framework to ensure that the House of Assembly is a fundamental part of the process,” Dr Wheatley said in the HOA recently.
Premier Wheatley said he felt the reform committee would prevent situations whereby legislators become concerned over time-sensitive legislative reforms that come to the House but have not had proper discussion among legislators or consultation with the public. This worst-case scenario had previously happened with the amended Register of Interest Act.
“Following our negotiations with the United Kingdom government, of course, we were able to secure for the people of the Virgin Islands the opportunity to implement these reforms ourselves,” the Premier said. “A key institution in that is the House of Assembly because this legislation comes to the House of Assembly for approval. And I want to make it clear the House of Assembly is not a rubber stamp.”
Dr Wheatley said he saw the committee as a positive move that will ensure all legislators remain properly apprised of legislation; not just Cabinet members.
“We don’t want the House of Assembly to be taken for granted as it pertains to passing legislation and we should not assume just because we have deadlines in a framework or assume because we have a recommendation from the COI, that the legislative process will not be respected,” the Premier said.
“I think we have a duty to the people of the Virgin Islands and we have a duty to the office in which we hold to ensure the integrity of the legislative process and I see the reform committee in being able to assist in that,” he added.
The members of the reform committee are HOA Speaker Corine George-Massicote who will serve as Chairman, Opposition Leader Julian Fraser, government legislator Vincent Wheatley, Health & Social Development Minister Marlon Penn, Labour Minister Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull, and Junior Trade Minister Shereen Flax-Charles.
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