A petition with more than 1,000 affixed signatures has been presented to Governor Augustus Jaspert in reference to having member-elect of the Fourth District Mark Vanterpool sworn into office.
This was done on Tuesday by residents of the Fourth District through a grievance committee that was formed in light of the ongoing issue.
“We are expecting from the governor as the Queen’s representative to look into the matter … It is very important because the Fourth District has not been represented by a representative since the election and it has been over three months and that’s according to the constitution,” said committee Chairwoman, Marilyn Freeman.
Opposition Leader Marlon Penn who accompanied the committee to deliver the petition to Government House on Tuesday said the issue has become a vexing matter.
Threat to democracy
Penn described the issue as a threat to democracy since Speaker Julian Willock has refused to swear in Vanterpool on multiple occasions, despite the advice of the court and other officials.
“This district has been unrepresented since the election and the Election Act states that no district should go unrepresented more than 60 days. We passed that point. We went through a process as far as the governor writing stating that there is no vacancy in the Fourth District and the seat should be filled. The Speaker disobeyed that view and took a different view, he took it to court, he in his own words said that when the court decides that he will accept the court’s decision,” the Opposition leader said.
“The court has decided [but] he (the Speaker) has not accepted the court’s decision. It has now gone to appeal and there is a stay of the decision in the court which I’m understanding won’t be heard until June, so this is another month that the people will go unrepresented. Then you are looking at possibly July for a hearing on this matter.”
Penn said he believes that almost $200,000 has been spent on court proceedings on the matter.
“I asked a question in the House concerning what is this costing the people of this territory. The Premier refused to answer. The question was not specific to any of the specific concerns of the details of the case but the cost, the people should know,” Penn stated.
He continued: “My intelligence tells me that it is in the range over $100,000 already and that is just for the Speaker’s cost and Honourable Vanterpool’s cost is close to $80,000. Taxpayers will have to pay that bill.”
The Governor was not given any specified timeline as to when he will officially respond to the petition.