By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
Proceedings in the House of Assembly were momentarily disrupted on Tuesday (July 10) when what can be described as a snide remark from Premier Dr D Orlando Smith left an Opposition member marching for the exit.
The incident began to unfold when Third District Representative Julian Fraser stood in parliament to complain about the longstanding water shortage problem affecting his constituents.
Fraser then went on to challenge the Premier Smith Administration to swiftly address the issue.
Responding to Fraser’s comments, Premier Smith reminded the House of Assembly about the flopped and highly controversial BiWater agreement, which is widely viewed as a Fraser-led initiative under a Virgin Islands Party government.
“While I admit that there is a challenge with water … the reality is that the water situation in the country has never been the same since BiWater came on board,” Premier Smith subtly said.
His remark, however, was sharp enough to cut Fraser, who leapt from his seat and advanced to the exit of the Road Town-based parliament building.
“I gone. I got to go,” said Fraser who labelled the Premier’s remark as ‘nonsense’.
Dr Smith’s remark also seemed to annoy Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie who began to refrain: “You can’t win three elections on the same thing (BiWater).”
“Let me see you (Premier) win election on that one,” interjected Fraser as he stood at the exit, waiting for the door to unlock.
With a number of other legislators already being absent for Tuesday’s proceedings, Fraser’s would-be departure meant the House could not continue because it no longer had a quorum. The term ‘quorum’ refers to the minimum number of legislators that must be present at any sitting to make the proceedings valid.
According to local policy, the quorum of the House must consist of at least seven members, besides the person presiding over the sitting. Government legislators who were present for yesterday’s proceedings, therefore, began to reason with Fraser not to leave.
Fraser, however, continued to verbalise his annoyance at the Premier, and while doing so, the Third District representative defied the House of Assembly’s policy of conduct, which effectively requires parliamentarians to address other parliamentarians respectfully. A common sign of respect in local parliament is addressing legislators by their elected title, or as an ‘Honourable Member’.
But, during his rant about the Premier, Fraser said: “I raised a concern about the Third District and ‘he’ get up talking about [BiWater].”
Show some respect
Speaker of the House, Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe then reprimanded Fraser for his conduct.
“Honourable member for the Third [District], even though we don’t have a quorum, you have to show respect. There is no ‘he’… That’s no excuse for you to be behaving that way.”
She continued: “Honourable Member for the Third, come on now… Even though we don’t have a quorum, you still have to show a sense of decorum – you’re still in the House of Assembly”.
Fraser then returned to his seat and apologised to the Speaker of the House. He made it clear his apology was only extended to her.
I am not blaming you, says Premier
Premier Smith, thereafter, stood and sought to clear the proverbial air.
He said: “If I’m going to respond to the Member of the Third District or any other member, I have to respond how I see it. And when I said that this was a BiWater situation, I am saying the fact remains that there’s a lot of work to be done since that time.”
“I am not going into blaming you (Fraser) or anything. I am just stating a fact … I do sympathise with all the districts, including the Third District, which has not been able to get the water that they deserve, and I do promise that we are working assiduously. I will continue to work with the Minister [of Communications and Works] to make sure that this matter is resolved,” the Premier added.
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