The House of Assembly has approved a private security firm — for which Speaker Julian Willock serves as a company director — to provide its services to the government to monitor returning residents who are under mandatory quarantine.
The company, Leonard & Associates, was permitted to become a government contractor after Premier Andrew Fahie moved a motion that the Speaker be exempted from vacating seat when his firm offers the service.
The Premier said government needed as much private security providers as possible to cover the large number of residents who have or will be returning into a supervised quarantine facility.
“The fact is every single security services that can be hired in this territory has been hired to help, including now, the one where the Speaker is a director in the company. It is not a contract that we are giving to the Speaker because he is the Speaker,” the Premier told the House.
“It is very important that this is explained because when it leaves from this honourable House these things take a life of their own and persons would want to say that the House just give the Speaker a contract without looking at the facts surrounding it. And, I must tell persons once you’re in public life, you have to take public scrutiny. But at the same time, you are entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts,” he added.
Premier said the Deputy Governor’s Office, who is in charge of hiring security firms for this particular purpose, requested that the House move with supporting the motion “because we need all the security companies including this one for the manpower”.
The motion received support from both sides of the political aisle.
In the meantime, Attorney General Baba Aziz gave an assurance that the application is above par.
“When the speaker’s issue came, I had to take time to look at it carefully — because he is the Speaker of the House — to ensure that when this application comes before the House, it is above standard because he is the Speaker of the House,” he said.
“So if you look through the document, it is more exhaustive than previously, to ensure that the application meets above standard and now that the Speaker’s application has been above standard. I would hope that members in the future can follow this good standard,” Aziz stated.
What the constitution says
Section 67(3)(e) of the Virgin Islands Constitution says an elected member of the House of Assembly shall vacate his or her seat if any firm in which the member is a director becomes a party to a contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands.
However, Section 67(7) says the House may exempt any elected member from vacating his or her seat if the circumstances appear just to do so.
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