United Kingdom Secretary of State, Dominic Raab has reportedly indicated that he is awaiting the reports from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) before deciding on the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) (Amendment) Act now at his office awaiting assent.
This was purported by Speaker of the House of Assembly Jullian Willock in a public statement to the territory released April 26.
The Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act 2020 would decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis and erase some previous convictions. It is one of the bills that former Governor Augustus Jaspert refused to give assent to before he departed his post earlier this year.
In his written statement, Willock said: “It is extremely concerning that the Right Honourable Dominic Raab has stated to the Premier that he is awaiting the reports from the Commission of Inquiry before making a decision as to the assent to the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) (Amendment) Act.”
Partial suspension of constitution?
Willock went on to state that Raab’s action suggests that he is giving precedence to the COI over the BVI’s constitution. He also questioned whether the lack of assent is an indication of the UK’s suspension of the BVI constitution.
“Therefore, a decision is not being taken on the basis of the clear provisions of the constitution, despite reports to the contrary. It would appear that the Right Honourable Secretary of State is giving precedence to the Commission of Inquiry over the constitution,” Willock said.
He added: “By virtue of the Commission of Inquiry taking precedence over the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, the question we may now ask, is our constitution being suspended?”
The suspension of the BVI Constitution after the conclusion of COI is a possibility that elected officials fear greatly.
This is because there was a temporary suspension of the Turks & Caicos constitution in 2009 after a similar COI was conducted in that territory.
The suspension of the constitution would also be seen as a major blow to the efforts of elected leaders who pride themselves on gaining greater self-determination for the BVI.
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