Attorney General Baba Aziz stood in the House of Assembly on Monday to complain that a “newspaper of wide circulation” had published false claims insinuating that he had supervised the mismanagement of public funds.

He did not name the news outlet, but he emphasised that his role is only as the principal legal adviser to the government and HOA and does not involve supervising government finances.

He added that the AG’s Chambers receives a budget allocation of only around $2 million, and most of it goes towards salaries of public officers.

The claims, he said, had prompted people “all over the world” to call and question him. He also said he wanted to “underscore” that the Virgin Islands’ libel and defamation laws are “enforced.”

He added that he did not intend to pursue defamation charges, but that if he had, he “would have succeeded.”

“When people are making allegations against public officers or whoever in this society, we must ensure that we must get the evidence to support what we say,” he said. “Because when we say some of these things, it may go far and wide.”

Press freedom

He went on to say that while he is a supporter of press freedom, he encourages the press to use “evidence-based” reporting.

“I would respectfully urge [the press] to criticise when it is necessary to do so; to criticise when they have the evidence to back it. And if you want to attack me, you can attack me on so many other grounds,” he said. “But to attack me on financial mismanagement, I think, is a serious issue.”

He concluded by defending his dedication to his job and ability to make unbiased legal decisions.

“Whichever government is in power, I try to speak my mind in relation to constitutional interpretation to the best of my ability. When I get it wrong, I get it wrong because maybe my research has not led me to that. But it is not in order to cause mischief,” he said, adding, “In dealing with all these constitutional provisions, I do it without any conflict of interest. When I see a conflict of interest come in, I will disappear.”