Members of the House of Assembly representing a district are rewarded with a salary and other benefits for participating in the lawmaking process and furthering the interests of residents in their district. They are duty-bound to attend every sitting of the HOA unless they have received a written leave of absence from the speaker, which is normally only given for official business.
Leave may exceptionally be granted for pressing personal reasons. If a member is absent from more than three consecutive sittings in any one session without the speaker’s written permission, they shall vacate their seat and lose any benefits not already due to them, except for terminal benefits.
Former Premier Andrew Fahie’s trial in Miami initially was scheduled to start this month, but his attorney asked the court to delay it until no sooner than Jan. 16, 2023, in part because she and her staff were struggling to cope with the spread of Covid-19 and were working to identify the exact technical reasons for the unreadability of some audio/video files among the vast quantity of materials that had been accumulated.
The United States Department of Justice may be waiting to arrest “Government Official One” — who was mentioned but not named in the complaint against Mr. Fahie — on US soil, which might lead to further charges. In the meantime, however, we must await the outcome of the VI police’s investigations into possible criminality in the public service — and for them to arrest anyone chargeable in VI domestic courts.
‘He should resign’
Since Mr. Fahie will be unable to attend any foreseeable sitting of the HOA, regardless of the outcome of his trial and any subsequent appeals from either side, he should resign his seat. Realistically, he cannot make any meaningful contribution towards his parliamentary duties. Indeed, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley has stated that Mr. Fahie should concentrate on sorting out his own problems.
Consequently, Dr. Wheatley should also ask Governor John Rankin to declare the seat in District One vacant and appoint a date for a by-election to fill it. The campaign would enable residents to express their views on any topic, and aspiring politicians would get a chance to lay out their platforms. Above all, it would result in the election of another member to share the HOA’s workload.
Meanwhile, the most heartening development in meeting the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry is the appointment of a distinguished team — including several lawyers — to the Constitutional Review Committee. Its proposals might include a provision for a permanent Law Reform Commission, with responsibility for the oversight of a regular consolidation of the territory’s laws.
Despite the governor’s agreement to a public consultation on the extension of the Register of Interests to include senior civil servants, it is disappointing that the timetable for completion of the government’s implementation of the COI report’s recommendations should fall at the first hurdle, as catching up will make it even more difficult to complete such a demanding timetable on schedule.