Busts of Glanville Fonseca and Howard Penn, two candidates in the 1967 general election, are among the four statues in front of the House of Assembly chambers. (File Photo: CONOR KING DEVITT)

Lawmakers plan to debate and vote on the Human Rights Commissions Act 2018 in the House of Assembly sitting scheduled to begin today.

The commission — which is provided for in the 2007 Constitution — would be tasked with investigating and reconciling complaints about human rights infringements.

It would also be responsible for informing the public about constitutional rights and dispensing advice on human rights-related procedures and policy.

During an HOA sitting in May 2017, Attorney General Baba Aziz moved a motion for the first reading of a 2017 act providing for the HRC.

Multiple lawmakers, however, emphasised then that such an act would require a long examination period.

“I don’t think this bill should be rushed quickly to the second and third readings,” Communication and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool (R-D4) said at the time, adding, “I do believe it should take some time to be well-aired and ventilated in the public.”

Not rushing to pass the bill appears to be in line with lawmakers’ behaviour towards the HRC over the last decade: Despite numerous declarations of support from members of both major political parties, any work to establish the commission has been plagued by false starts, abandoned promises and indecisiveness.

The 2018 version of the bill has yet to be Gazetted.

Recovery plan

Also during the HOA sitting, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith is slated to table the “Recovery to Development Plan of the Virgin Islands.”

The plan — designed to function as a blueprint for the nascent Recovery and Development Agency — is the result of more than nine months of work by the Disaster Recovery Coordination Committee led by Brodrick Penn.

During this week’s sitting, Dr. Smith (R-at large) is also scheduled to table two other reports: the “British Virgin Islands: National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing” and the “Virgin Islands Progress Report on the Implementation of the Recommendations from the National Risk Assessment.”

Other laws

Lawmakers are also scheduled to debate and vote on the International Tax Authority Act, 2018; the Financing and Money Services (Amendment) Act, 2018; the Financial Services Commission

(Amendment) Act, 2018; and the Mutual Legal Assistance (Tax Matters) (Amendment) Act, 2018.

Additionally, they’re slated to give a first reading to the Prison Act, 2017.

Questions and answers

Opposition members are also scheduled to ask numerous question to government ministers about a wide variety of topics.

Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie plans to quiz Dr. Smith about BVI Airways again, as well as the Tortola Pier Park audit; the Central Administration Building’s insurance plan; private banking on Virgin Gorda; and timelines for various repairs and rebuilds of government buildings around the territory, including the post office building in Carrot Bay and several police stations.

Mr. Fahie (R-D1) is scheduled to ask Health and Social Development Minister Ronnie Skelton (R-at large) about the timelines for rebuilds of various community centres and the Cappoons Bay Clinic, and he plans to ask Mr. Vanterpool about the timelines to rebuild various fire stations.

He’s also scheduled to ask Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn (R-at large) various questions about the 2017 and 2018 August Emancipation Festivals, as well as about insurance policies for the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

Opposition member Julian Fraser plans to ask Dr. Smith about government’s efforts to recoup its $7.2 million “injection” into BVI Airways and about the territory’s plans to deal with the United Kingdom law requiring the overseas territories to establish beneficial ownership registers.

Mr. Fraser (R-D3) is also scheduled to ask the premier for details about the newly launched Bank of Asia (BVI) Limited.

Additionally, he plans to quiz Mr. Vanterpool about water plants in the territory and water distribution to the Third District.