MESSAGE BY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
HONOURABLE JULIAN WILLOCK
ON THE OCCASION OF A SPECIAL SITTING TO SWEAR IN THE NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL
1ST OCTOBER, 2020
Good morning Honourable Members and our guests in the gallery. Welcome to the FIFTEENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, today Thursday October 1, 2020, to celebrate a historic occasion in which we will be swearing in a local Attorney General for the second time in twenty-one (21) years.
We will, for this occasion, allow both Honourable Members and persons in the gallery to express their appreciation for this special moment via clapping or members tapping their desks. Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge the Hon Premier and his government and the Opposition Leader as well as all Opposition Members.
Thanks to our guest in the Galley for accepting our kind invitation, and I will like to recognize are few persons:
Deputy Governor David D. Archer and Mrs Archer, Hon. Madam Justice Vicki Ann Ellis, Mrs. Shelia Forbes-Fahie our first lady, and other spouses in the gallery, former Premier Dr D. Orlando Smith and Mrs Smith and former Legislator and first Attorney General Mrs. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC.
Attorney General Designee Ms Dawn J. Smith and family
Honourable Members and persons in the gallery, the constitution of the Virgin Islands makes provision in section 58 for an Attorney General who shall be a member of both the Executive and Legislative branches of government.
According to our constitution, there are 15 members of the House of Assembly. There are also three (3) ways one may become a member.
The first way is via a general election as per section sixty-four (64) of the constitution. Out of the thirteen elected Members, nine comes via single districts and the other four members are elected territory-wide. Their constituency is all residents of the Virgin Islands. One can also qualify to be a member of the House, if they are successful in a by-election.
2. Another way is through, becoming the Speaker, who, according to section sixty-nine (69) of the constitution, is elected by the thirteen members of the House. In our current case, the Speaker came from outside the House of Assembly. However, the constitution makes provisions for a Speaker who can be elected from amongst the thirteen (13) elected Members who came in the House of Assembly through a general election. The Speaker’s only constituency is current and former members of the House of Assembly.
Finally, one can become a member of the House of Assembly by being appointed the Attorney General as per section 58 of the constitution. The role of the Attorney General is to be the principal legal advisor to the government of the Virgin Islands. The occupant of that office is a public officer and sits in both the Executive and Legislative branches.
The Attorney General’s only constituency is the Executive branch via the Cabinet and the legislature, as well as Central Government’s departments and ministries.
So there is hope for those of you who cannot get elected, you have two other options to get here!
I look forward to my working relationship with the new Attorney General designee, Ms. Dawn J. Smith, for the remaining life of the Fourth House of Assembly.
Madam incoming Attorney General, I know in my role as Speaker, that we may not always agree; however, I trust that we will avoid while in my official capacity, where the Attorney General is arguing against the Speaker of the House in a court of law.
Notwithstanding, at times I will exercise the right to obtain independent legal advice, but please do not ever see this, as a method to undermine your wise counsel, rather it is only to supplement it.
This morning you are joining a unique combination of Legislators in the Fourth House of Assembly; committed men and women filled with talent, youth, experience, wit, compassion, love for country and most of all, dedication and commitment to the people of this Territory.
I thought, I should share a few trivia about the current House of Assembly; Your joining, this body now means that there will be a record four (4) women in the House of Assembly, so I am now hoping there is going to be a women’s caucus.
There are two Wheatleys, two Julians, with your arrival now, two Smiths. In addition, two members have been here for over twenty-one years, two members are from the Sister Islands, two members were immediate past civil servants, while another two, were immediate past public officers.
Another little random fun fact is that there are two elected members without middle initials, then about six of our members are related to each other and, coincidentally, the first local Attorney General, Mrs. Dancia Penn-Sala QC, who served from [1992-1999], hails from East End, just like you Ms. Smith.
When I advised the Opposition Leader, Hon. Marlon A. Penn, that we were planning a special sitting to swear you in today, his face lit up, and he said to me; “great, she is from East End” so Attorney General designee, I know you will feel at home amongst us.
In closing, I welcome you to the House of Assembly as a member, and while you will escape many of the demands that the thirteen of our members face on a daily basis from the general public, I am sure the Premier would have briefed you, that he has an ambitious legislative agenda, therefore, expect long days, long nights and long debates in this Chambers.
More often than not, you will also be called upon to give your legal opinion on continuous matters, therefore, you have your work cut out for you, but I too take comfort in knowing you are up to the task.
I call upon the Clerk to administer the Oath of Office and pin you with the House of Assembly’s Member lapel pin. [everyone to stand and remain standing for Prelude of version of ‘Oh Beauty Virgin Islands’ passed on this House a few days ago!