(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool was finally sworn in as a member of the House of Assembly on July 16, bringing three months of impasse with the Speaker of the House Hon. Julian Willock to rest.
However, the back and forth between the Legislator and the Speaker lingered briefly over Hon. Vanterpool's timing to give a speech.
The swearing in was the highlight of today’s sitting and could be described as a fitting conclusion to the standoff between Hons. Vanterpool and Willock, which has been referred to in the media as the District Four saga.
The matter prolonged from March to now as Hon. Vanterpool insisted that he should be sworn in since resignation was invalid and Hon. Willock claimed that he had already accepted said resignation and as such a by-election should be held. With both heels dug into the sand, the matter went to the High Court and then before the Court of Appeal.
It was while awaiting the Court of Appeal hearing that Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie intervened by asking the Speaker to swear Hon. Vanterpool in. The Premier's intervention came after opinions on the matter was rendered by Attorney General Hon. Baba Aziz, His Excellency the Governor Augustus Jaspert and the residents of the Fourth District vis protest and petition.
Today, before proceeding with the swearing-in, the Speaker, who had remained mum after the Premier announced that he requested the swearing in of Hon. Vanterpool, broke his silence on the matter by explaining that he agreed to administer the oath after consideration that both the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn and the Premier made cases that this was the right thing to do.
"It is very compelling when the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition speak in one accord on a matter so weighty, not only to this House, but to how it affects representation, our democracy and our constitutional arrangements. I have an obligation to listen and that I did," Hon. Willock said."
He also noted that the situation could have dragged on a little longer because he was advised to put the matter to the other members of the House of Assembly.
“It must be noted that there are other voices in the Chambers requesting that a resolution be brought, which they proposed will get the entire House involved so that the Speaker is not seen as making a unilateral decision on a matter that represents the Legislative Branch, which echoes the sentiment of the learned judge in her decision," Hon. Willock explained.
Nonetheless, the Speaker said that he decided to put the needs of the constituents of the Fourth District at the forefront and have Hon. Vanterpool sworn in.
"I can no longer, in good conscience, continue the distress and inconvenience that the issue of Mr. Vanterpool’s resignation has caused to so many. Whilst I appreciate the dynamics of the other voices in this Chamber, there are times when the duty of our office demands that we rise above this and do what is just and right for the people of our beloved islands. I consider this to be one such occasion," Hon. Willock said.
Speaker and Vanterpool Face-off
Moments after being sworn, the Speaker and the Fourth District Representative had an exchange of words over the timing of a speech. The back and forth occurred when Hon. Vanterpool after taking his legislative seat asked to make a speech.
Hon. Vanterpool rising on a point of order asked to make the speech, noting that other legislators were able to speak at the time of their swearing in. However, the Speaker did not grant the request, stating that he was denying it in keeping with what happened with all the other members on March 12, where he said they spoke in Other Members business.
Therefore, the Speaker said to Vanterpool, "I would prefer if you speak then in other business."
However, Hon.Vanterpool urged the Speaker to reconsider that position. He said, "I respect your preference; Mr. Speaker on that day the only business was Other Business...I think the people of the Fourth District in the spirit of democracy should hear from their elected representative if you would be kind enough based on your privilege and your authority that you would be kind enough to allow me as Member for the Fourth to say a few words to my constituents."
However, the Speaker responded by saying, "Member for the Fourth District my position stands."