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Constitutional Review Report recommends only At Large members be Premier & Deputy

- Also recommends the appointment of a sixth Minister
The Constitutional Review Commission Report was laid on the table during the Eighth Sitting of the First Session of the Fifth House of Assembly on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. Photo: VINO
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was led by Chairman Lisa E. Penn-Lettsome. Photo: VINO/File
The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was led by Chairman Lisa E. Penn-Lettsome. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- With the low turnout at the public meetings, many residents are now questioning the legitimacy of the Constitutional Review Commission Report and asking if the recommendations are truly the will of the masses or just those of the members of the commission themselves.

In the report, laid by Premier and Minister of Finance Dr the Hon Natalio D Wheatley (R7) on the table of the House of Assembly (HoA) last week, many unpopular recommendations have been made.

The Commission recommends that the Territory adopt a system of direct election of the Premier and the Deputy Premier, drawing those candidates from only the pool of At-Large candidates and that only At Large members be eligible for Premier or Deputy Premier. 

This is unheard of in a Westminster system of Government or in any of the 56 Commonwealth countries around the world, where the political parties chose the leaders.

A sixth Minister needed

The Commissioners also recommended in another model that all candidates run At Large. This is a system that was once in place but was debunked because of the lack of attention paid to the sister islands and communities that may not have someone in Parliament from their area.

The Constitutional Review Commission Report also recommended the formation of a Boundaries Commission following shifts in the population since the last such exercise and also to pave the way for the appointment of a sixth Minister.

The Report is to be debated in the fifth HoA by current elected members and is a public document.

23 Responses to “Constitutional Review Report recommends only At Large members be Premier & Deputy”

  • Interesting (06/02/2024, 09:04) Like (16) Dislike (1) Reply
    Seem like this article is the one that is questioning the legitimacy of the report. The report is the outcome of the public who chose to participate. As with everything BVI, we stay quiet when we are suppose to speak up, then complain. Dont blame who participate. Write about why people chose to stay quiet.
  • jack (06/02/2024, 09:05) Like (6) Dislike (9) Reply
    I am so disappointed in this report carvin must be rolling in his grave
  • Hmm (06/02/2024, 09:27) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    well they need to do it like the other countries where voters only vote for a political party of their choice to rum their country. and a second part of the ballot they can vote which political party they want to run that district.
  • Styles (06/02/2024, 10:10) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    At large candidates only?

    Does that mean Natalio needs more than his 300 friends in family in his district? Sounds reasonable.
  • Native Senior Citizen of the British Virgin Islands (06/02/2024, 10:11) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    Beacon of hope A low turn out to the meeting as per the Topic Issues do not mean that some if the recommendations are not.positive.
    Many and I would more readily prefer that better governance can be realize, if the Premier and Deputy Premier run At Large, rather that district candidate winner be picked by a Party Leader.
    In addition, in oder to help reduce dictatorship practices, such bribery of voters, a Two-Term maximum for Premier and Deputy Premier should be seriously consider, as are practice in may Countries, the UK and the USA being two of them. I suggest that district Term be also limit. Further addition, no person less than thirty years old should be allowed to contest for Premier and Deputy position. In other words, we don't need immature leaders in the Top political positions.
    Enough is enough, even now too much.
    Constitution review and helpful changes in vital in order for better governance to be experience in the BVI.
  • Bourgeois Professor (06/02/2024, 10:18) Like (12) Dislike (7) Reply
    The CRC spent months it seems just spinning its wheels in quick sand and seemed to have struck out. Based on the scant info in this commentary, it earned itself a failing grade, an “F” . Its attempt to mix the Westminister and Presidential systems have landed flat. It is illogical and as f’ked up as Hogan’s goat. Yes, a majority of voters should have a direct say in whom takes up the offices of Premier and Deputy. Where do I start?

    First, District Reps are disenfranchised and discriminated against because of their choice of running for elected office. Are we saying that based on a popularity contest the pool of At Large candidates automatically becomes more qualified than District Candidates to serve as Premier ? That is insulting, un-Democratic, discriminatory. The current process of governing is divisive but the proposal of electing the Premier and Deputy will be more divisive. The Westminister system is based on party system. Internal party ops promotes candidate (s) with the best qualification (s), demonstrated experience, personality, etc. to become Premier. What happens if all At Large candidates are from different party than Premier? Do we see problems in electing premier, governing, etc.? The current system of electing Premier by other elected members is not perfect but it is head and shoulders better than the proposal. Under the current system, other elected members can check the actions of Premier, if they put self-interest aside. Further, do candidates have to run specifically for Premier and Drputy Premier? Or running At Large makes them automatically Premier candidates? Delusional!!

    Moreover, the Westminister system originated in England in the 13th Century, reducing the power of the Monarchy, and in addition to the UK, it is used by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a myriad of former colonies..The US users the presidential system, which its founders designed to be a divided malaise, dysfunction, etc. France has a hybrid presidential system.

    Reflecting further, the current proposal can be made functional and workable if the Premier instead having elected members as ministers instead could select and appoint experienced people to lead various functions. For more oversight, a Senate can be created to slow things down a bit and put more eye balls on issues.Will the UK go along with the proposal which throws shade on its Westminster system.
  • The watchdog (06/02/2024, 10:21) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I did not see my opinion in the report
  • jack@$$ (06/02/2024, 12:22) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    So because some loud voices don't like Wheatley as premier and didn't like Andrew b/c they couldn't beat him, they'll throw away all of our history with a constitutionals At Large for Premier rule. Raplh T O'Neal and Lavity Stoutt weren't at large neither was Willard Wheatley. I don't mind voting for the premier directly, but the premier can't rule without a party. What if 80% of the voting block votes for an at large candidate for premier but his party loses all the districts? We would be back in the same place with a premier chosen from the winning party b/c they have the seats. Anything else would create a lame duck situtaion.
    • Quiet Rebel (06/02/2024, 17:22) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
      To Jack@$$, if an At Large candidate gets the majority of votes cast in an election, his/her party doesn’t win a majority of seats, it would be a hung HoA. What then? Political horse trading to form a government. Would the Governor then have the unilateral power to form a government? Well, the government should be elected by the people. Additionally, if an independent At Large candidate wins the lion share of the votes cast in an election, to form a government political horse trading would also have to occur. In persuading the Executive Summary, the CRC attempted to weld parts of the Westminister and presidential systems together but the effort didn’t get off the ground. Hipprocratic oath advocates the physicians should cause patients any harm. Similar, the leaders should not causes the electoral process any harm. We should not cause the electoral process any harm.
  • BVIlander (06/02/2024, 14:07) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    This report is 100% correct on it's recommendations. Can we please just implement as soon as possible
    • @ BVIlander (06/02/2024, 17:37) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
      The report is backwards they just hate the current government
  • Yes? (06/02/2024, 14:11) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    @Native Senior Citizen just so you know the term for a President and Vice President in the USA is four years. and their term two.
  • Nah (06/02/2024, 18:55) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    The Commission should also recommend that the Territory adopt a system of direct election for the Governor, the Premier and the Deputy.

  • Socrates (06/02/2024, 20:05) Like (8) Dislike (1) Reply
    The constitution is a rule book of rights,freedoms, rule of law , how the territory is led and managed. My thing is asking a series of relevant Socratic questions. However, as this is a heavy lift, I will pose questions and attempt to share some answers.

    1. The CRC advocated that the constitution should not be about politics. But is it? Yes, it is about politics. Political parties are party of the Westminister and Presidential systems of government. Government are formed based on which party comprises the most elected members. Politics cannot be taken out of the constitution.

    2. There is varying opinions on how to integrate At Large members into the government system. Is it doable? Yes, it is doable with a bicameral House, ie, a HOA, and Senate. The HoA can consist of Districts Reps, and the Senate consists of At Large members..The Senate will be the Upper Chamber. A senate is not a novel idea among OTs. For example Bermuda has a Senate which comprises 11 members; their HoA consists of 36 members..

    3. The CRC is advocating that major recommendations should be taken to the public before being put on the agenda for negotiations with the UK. Should not these issues have been brought to the public long ago so that they could have been included in the agenda? YES! The CRC should have had an extended term, not a few months, to review the constitution.

    4. Should the Premier and Deputy Premier be directly voted by the people? Yes. This can be facilitated by giving the Premier the authority to appoint qualified and experienced non-elected citizens to lead functions, ie, commissioner of Customs, Commissioner of Public Works, Commisioner of Public Safety, Commissioner of Education, Commissioner of Health, Commissioner of Economic Development, etc. I used the term commissioner but other terms can be used.

    5. The VI is a representative democracy, ie, citizens vote to elect representatives to represent them in the HoA. So should they not have the ability to recall then. Yes. A process needs to be developed and implemented giving citizens the ability to recall a member(s). Citizens can required to collect a certain percentage of voters in the district from which the member is currently serving or if the member is At Large a similar process will be required. Voters will have a specific timeframe to collect verifiable signatures.
    • Manjack (07/02/2024, 09:26) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      To Socrates, I endorsed, seconded, the proposal for a bicameral house with senate coloring At Large members. The senate can be the upper house and the proper location for At Large members to serve. What size Senate you suggest?
      • Socrates (07/02/2024, 17:25) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
        To manjack, just off the top of my head I would suggest a 7-11 member Senate.
    • The Frig… (07/02/2024, 10:25) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
      To Socrates, wait for it you are a damn frig but a useful one. For years the BVI has been wondering around like Columbus trying to discover a fit and purpose for At Large elected members. The BVI has been dabbling with At Large since the first modern constitution in 1950 resulting from the Great March of November 1949. The 1950 constitution for the first time give local Virgin Islanders the right to vote directly for At Large members to the Legislative Council, ie, HR Penn, Glanny Fonseca, Carlton de Castro, Bruce; Dolph Faulkner could participate because at the time he was not a property owner, etc. At Large members disappeared for decades, making a comeback in 1995. And there have been a struggle finding a fit. And voila, there it is—a bicameral chamber with a Senate comprising At Large members. Thanks and nuff respect to you my brother; you solved the puzzle. I have not fully read the report but I have read enough to know that a Senate was not in the recommendations. Some members of the Bermuda senate are appointed; VI’s should be elected. It is not too late to add a senate to recommendations. The Frig…out.
      • Political Observer (PO) (07/02/2024, 17:36) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
        @ Socrates, concur with suggestion of a bicameral chamber consisting of a senate comprising At Large members. Though a senate may slow routine actions down a bit, it provides for review, analysis, etc. The more eyeballs on an agenda item the better. The senate will be the upper chamber and will add to debate, discussion, etc.
    • Bush Professor (07/02/2024, 17:21) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      To Socrates, support the suggestion of bicameral house with a Senate comprising At Large members. Let’s do dis damn ting!!
    • Eagle and Buffalo (08/02/2024, 11:38) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      To Socrates, some of us twist ourselves into knots like pretzels about the proper fit of At Large members in the governing process. Nevertheless, your suggestion of creating a bicameral chamber ( HoA, Senate) with the Senate being the province of At Large members, adding as others bloggers noted will slow things down to facilitate more debate, discussion, etc on issues, , putting more eye balls , ears, mental acuity to issues. Let’s free up ourselves and get the show on the road by creating creating a bicameral chambers and electing a senate , the province of At Large members.
  • Black Lives Matter (06/02/2024, 20:32) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    What about a black governor?
  • Hmmmm (07/02/2024, 11:27) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    I told ya'll about these members that you choose for this committee specifically the Chair. These radical ideas that are based on no research and that go against the fragment of the system that we have in place are completely ridiculous. If you are asking for us to change the model of Government that currently exists there must be some sort of evaluation on its workability and rationale for it. Reading this report it seems more of a feeling that an informed statistical report that supports the position. I didn't expect anything more, the people on that committee have no constitutional experience but were only placed in positions because of their connections and nothing else. Sad down in the Industry for years without any recognition and now up and down in everything like they have relevant experience and knowledge. Get out of here with this mess!!
  • CRR (07/02/2024, 12:47) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    This report is not forward thinking when it speaks to election of our HOA or a Government. I do not share the views of the majority shared in this CRR. This has to be a big joke.

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