Both sides of the issue that prompted Ninth District Representative, Dr. the Hon. Hubert O’Neal to threaten to punch Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Julian Fraser were aired in the House of Assembly on 19 December.
The issue which began with a Ninth District meeting back in November, was rehashed when Dr. O’Neal during the Private Members business segment of the House rose to apologize for his threat to punch Hon. Fraser.
Hon. O’Neal said: “I want to apologize to you Madam Speaker, and I want to apologize to all the Members of this Honourable House, and I also want to apologize to my constituents of the Ninth District and to the Virgin Islands as a whole. What I am apologizing about is: I made some public statements about five weeks ago, at a public meeting in Virgin Gorda. Statements that I regret at this time. They were were combative words and I recognized that I crossed the line when I made such statements publicly.”
However, after the apology, Hon. O’Neal still added further comments on the incident and Hon. Fraser stating that he was not to be messed with: “I am asking the Member not to mess with me; I ain’t no lil boy, I am not a little boy. In fact, I just made 60 just in July. Let me do my work in my district. The people of the Ninth District elected me for a reason. I have a special bond with the people of the Ninth District,” Hon. O’Neal declared.
The Ninth District Representative, also stated that he should be judged on his representative ability after his term is up, and not before: “I don’t want nobody to get in-between me and my people. If my people decide that after the four years of my term in office that I did not achieve the things that I promised them, then they have all rights to vote me out so to speak. So judge me after four years.”
During the 9 November meeting Hon. Fraser told the Ninth District that their Representative should have been someone in an Administration with a position of high authority in order to ensure that the people’s needs are delivered.
In the House of Assembly on Monday, Hon. O’Neal announced that the comment was upsetting to his father’s legacy: “He disturbed my father’s spirit. My father, the late Robinson O’Neal, was elected back in the 1960s and he was a backbencher in the then Lavity Stoutt Government of the United Party, and he will go down in history as one of the most powerful backbenchers ever…”
“For the member to go into Virgin Gorda and claim that I had no reach, I had no clout; because I’m a back-bencher; that was uncalled for and I was not going to stand by and allow those statements to go unchallenged,” Hon. O’Neal declared.
Hon. Fraser Says he Is Returning to Ninth District
Following Hon. O’Neal’s comment, the Leader of the Opposition rose on a point of correction and stated that it is part of his mandate to visit districts: “We are the Opposition and we ought to point out matters that pertain to the Territory and good governance; and that’s the only thing that we’re gonna be doing – nothing else.”
“I am Leader of the Opposition; when I go into districts, I speak to the truth, not to make mischief, and if someone wants to take offense to what I said, so be it. But I have been here for 17 years and I have never seen anything close to what I saw after I went into that district. It boggles my mind. I don’t think anyone else has – I don’t expect to see it again,” the Leader of the Opposition stated.
Hon. Fraser in response to Hon. O’Neal’s statement said that the prudent thing would have been to discuss the matter instead of calling a meeting: “No one in your district didn’t come to me with things that they didn’t go to you with. It’s a letter that was sent to you and copied to me…I went to Virgin Gorda because I was called to Virgin Gorda as Leader of the Opposition.”
“You referred to me as a veteran and you a rookie; I think you gotta learn. I have no animosity, no hard feelings about anybody or the members who represent a district. But I am telling them now: I put myself on record that I will be there in every district doing the same thing that I do in my district… I’m going back in the Ninth District,” the Leader of the Opposition added.