In one of the most critical moments of the 2019 general elections campaign Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Hon. Myron Walwyn and Deputy Chairman Hon. Marlon Penn sat in a face-to-face debate with social media commentator Kaream Pickering popularly known as “Picko Moff,” a vocal NDP critic to “set the record straight on certain matters”.
Over the past months Pickering’s one man “Drain the Swamp” social media campaign, which harshly criticizes actions of government and members of the House of Assembly gained a following and many in the community regularly visit his Facebook page to hear his views on political matters.
Therefore, the announcement that Pickering was going to be facing Hon. Walwyn, a legislator he has spoken publicly about garnered a lot of attention. The faceoff as it was referred to took place on Tolaradio VI on 5 February on a programme called ‘Hard Talk Now’. During the close to one hour interview Pickering did not shy away from presenting the bones of his contentions to the NDP Chairman.
HOA Catering Allegations Resurface
For years there has been an allegation that Hon. Walwyn’s business has been catering for the House of Assembly — which was rumored to be a breach. However, when Pickering declared such a breach to Hon. Walwyn his claim was refuted and labeled as false.
“I don’t cater for the House of Assembly, my business does not cater for the House of Assembly,” Hon. Walwyn declared.
The NDP Chairman explained that at one point in time his business catered for the House of Assembly. However, he explained that the matter has to be placed in its proper context and it must be noted that the catering began before he entered politics.
“My business was catering for the House of Assembly even before I got in there — that’s the first thing. The second thing is there is not contractual relationship between my business and the House of Assembly absolutely none. They had absolutely no obligation to pick up the phone and call my business,” he explained. Hon. Walwyn explained that the arrangement with his business and the House of Assembly is no different than the relationship members of the public have with the supermarkets they shop at.
“It is no different than if you walk into a supermarket that is owned by a politician and pick up something off the shelf. It is no different than if you walk into somebody’s concrete plant and order concrete and go with it. There is absolutely no difference between the two things. There is no obligation that anybody had to pick up the phone to call my business and I in no way influenced it.”
Hon. Walwyn said that he has checked the Constitution and noted that there is no issue of conflict of interest as it relates to the House of Assembly using his business’s catering service.
The NDP Chairman ventured into explaining how the issue of conflict of interest works based on the Constitution: “First of all what I have is a company, a company is a separate legal personality from the owner. So to say that I have done anything with House of Assembly is false again. They used my company, not Myron Walwyn. That is the very first thing. The second thing is the Constitution speaks to a contract – if there is a contract between the persons and let’s say the government in that case; but the House of Assembly is not a separate entity from government,” Hon. Walwyn said.
Therefore, Hon. Walwyn explained that there would be nothing wrong with any government department calling up his company and doing business. “The House of Assembly is not a statutory body.” “I submit to you like many of the things it’s all froth and no mauby…I put it to you that if there was ever any way that I exercised in conflict of interest for how some of them have been after me, they would have…got me already. The reason why they can’t get me is because there is no basis for it and so they go and play on minds of persons who perhaps are passionate about the country and give you false information,” the NDP Chairman pointed out.
Catering Matter Raised During 2015 Elections
In May 2015, one month prior to the June elections members of the Opposition alleged that the use of Hon. Walwyn’s catering business for the House of Assembly needs was a conflict of interest. However, the Committee of Hon. Walwyn issued a response refuting the allegation.
The May 2015 statement noted that the members who made the allegation were Honourables Julian Fraser, Andrew Fahie and Alvin Christopher. It was noted that the members even expressed their concerns in a letter that was sent to the Governor.
In the letter to the Governor the Opposition Members alleged that two companies owned by Hon Walwyn — MVW International Company Ltd and The Pub (2012) Ltd, have contractual arrangements with the Government of the Virgin Islands and therefore Hon Walwyn should be dismissed from the House of Assembly.
In that response Hon. Walwyn’s Committee stated that MVW International Company Ltd and The Pub (2012) Ltd have no contract whether written or unwritten with the Government of the Virgin Islands. “Based on the Virgin Islands Constitution – section 67 (3) (e) which looks at grounds for the dismissal of elected members of the House of Assembly and the section that the signers of the letter have referenced, our constitution explicitly states a reason for dismissal – if he or she becomes a party to any contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands for or on account of the public service or if any firm in which he or she is a partner, or any company of which he or she is a director or manager, becomes a party to any such contract, or if he or she becomes a partner in a firm, or a director or manager of a company, which is a party to any such contract,” the statement said.
“The companies provide services on an ad hoc basis as called upon by Government and this is not captured by section 67 (3) (e) of the Virgin Islands Constitution. If that were the case, a number of the members of the House of Assembly who have owned businesses over the years would have also been dismissed,” the statement added.