On 6 February, His Excellency Governor John Duncan issued two instruments: one revoking the order that was previously made appointing Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser as Leader of the Opposition; and another Appointing recently installed Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party and First District Representative, Hon. Andrew Fahie as the new Leader of the Opposition. This announcement has since attracted mixed public reaction.
In addition to the instruments which were gazetted, His Excellency issued a statement explaining that his decision was as a result of representations made to him following the meeting of the Congress of the Virgin Islands Party on 30th November 2016, which was duly convened for election of Officers and at which Hon. Fahie was elected as the Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party.
“It was brought to my attention that the Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands have again been unable to agree the recommendation of a Leader of the Opposition in accordance with section 70 (2) (a) of the Virgin Islands Constitution. In such circumstances, the Virgin Islands Constitution does provide for the Governor to exercise his or her discretionary powers to revoke a previous decision to appoint a Leader of the Opposition.”
“Taking all these factors into account, and having taken expert advice I have accordingly decided to so revoke my decision of Tuesday 21st July, 2015 to appoint the Hon. Julian Fraser to the post of Leader of the Opposition. With effect from today Monday 6 February.”
The Governor added that he as a result he decided to appoint in his place Hon. Fahie as Leader of the Opposition to carry out the functions and duties of that post.
In the instrument revoking Hon. Fraser’s position, Governor Duncan explained that: “By virtue of section 70 (3) of the said Constitution and all other powers me thereunto enabling, I, John S. Duncan, OBE, Governor of the Virgin Islands, DO by this instrument under the Public Seal revoke my appointment of you, Julian Fraser as the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands made on the 21 July 2015.”
In the instrument appointing Hon. Fahie as Leader of the Opposition, Governor Duncan stated: “Now therefore, by virtue of section 70 (2) (b) of the said Constitution and all other powers me thereunto enabling, I, John S. Duncan, OBE, Governor of the Virgin Islands, Do by this instrument under the Public Seal appoint you, Andrew Fahie to be the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands.”
The first caller to the Speak Out BVI radio call in program on 7 February described the situation as heartbreaking and noted his disagreement with the transfer of the Leader of the Opposition title: “It really is heartbreaking because Hon Fraser was the Opposition Leader for a while and he played a good role, but the way how they make it like he aint do a good job like the other party could do a better job,” the caller said.
In noting that the situation can affect the unity within the Party the resident further stated: “How could I as a person, you throw me under the bus, I sit down with you and you made the public feel I didn’t do a good job. It is bitter…I can’t sit down with you when you make me feel like I did not do a good job. I am not a good Opposition Leader that’s the way how I see it.”
“They could have ride through that until the next election… I would have felt bad if I was Hon. Fraser, because Fraser is an experienced guy and he is strong and he is a serious person and then you will make him sound like I aint a good opposition leader…” he added.
Another caller used a scripture to decry the announcement: “The scripture says a brother offended is harder to unite than anything else in the world…It’s not impossible….Now you know there has been some bad blood between those two brothers for quite some time. If one had humble themselves particularly the new leader, and set a new foundation; and say well let me allow the new brother to serve the time. And when election finish and if we end up in the Opposition again I would be Opposition Leader because I am the Chairman.”
“Last time Julian was the Chaiman and they fought him not to be the Leader of the Opposition. The whole group fought him, and it’s the same thing the Governor did. Andrew is the Chairman and the group fought against Fraser and he (Governor) use his power to appoint the one who is chairman of the party. Nothing wrong with that, that is constitutional. What the group should be looking at is unity of the party because we are all playing for this ring in basketball championship, but if you’re divided and everybody wants to be in charge you’re going to lose. Now if I reject you in all form and make you feel like you are not appreciated you are not accepted how can we work and how can we move on,” the caller added.
Another resident weighed in on the discussion saying: “They should have left Fraser where he was, and leave Andrew where he is — he just get the position. Fraser was there before, he just get the vote in December; and all of a sudden now it’s a big uproar, its garbage you sending the wrong message to the people for them to support you.”