After three months standoff that included a protest, petition, and court appearances Fourth District Representative, Hon. Mark Vanterpool was sworn in as a member of the House of Assembly on Tuesday 16 July.
The administering of the oath in the House of Assembly on Tuesday officially ended the Fourth District saga that started with the resignation of Hon. Vanterpool and the decision of Speaker of the House Hon. Julian Willock to not swear the legislator into office on the view that the resignation was accepted and byelections should be held.
The matter after going to the high court was taken to the Court of Appeal and awaiting hearing when Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie asked the Speaker to swear Hon. Vanterpool in.
After the Premier made a statement disclosing that he asked the Speaker to consider administering the oath of office on Hon. Vanterpool there was an announcement that a notice of discontinuance for the matter that was before the court of appeal and many waited to hear if and when the Speaker was going to swear the Fourth District Representative in.
Prior to inviting Hon. Vanterpool to take his oath Hon. Willock addressed the House. He explained that he was moved to allow the swearing in of Hon. Vanterpool after noting that both the Premier, and Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn were expressing the view that it 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 on Tuesday.”
He also noted that the matter 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.
Hon. Vanterpool Wanted to Speak
A little after the swearing in took place the Speaker and the Fourth District Representative had an exchange of words over the fact that Hon. Vanterpool wanted to speak and the Speaker told him the time was not right to do so.
Hon. Vanterpool tried to get permission to speak by rising on a point of order. While on his feet he 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 told Vanterpool: “I would prefer if you speak then in other business.” 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…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.”
Constituents Will Have a Say
Meanwhile Premier Fahie also weighed in on the swearing in of Hon. Vanterpool stating that the people of the Fourth District will still have a say in the future about the fact that Hon. Vanterpool resigned after being elected: “I trust the people and respect their will and intelligence. They will have the opportunity to judge the actions and conduct of their representatives. They will articulate how they feel about the inexplicable resignation of a man who pleaded for their vote and then abandoned them after the cataclysmic shift in power to a new government revealed itself,” the Premier stated.
“They will let Mr Vanterpool and this House know whether they felt betrayed and deceived because of his resignation, his public videos on social media and his sudden volte face. The ultimate power and final say resides in the hands of the people when they exercise their right to make that almighty “X” to elect their representative,” Hon. Fahie added.
While referencing his intervention that resulted in the closer of the ongoing saga the Premier said: “I therefore thought long and hard about my decision to approach the Honourable Speaker and ask that Mr. Vanterpool be allowed to take the oath and be sworn in as a Member of this august House. In balancing the scales of public justice, I considered the fact that the guiding light in my political philosophy has always been to put the people first. It is my overriding responsibility and objective,” he said.
The Premier therefore thanked the Speaker for agreeing to administer Hon. Vanterpool’s oath on Tuesday: “I wish to thank you, Mr. Speaker for being open to suasion and for being so considerate and receptive to the overtures made by myself and my friend, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition and making today possible. You have served this Honourable House well and enhanced the integrity of your office.”