Mr Browne asked the question during a meeting at the West End Community Centre on Thursday evening, November 3, 2022, hosted by Opposition Leader Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) on topics including vacating of seats, By-Election, General Election, Interim Representation and other matters of general importance.
Armed with legislation, the former Police Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda questioned Hon Fraser on whether enough time has elapsed since Hon Fahie has not been in the territory to represent the district.
“Unfortunately, that is not the issue, him being here to represent the people… it’s the vacating of the seat is the issue and four months has not elapsed,” Hon Fraser said, adding that Hon Fahie has successfully applied for leave of absence for previous sittings of the House.
Hon Fraser said it therefore cannot be termed as ‘dragging of feet’ once the vacating of the seat is still in the confines of the law. “We have three different pieces of legislation that deal with this situation that we are in. We have the Constitution, we have the Standing Orders and we have the Elections [Ordinance] Law.
“Right now, the Elections Ordinance (law) speaks to the vacating of the seat. What the Standing Orders does, it tells you when you have to vacate your seat, because the constitution defers to the Standing Orders,” he said.
Hon Fraser said the constitution lists many cases why a sitting member may vacate a seat, but when it comes to absences, it defers to the Standing Orders.
Hon Fraser said the Elections Ordinance; however, says on normal circumstances, if a seat is vacated, then the Governor has to call a by-election within two months, except in the case of the dissolution of the House within four months of the vacating of the seat, then the dissolution takes precedent and there is no by-election, instead, you go to a general election.
"You have to be somewhat of a student of these different pieces of legislation to actually pick up on these things,” he said.
According to the HoA Standing Orders, Members who fail to attend sittings of the HoA without an approved notice of absence would have to vacate their seat after three consecutive absences in any one session.
The House Speaker, Corine N. George-Massicote revealed that on June 23, 2022, Hon Fahie had provided written notice of his absence from the HoA, while identifying the terms of his bail condition in the US as preventing him from attending. The speaker indicated that Hon Fahie would be denied leave from the 5th, 6th & future HoA Sittings.
She said, with the US case moved to January 2023, a decision for Leave for the Fifth and Sixth Sittings had been subject to scrutiny, given they were new applications, and that Hon Fahie also did not provide a time frame for his return
Hon Fraser revealed that ahead of the decision, however, the Premier caused to have summonses served on Members of the HoA on May 6, 2022, as follows: Third Sitting of the 4th Session 4th HoA - Thursday May 19, 2022, Fourth Sitting of the 4th Session 4th HoA - Thursday, May, 26, 2022, Fifth Sitting of the 4th Session 4th HoA - Tuesday, May 31, 2022 which ended with the entire schedule later rescinded and reworked.
He said; however, the Fourth Sitting did not convene until June 30 and thereafter followed by the Fifth Sitting on July 19, to which there was a 6th Sitting that convened on July 21, 2022, and the most recently concluded 7th Sitting of September 27 to October 25, 2022.
“Considering no leave given, and the summonses dates and sittings were held as per notice of May 6th, this First District Seat would have long been vacant.”
He said as of October 25, 2022, however, three consecutive Sittings in this Session were missed without Leave and that, according to The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, Sec. 67.(3)(b) (3), An elected member of the House of Assembly shall also vacate his or her seat in the House— (b) if he or she is absent from the sittings of the House for such period and in such circumstances as may be prescribed in the Standing Orders of the House.
“This being the case, as you would recall when we were here on Oct 6th, there was the thought that it was the three sittings that constituted vacancy, and I pointed out that it wasn’t, and I was correct. And that brings us to the 8th Sitting, the convening of which was postponed on Tuesday due to an illness,” he detailed.
Hon Fraser said as an example, if someone had to vacate their seat by August, then a by-election would kick in. “It just so happened that we are at the end of this House of Assembly and a dissolution is coming within four months of the vacating of the seat,” he said, hinting that the VI may instead move straight into a general elections rather than a by-election for the D1 seat.
Meanwhile, in contrast to Hon Fraser's view, former Deputy Premier Kedrick D. Pickering has said there is no law to oust Hon Fahie from the House of Assembly and that the Speaker has no legal authority to deny Hon Fahie leave of absence.
The resident had asked the question during a meeting in West End Community Centre on Thursday evening, November 3, 2022, hosted by Opposition Leader Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) on topics including vacating of seats, Bi-Election, General Election, Interim Representation and other matters of general importance.
The House speaker revealed that on June 23, 2022, Hon Fahie had provided written notice of his absence from the HoA, while identifying the terms of his bail condition in the US as preventing him from attending. The speaker indicated that Hon Fahie would also denied leave from 5th, 6th & future HoA Sittings.