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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Dear Source,
In reference to Jack Monsanto's recent commentary on Krim Ballantine’s lawsuit in which he disagreed with Krim's argument and offered instead his view of "no representation without taxation," I offer the following as my reaction to both Krim's lawsuit and Monsanto's argument.
While Krim's lawsuit might very well be the Virgin Islands' first attempt to address the points that he has raised, similar attempts were made in Guam and Puerto Rico on the basic premise of his argument. My concern with the lawsuit has to do with the potential effect that his success can have on the unfinished business of addressing status options within the territory.
It seems foolhardy to expect that voters in the territory will seek to overturn the gain that Krim seeks in favor of any political status that may require giving up that gain when status negotiations are entered into with the federal government. In essence, status determination will be foreclosed by yet another piecemeal approach to a major political issue facing the Virgin Islands and the other territories.
If it is the desire of the federal government to quiet restless residents in its territories, one way to do so quickly and effectively is to pre-empt status deliberations and grant its offshore nationals the right to vote in its national elections. This would be the effect of a successful lawsuit by Krim Ballentine or by others who might follow him. While it is not difficult to relate to the issues raised in his lawsuit, is this the way that we wish to have our status issue settled?
Is the issue about U.S. citizens who by free choice move to the offshore territories having the right to vote in national elections? Or is the more important question about those Virgin Islanders or other residents of offshore territories who are U.S. citizens and who live permanently in their respective territories not being able to vote in national elections?
I can think of many who fall in this second category. I can think readily of family members, friends and acquaintances who lived to grand old ages in the territory and died without ever having had the privilege of voting in a national election. To do so would have required them to disrupt their lives and move to mainland America or to Hawaii. Is this a reasonable requirement? I also can think of today's centenarians who have not been privileged to vote in a national election because they have chosen to make a U.S. territory their permanent home Something about this reality seems patently wrong.
In the early colonial period referred to by Mr. Monsanto, his canned response of "no representation without taxation" would suffice, but in today’s world, the single issue of taxation, as important as it might be, is an inadequate response to this complex problem, and especially so for a small "t" territory as against a large "T" Territory. We are a small "t" territory, which means that we are not in transition to statehood. Will we ever become a large "T" Territory? If it is unlikely that we will ever become a large "T" Territory and we are destined to be classified as not being in transition to statehood, what are the nation's long-range plans for us? This is a particularly important question in view of the nation's interests in promoting its democratic principles around the world.
The taxation issue is time worn and needs to be substituted with cogent arguments for replacing the current colonial arrangement for something more palatable and respectful of the special circumstances in which the small island territories and their inhabitants find themselves. The leaders of the small island territories should ban together and form a consortium as the basis for their joint efforts to address the concerns that are mutual to them in Congress and in the appropriate body within the United Nations.
Depending only on the "influence" of the single non-voting delegate in Congress from each territory to address these concerns and chart a new course is not enough. Perhaps interested parties should consult the vast amount of literature available within the United Nations Development Program for assistance in identifying language that more aptly characterizes our plight.
It is truly sad that we have not had success, based on our own initiative, in moving the status question forward. It appears that because of our failure to do so, our future may very well be determined by others and not necessarily by those who have endured their less than first-class citizenship status for generations.
Gaylord A. Sprauve
St. Thomas

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