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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 3, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesA Good Foundation for the Constitutional Convention

A Good Foundation for the Constitutional Convention

Dear Source:
I have several issues I'd like to comment on. These issues have been bothering me for sometime, and by staying quiet, I only allow it to annoy me. I will touch on a few.
I have listened to all the emotional and highly intense debates about the 5th Constitution Convention on talk shows, forums and other media outlets, and I realize that when it comes to dealing with Citizenship, municipal government, legislative reform, judicial reform, bill of rights, change of flag with eagle and navy seal, sea waters boundaries, land and water use plan, an Agriculture Authority, land tax, Excise tax, Gross receipt, immigration, custom, National Park service, and different agencies taking over by the federal government, we have either fallen short on public education or our people simply don't care to learn it. Many are left to find out for themselves, what issues are important. Others, take advantage of this, and have gone to the media to make this campaign into an anti-citizenship election. It's a shame, which displays a lack of respect for those of us who have lived here all our lives and invested into our islands as the only home we have.
Also, everyone I talk to is amazed and alarmed by the large number of persons running for seats for the 5th Constitution Convention. That can only be blamed on the limited qualifications for a delegate. For example, the three-year residency requirement transfers the message that you don't need to understand 90 years of Virgin Island's history under United States sovereignty. There is the implication that three years on our islands gives one insight into the issue that have arisen over the past 90 years that must be addressed in our Constitution.
Additionally, many people running as delegates have not read or studied the Treaty Acquisition 1917, the Congressional Act, and the Transfer of 1917 to Navy Rule, Jones Act, Monroe Doctrine, Colonial Law of 1906 and the Colonial Council, 1927 citizenship rights, and 1934 creation of Virgin Islands Company as the liberated lands. They want to play blind to the teachings of the 1936 Organic Act, which is based upon international suffrage and a bill of rights; the1948 re-creation of V.I. Corporation; 1954 Revised Organic Act based on self-government; 1964 First Constitution Convention, and closing of V. I. Corporation in 1966 under secretary of interior Stewart Udall and former appointed Governor Ralph Paiwonsky and the 4th Legislature that worked behind close doors. They do not know about the Governor Act of 1968, which lead us to our first elected Governor in 1970; the 1971 Second Constitution Convention leads us to Delegate to Congress Act of 1972; and Congressional Act of 1976 with Public Law 48-485; the Third Constitution Convention in 1977; and 1980 the Fourth Constitution Convention leads us to were we are today .The Virgin Islands had one of the first civil governments in the Caribbean; yet, ironically, today we are the last to deal with a constitution and status in the Caribbean. If you don't know these things, and understand our culture and the laws that govern us today, as old or recent as they may be, how can you claim to know what is best for us?
Since St. Croix is the only Caribbean island that was under seven different flags, our history is unique and now lies as the melting pot with different nationalities from all around the world. I was full of excitement when I heard that Dr. Lavern Ragster, President of The University of The Virgin Islands, and Travengza Roach, Outreach Coordinator for the fifth Constitution Convention, got invited to St. George's, Grenada to speak to the United Nations Decolonization Committee's General Assembly on America's and England's Over Sea Territories and the importance of having a constitution defining status in the Caribbean. The Caribbean has defined itself through persons like Eric Williams and the Federation from Trinidad to Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Haiti, St.Vincent, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, and Bahamas. All of these islands have their Constitution and independence. England's oversea territories are Tortola, Anguilla, Cayman Islands, St. Eustatius, Montserrat and several others, which have their constitution "belonger" citizenship and status. As a result the Congressional Act of 1976 state that when the Virgin Islands draft their Constitution and define their status it should be with Guam, Marina Islands and Puerto Rico. Congress is deciding if to make the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico the 51st State in the Union. If that happens, the Virgin Islands might fall within the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and lose its territorial status.
The time has come for patriotic Virgin Islanders to plan for generations to come before it is too late. Don't be afraid to define who we are as Virgin Islands citizens under the United States Constitution.

Percival "Tahemah" Edwards
St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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