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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesConstitutional Convention: An Embarrassing Situation

Constitutional Convention: An Embarrassing Situation

Dear Source:
The Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention is now in its second year. The original Constitution of the United States, by contrast, took five months to complete. In many ways, the Virgin Islands attempt at a Constitution is similar. There was much squabbling at both; basic citizenry rights were bantered back and forth; and the convention was split on whether or not local governments (state at the federal level-municipalities at the Virgin islands level) should even exist. Much compromise allowed our United States Constitution to exist at all. The document was not overwhelmingly accepted by the population and only managed to narrowly squeak by when the vote finally came. The delegates to that Convention understood that compromise was the only way to create a document which would be equitable to every citizen even though some would disagree with the contents.
The same can be said about this fifth attempt to create a Constitution for the Virgin Islands. The glowing difference is: the delegates to the Convention have not considered historical events, have not considered the current issues facing Virgin Islanders nor have they looked to the future. The same issues that failed the previous four attempts have continuously hampered the Constitutional process. Delegates fail to show up for meetings and individual privilege seems to take precedent over rule of order. A rather embarrassing situation given that the world is watching.
Many are now calling to dissolve the Convention altogether. The Governor, in his State of the Territory Address, pointed out that the wording of the Constitution must be suitable for review by the President and Congress and, of course, a majority of the voters of the Virgin Islands.
Instead of dissolution, it might be better to allow what language the delegates decide on to be presented to the Governor. The Governor then must transmit the Document to the President of the United States as a matter of protocol. In his letter of transmittal, he can suggest to the President what his feelings are concerning the language. My guess is the Governor, as it is with the majority of Virgin Islanders, is not happy with the language as it is now. I would suggest the he will transmit that concern to the President who will, in turn, express his concerns to the Congress. I would further suggest that the Congress will send the document back to the Governor and Legislature of the Virgin Islands with its disapproval and recommendations. Maybe then, the Virgin Islands delegation will see the mistakes made and perhaps, future legislation to create another convention will contain such recommendations as the Congress has provided rather than allow failed language to be the basis of the attempt. We need a Constitution and we must try again.
May is the deadline for the Convention to complete its work. Most likely, citizens will not have any opportunity to directly comment on the language from now until then. It is then up to citizens to dialogue through the media with the hope that delegates might listen. May will come fast and with luck, Virgin Islanders will know by mid-summer what the decision of Congress will be.
Let's hope the Virgin Islands Legislature does not consider another extension. We have already been embarrassed enough.

Paul Devine
St. John

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