St. John Tradewinds News

Constitutional Convention Important for Self Governance

Editor,

Why is the Virgin Islands Fifth Constitutional Convention important? How can we find ways to make the average citizen excited about it? What can be said to get citizens on the constitutional bandwagon?
The answers to these questions are not at all difficult. The Virgin Islands is a nation which never had its own lawful document to steer its own course. The Organic Act is a congressional act which allows self-governance for the Virgin Islands but does not or can not define the people or the wishes of the Virgin Islands. A constitution for the Virgin Islands would provide that definition and also provide a new beginning which would, forever, show the world that we are truly a self-governing entity.
Many things would change if the Constitution was a reality. Aside from the ability to self-govern, the world would recognize the Virgin Islands no longer as a mere “possession” of the United States. International doors would open up and local Caribbean countries would be able to deal directly with the Virgin Islands government rather than through the government of the United States. The U.S. Congress, for many years, has asked the Virgin Islands government to create its own constitution so the archaic Organic Act could be repealed. In doing so, the Congress would recognize that the people of the Virgin Islands truly want to take their place on the world stage. The simple economics of having a constitution is reason enough to have one.
To think that the Virgin Islands and Guam are the only two habited entities of the United States that do not have their own Constitution is staggering. In our modern world, we must take part as equals or risk falling behind. We must have our own constitution to prevent this.
If we make these facts known to the citizens of the Virgin Islands, through a medial blitz, perhaps then the people would realize the ramifications and enlightening realities that having a constitution could bring to them. We know that the convention itself is under-funded and unable to do that but the government itself could. Educating the public that our very future is at stake in everything they do would help get the word out. In every speech, in every action that the government takes, it could mention the constitution.
Often, government action is taken without considering that the new constitution could alter that action or may reverse it entirely. The current and future planning for the governance of the Virgin Islands should keep in mind the constitutional possibilities. Changes in every branch of government will occur when the constitution becomes a reality and the government should always be mindful that what they do now may very well be significantly diminished by the new constitution.
I would suggest that senators, the governor and all government officials continually regard the constitution when making decisions. The media would then print or otherwise get that information out to every citizen. In some instances, government officials have “deferred” to what the constitution will say on certain issues and cannot make definitive decisions at that moment. This is good because it makes citizens aware that perhaps the constitution will make a difference.
Regarding the constitution in every decision made by government would go a long way in promoting the idea. Maybe then we can get the people to realize just how important the constitution will affect their future. The major news media in the Virgin Islands should dedicate a section on the constitution alone and report everything the convention is doing daily. Good reporting could provide information on what people are saying about the constitution and how the delegates feel on issues. I believe that more public input would occur if more information was passed. I challenge the government and media to do just that.
We need to move toward greater autonomy and the constitution is the starting point. Without it, we will continue to linger as a mere “possession” of the United States.

Paul Devine,
St. John