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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, May 24, 2024


March 31, 2003 – Ten years ago, on March 31, 1993, ownership of The West Indian Co. was transferred from its original Danish owners to the government of the Virgin Islands, which Edward E. Thomas, WICO chief executive officer, said changed the "psyche" of Virgin Islanders.
"The once owned," he said in an address on Monday, "have become the owners."
In the decade since, Thomas said, Havensight Mall, which was part of the acquisition, and which is owned by the Government Employees Retirement System but run by WICO, has earned $37 million for the retirement system. And the WICO dock operation has contributed $6.6 million in dividends and taxes to the V.I. government in the last ten years.
Thomas shared the information as the keynote speaker at Monday's Transfer Day celebration on St. Thomas, commemorating the 86th anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States.
Senate Vice President Loraine Berry, standing in for Senate President David Jones at the ceremony, said the purchase, at $25 million, was the most expensive territorial acquisition the United States had ever made. "Mind you, not due to our economic value or for any immediate military use," she said, "but to prevent German takeover" for use of the islands as a launching ground for invasion during World War I.
In reference to the recent invasion of Iraq by the United States, Berry said, "Currently no great power has designs on us — or for that matter any other Caribbean Island. But we are an important link in the U.S. defense."
She continued: "In the 21st century, the mainland United States is confronted with a major illicit narcotics industry, a steady stream of illegal immigrants and now a shadowy international terrorist threat that seeks weak links in the U.S. borders."
The Virgin Islands must adjust its "mindset to confront these challenges," Berry said.
Ambassador Michael Merck, consul general of Denmark, who is visiting the territory with a contingent of 75 members of the Dansk Vestindisk Selskab, or Danish West Indian Society, said the history of the Virgin Islands has not always been pretty.
In fact, Merck said, it has at times been "pretty ugly." But, he added, "We should not repeat the stupid mistakes, but instead learn from them and hope for a better future."
About 150 people were in attendence at the the ceremony, held on the grounds of the Legislature Building, where the transfer took place in 1917.

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