Sept. 1, 2004 – Edward L. Browne, who gained national attention recently by his refusal to eat solid food for 12 days to protest the exclusion of American citizens in the territory from voting for president, left Tuesday morning to attend the GOP National Republican Party convention. Browne hopes to meet with Republican Party officials and convince them to begin a discussion on the voting rights of Virgin Islanders, but the national party may have already thwarted his crusade.
The Republican National Committee tabled the V.I. Republicans' effort to put the rights of Virgin Islanders to vote for the president on the national agenda at last week's platform meeting.
Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal, V.I. national chairwoman, according to media reports, said that two other issues important to the Virgin Islands were also tabled until 2008. One was the Social Security income resolution to protect the rights of children receiving support and the second concerned raising the Medicaid cap for the islands
"These are important issues to the Virgin Islands. If I get a chance to tell my story, I think more people will realize how important," Browne said as he unloaded two suitcases from his car. "We need to talk about this now."
Jim Oliver, Republican Party state chairman for the Virgin Islands, selected Browne, a political neophyte, to attend the convention as a delegate after one of the alternates cancelled. (See "Hunger Striker Becomes National Delegate").
Browne was accompanied by his wife Debra on his trip to New York. The couple will spend six days there. Browne is a registered Republican and his wife is a registered Democrat. "If we could vote for president, I could convince Debra to vote for Bush," Browne said with a smile. He said V.I. Republican Delegate Reuben Fenton would arrange interviews with GOP officials in New York for him. "It's a go-and-see process," Browne remarked.
The former hunger striker remains steadfast in his quest for V.I. voting rights and discounted critics who have suggested that getting the presidential vote would mean V.I. residents would have to pay federal taxes.
He referred to V.I. soldiers who gave their lives for freedom, "Are the privileges we get more important than the blood we shed? I will continue to fight to have the Virgin Islands people treated like first class citizens."
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