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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 3, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesSenator Opposes Adoption of Old Act as a Constitution

Senator Opposes Adoption of Old Act as a Constitution

I stand in strong opposition to recent suggestions that we in the Virgin Islands should adopt the Revised Organic Act of 1954 as our Constitution. The idea that a constitution to govern a people could originate with some other source but the people is preposterous. The inherent nature of a constitution is such that it outlines the substance and structure for a people to govern themselves. Moreover, the principles underlying a people’s will to govern must come from the people, be of the people, and reflect the fabric of the people.
In the truest sense, a constitution could never originate from a source that is "foreign" to the social, cultural, historical, and economic dynamics of a people. In order for the US Virgin Islands to honestly adopt a constitution, the final product must represent and reflect the unique composition of the territory, taking into account its history, socio-economic development, multicultural dynamics, and political maturation.
We should not and cannot accept a document drafted for and by Congress, nor should we accept our Legislature adopting the Organic Act as a Constitution to be amended. The entire procedure and process suggested is convoluted, an affront to the correct process, unworkable and fatally flawed. The only legitimate process is to have a constitutional convention, where the people of the Virgin Islands are given a chance to elect delegates for the particular purpose of drafting a Virgin Islands Constitution.
It then stands to reason that the people can adopt or reject a constitution. There is no sunset clause in the congressional authority that granted us permission to draft a Constitution. We can reject it any amount of times and revisit the issue when we as a people are ready for such an important document. As senators, it is our duty and responsibility to inform the people and involve our residents in this important process. We must educate and prepare our people to be ready to adopt a well-drafted, researched, debated and complete document that represents the collective will of the people through their duly elected delegates. Regardless of the fact that we have tried and failed four times before, there is no reason that we should now throw away another opportunity because there is a lack of interest or a sense of surrender in our ability to draft a document that expresses our wishes, respects our culture and acknowledges our history. The prior efforts and time are not wasted – we simply have to build on what has gone before and work until we get it right.
We, as senators, no matter how committed we are to wanting a constitution or whether we are seeking credit for saying that we facilitated the process, must realize when to step back and let the people decide. We are now in 2005. The last attempt at adopting a constitution was in 1981. Entire generations of new leaders have emerged, as well as potential delegates that were not born when that last constitution was rejected. Right now, the make-up of the 26th Legislature is diverse to the point that there is full representation, making the formation of this fifth constitutional convention ideal.
Although many can say we have successfully lived under the Revised Organic Act for the past 50 years, it is a document drafted in the halls of Congress in Washington D. C. that was meant to move us, as Virgin Islanders, towards more autonomy and control over the destiny of our territory. Furthermore, the deficiencies of the Revised Organic Act have been made apparent with various court cases.
In our hands, we have the opportunity to do what so many people, even now in today's world, are fighting for – create our own constitution. Additionally, as a people we have attained a sufficient level of political maturity, readying us to draft and adopt our own constitution. For some to think that we are incapable or somehow unprepared to draft and subsequently adopt our own mandate for self-governance is to totally underestimate our own abilities.
We all realize that the drafting of a Virgin Islands Constitution will pose many challenges for the entire community. At the end of the day, the final work product must reflect the will of the people. Ultimately this "will" must account for the interests of the various ethnic, racial, and cultural groups that dare call these islands home. When this is done, our constitution would be in keeping with the spirit and the underlying principle of a constitution. That is a mandate for self-governance of the people and by the people. I urge the people to accept this challenge that will in the end means more autonomy and brighter future for all Virgin Islanders.

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