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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, December 10, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesThe Right of the People to Alter the Government

The Right of the People to Alter the Government

Dear Source:
I suppose one can advance any number of reasons as to why many Virgin Islanders appear to sit back and allow the unconscionable raid (Act 6905) by politicians upon the present and future treasury of the Virgin Islands to go unchallenged; but perhaps, more significant than that, is the courageous initiative by those on St. Croix who have chosen to exercise their lawful rights in an effort to recall some of those responsible for the passage of the Act. Make no mistake about it; the persons spearheading and supporting the recall are taking democracy to another and very real level.
Even though there are some who question whether or not the legislators action are actual grounds for recall, when one examines the pertinent law, it appears clear, at least to this writer, that it is ultimately up to the voters in the last election who should determine if a senator neglected his/her duty; lack fitness or is incompetent.
Be that as it may, both the two founding documents of the United States (The Declaration and the Constitution) along with the Revised Organic Act of 1954 support and encourage the action taken by those behind the recall. There is one segment in the Declaration of Independence, for instance, which makes it abundantly clear that "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (one's unalienable rights) it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government."
Certainly as this recall picks up momentum and one ponders potential outcomes and possibilities, it may perhaps do us well, to reflect on instances where effective statesmen in similar situations acted in the best interests of the populace. For example, several years ago, when a few politicians began to pressure the late Julius Nyerere to increase their salary, he retorted by admonishing them and pointing out that those who demanded fat salaries for sheer pomp and show-off, while some people in the country do not have enough to eat, have no clothes and have no proper place to live, should pause and ask themselves where they are leading the country. He further asked, which politician get elected by telling the voters he/she wanted to improve his/her personal position and get security for his/her future? He then said that politicians normally seek political office by telling the people they want an opportunity to serve them and look out for their interests. After campaigning on such basis, "what right", Nyrere asked, "does such a politician has to use his/her position for his/her own betterment?"
The basic point raised by Nyrere is certainly relevant to the Virgin Islands. There is no need to reiterate the prized benefits awarded to our politicians by Act 6905; however, readers should be reminded that over 35% of V.I. children live beneath the federal poverty level (the V.I. rate exceeds the 50 U.S. states), more than 20-odd thousands Virgin Islanders have no health insurance; and hundreds of families live off $15,000 or less annually. In point of fact, the $6.15 per hour minimum wage in the V.I. means that there are those who are making somewhere between $12,000 and $13,000 annually. It is within this context that the astonishing financial package with which the politicians rewarded themselves becomes outrageous and simply unconscionable.
Another troubling development surrounding this issue is the near deafening silence on the part of both the governor and senators. In fact their silence is so disconcerting that I'm reminded of two quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
First, he advised us that " The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where stands at times of challenge and controversy." Secondly, he informed us that " The Negro (African-American) cannot win…if he is willing to sell the future of his children for his personal and immediate comfort and safety"(Act 6905).
In conclusion I extend my profound appreciation to those in the Territory and especially those on St. Croix who have taken a most courageous, dignified, democratic and hopefully historic stand with their participation in the people's effort to check the action of the legislative body.
Sele Adeyemi
Richmond, Virginia

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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