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Constitutional Convention Tackles Impeachment, 'Native' Definition

June 24, 2008 — Spirited discussions of how impeachment should work and the meaning of the phrase "native Virgin Islander" filled the air at the D.C. Canegata Ballpark in Christiansted Monday evening during a meeting of the committee of the whole of the 5th Constitutional Convention.
Outlining their personal concerns to the gathered delegates were Edward L. Browne of the Edward L. Browne Center in Christiansted and former Lt. Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Each gave presentations, then took turns answering questions.
Mapp urged the delegates to limit impeachment to malfeasance or nonfeasance by elected officials, exempting departmental commissioners who serve at the bidding and pleasure of the governor.
"A commissioner implements a policy of the executive, and the policy is not popular with the Legislature, should that commissioner have to face impeachment?" he asked, suggesting that impeachment of unelected officials raised concerns about separation of powers, checks and balances and basic fairness.
Mapp expressed doubt about the definition of a Native Virgin Islander being considered for inclusion in the constitution.
As currently proposed, it reads: "A Native Virgin Islander shall be defined as any person born or domiciled in the Virgin Islands prior to 1927 and who was not a citizen of any other country or nation and any person who is an offspring of parent or parents born or domiciled in the Virgin Islands prior to 1927 and who was not a citizen of any other country or nation." (See "'Native' Definition Tweaked by Constitution Committee.")
"It excludes many in our community who are native to here," Mapp said. "Many were brought here from Vieques by the military in the '30s and '40s, raised families who were born here and have no other home. By the stroke of a pen in the language, they could find themselves not native."
The 1927 date was problematic for Mapp, too.
"The suffering of the people who were disenfranchised between 1917 and 1927 is important," he said, "but I am not quite sure if defining that suffering in the constitution through ancestry is the way to address that 10-year period."
Constitutional Convention Delegate Gerard Emanuel argued that the proposed definition made no value judgment about non-natives, and did not need to mean a person born in the territory.
"Does merely being born in the U.S. make you a Native American?" he said. "We as Virgin Islanders have the right of self-determination."
In his presentation to the delegates, Browne gave a brief outline of V.I. history, providing a context for the current constitution-writing effort. He argued that slavery did not really end with Emancipation in 1848, but continued as a kind of serfdom through the Fireburn labor revolt of 1878 and subsequent labor reforms; through the sale of the territory to the U.S. by Denmark in 1917, in which the territory's residents were not consulted; past 1927, when the U.S. belatedly bestowed citizenship on the territory's residents; and on past that point.
To Browne, the creation of a constitution for the territory will be a seminal moment of progress for its people.
"If you here are able to get this done, we will have finally ended the slavery of our people," he said.
Browne and Mapp answered questions and provided testimony for the delegates to consider as they debate and craft a document. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the delegates, who have wide-ranging perspectives on these issues. The 5th Constitutional Convention resumed Tuesday morning with a plenary session in the Frits Lawaetz conference room of the Legislature in Frederiksted.
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June 24, 2008 -- Spirited discussions of how impeachment should work and the meaning of the phrase "native Virgin Islander" filled the air at the D.C. Canegata Ballpark in Christiansted Monday evening during a meeting of the committee of the whole of the 5th Constitutional Convention.
Outlining their personal concerns to the gathered delegates were Edward L. Browne of the Edward L. Browne Center in Christiansted and former Lt. Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Each gave presentations, then took turns answering questions.
Mapp urged the delegates to limit impeachment to malfeasance or nonfeasance by elected officials, exempting departmental commissioners who serve at the bidding and pleasure of the governor.
"A commissioner implements a policy of the executive, and the policy is not popular with the Legislature, should that commissioner have to face impeachment?" he asked, suggesting that impeachment of unelected officials raised concerns about separation of powers, checks and balances and basic fairness.
Mapp expressed doubt about the definition of a Native Virgin Islander being considered for inclusion in the constitution.
As currently proposed, it reads: "A Native Virgin Islander shall be defined as any person born or domiciled in the Virgin Islands prior to 1927 and who was not a citizen of any other country or nation and any person who is an offspring of parent or parents born or domiciled in the Virgin Islands prior to 1927 and who was not a citizen of any other country or nation." (See "'Native' Definition Tweaked by Constitution Committee.")
"It excludes many in our community who are native to here," Mapp said. "Many were brought here from Vieques by the military in the '30s and '40s, raised families who were born here and have no other home. By the stroke of a pen in the language, they could find themselves not native."
The 1927 date was problematic for Mapp, too.
"The suffering of the people who were disenfranchised between 1917 and 1927 is important," he said, "but I am not quite sure if defining that suffering in the constitution through ancestry is the way to address that 10-year period."
Constitutional Convention Delegate Gerard Emanuel argued that the proposed definition made no value judgment about non-natives, and did not need to mean a person born in the territory.
"Does merely being born in the U.S. make you a Native American?" he said. "We as Virgin Islanders have the right of self-determination."
In his presentation to the delegates, Browne gave a brief outline of V.I. history, providing a context for the current constitution-writing effort. He argued that slavery did not really end with Emancipation in 1848, but continued as a kind of serfdom through the Fireburn labor revolt of 1878 and subsequent labor reforms; through the sale of the territory to the U.S. by Denmark in 1917, in which the territory's residents were not consulted; past 1927, when the U.S. belatedly bestowed citizenship on the territory's residents; and on past that point.
To Browne, the creation of a constitution for the territory will be a seminal moment of progress for its people.
"If you here are able to get this done, we will have finally ended the slavery of our people," he said.
Browne and Mapp answered questions and provided testimony for the delegates to consider as they debate and craft a document. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the delegates, who have wide-ranging perspectives on these issues. The 5th Constitutional Convention resumed Tuesday morning with a plenary session in the Frits Lawaetz conference room of the Legislature in Frederiksted.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.