Home Commentary Op-ed IS GRAFT A WAY OF LIFE IN THE V.I.?



Truly, I have never minded perfect strangers in the "states" asking me where I am from after hearing my Virgin Islands’ accented speech. I always proudly respond, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Many times the inquirer followed-up with comments that were favorable to the VI and I would take them all in with pride.
More and more as I travel, or correspond via e-mail or in person with Virgin Islanders residing off-island, I am finding that I am being asked about negative stuff that is said to occur in the VI. I don’t know about you, but after reading the negative article on the Virgin Islands and Jeffrey Prosser in the Wall Street Journal, it has all become too much for me to handle. I am now changing my place of origin to Guam. Why Guam? ‘Cause I have not read the kinds of articles or seen the kind of TV specials about Guam over the years that I have about the VI.
Do we have graft as a way of life in the Virgin Islands, as stated in the article ? I don’t personally know; I have heard rumors over the years, but they have not been specific as to whom, what or when. I thought they were either not true or grossly exaggerated. Maybe I choose not to believe they could be true, or I was in denial, as they like to say now. For those of you who do know the sordid, corrupt details, you should not rest comfortably at night. Report it to the proper authorities, or be prepared to see our islands deteriorate further. For those of you who have reason to know that the article in the Wall Street Journal is false, in part or its entirety, deluge them with letters to the editor. Do not just let the matter rest!
When will we have enough of the negative reputation we seem to have acquired? When will we change this reputation? I don’t know, but for starters we must realize, as I have come to, that there must be some truth to these rumors which has also resulted in the U.S. Attorney publicly stating that the investigation of public corruption has become his number one priority in the VI.
On a related matter, it seems that fairly frequently I hear of houses for sale of either native middle class Virgin Islanders or middle class long-term residents. They are rapidly joining a seemingly endless list of expatriate Virgin Islanders living in Florida, Atlanta, etc . . . Many cite that the quality of life is declining in the VI and that they feel things will never change or improve. I must admit that there are increasingly days that I myself wonder about this. I might add that these people that are leaving are not our criminals or those lacking resources; no, they are our tax paying professionals or business owners, who are also natives or long-term residents.
Where will the money continue to come from to run our massive government if our tax payers keep leaving and seemingly are not replaced? There are so many of these expatriates living in Florida that they now have their own annual bacchanal attended by hundreds. In addition, you also have organized expatriate groups in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York, among others I am sure. A sad state of affairs for those of us remaining here to turn out the lights.
This is a heartbreaking article to write. So many people known to me are stating their displeasure with the declining quality of life here, but are saying so privately, not publicly, as most of them belong to what is referred to as the "silent majority". Many of them are native Virgin Islanders whose families go back generations here. This latest article, if true, just makes everything worse. It is a clear call to every crooked, corrupt, graft giving unsavory investor to beat down our doors to move here. (Remember, it is said, that this article was on the front page in a newspaper with the highest daily circulation in the United States.)
I am remaining here to "turn off the lights", for now, but when I am away, I will be from Guam.
Editor’s note: Catherine Lockhart Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services commissioner, holds a master’s degree in social work and is a featured columnist. You can send comments to her on the articles she writes or topics you would like her to address at [email protected].


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