Home Commentary Open forum Constitutional Conventions: 1954 and 2007

Constitutional Conventions: 1954 and 2007


Dear Source:
It is very interesting in the sense that this year we will attempt to rewrite our constitution for fifth time. And why is that? Well, looking back as far as 1954 when through the Constitutional Convention to draft a Second Revised Organic Act, I see that some of the issues facing this year's delegates will be the same-54 years later.
Now, the 1954 Convention was comprised of 33 elected delegates: 11 were members of the Legislature; 12 were members at large; and 10 district members. In that time, the Convention held twenty public sessions in the legislative hall. As a result, these delegates produced several major proposals to include, (a) elective governor and lieutenant governor for term of four years; (b) abolition of the limitation on voting for legislative members at large; (c) representation in the U.S. Congress through a Resident Commissioner or delegate to the House of Representative; (d) the right to vote for the U.S. President and Vice President in national election; (e) abolition of the veto of local laws by the President of the United States; (f) a comptroller to be appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the Legislature and for a 10-year term; (g) the Organic Act to be amended by the Legislature or by popular initiative or by a constitutional convention and; (h) authorized the Legislature to fix salaries of its members, effective upon election of a succeeding legislature.
A keen look at the above clearly shows that what had not happened were (b), (d), (f), (g) and (h). Throughout the 54 years these issues have been debated over and over again. In this upcoming Constructional Convention, it has already been injected in the minds of Virgin Islanders; say for example, "We should have the right to vote for the President of the United States."
To go one step further, during the 1954 Convention, according to its history, a proposal was adopted that dealt with the question of status of the territory. Which is also a flaming issue being considered in this year's convention.
1954 it was adopted that the will of the people speaking through 33 delegates and 14,076 qualified voters that, (1) The people of the Virgin Islands are unalterably opposed to annexation of the Virgin Islands by any State of the Union as a country, city or precinct, or to any commonwealth or other territory under the jurisdiction of the United States; (2) The people of the Virgin Islands are unilaterally opposed to independence from the United States of America and; (3) the People of the Virgin Islands desire to have the Virgin Islands remain an unincorporated territory under the constitutional system of the United States with the fullest measure of international self-government and in the closest association with the United States of America, and the Virgin Islands shall hereafter be designated an "autonomous territory."
Interestingly for me, as I traversed the contours of my neighbor, mainly St. Croix, I found that quite a number of Virgin Islanders seemed content with the above 1954 resolution. However, it my opinion, although many are satisfied with our present status, I found that what is not clear to some, is the unmasked denotative understanding of the various status choices both politically and socially. This, in my estimation will be the task for this year's delegates-their ability to define the blood and flesh of these status choices; what their effects or consequences will or could be and how any one of them, if a choice is made, translate into the betterment of everyday living not only for now but for the future?
Another fascinating element for me in regards to the 1954 Constructional Convention is who were the 33 delegates? Why is this? Well, all 33 delegates were indeed the political stalwarts of the Virgin Islands. These men and women have a left a political legacy that in practicality, defined what the Virgins Islands is today. Furthermore, the caliber of these delegates, in my opinion, is not what I see in today's choices. I said this to say, for me a delegate to any Constructional Convention should be a person who understands the social and political history of the Virgin Islands. He or she should have been an integral participator in the times and struggle of these islands and possessed the knowledge to transcribe his or hers experience into tangible and practical working solutions in the development of a nation-in this case, a territory.
Now, did these 33 delegates in 1954 achieved the mentioned above criteria and did they succeed in their implementation. In this writer's mind, the answer is yes. As I said before, most, if not all of these delegates were the political forces in the Virgin Islands at the time and to put sustenance to my argument, I must mention them:
Ann. E. Abramson, Aubrey A. Anduze, Vivian Anduze, Bertha C. Boschulte, James A. Bough, James O'Neal Henderson, Randall N. James, Frits E. Lawaetz, John L. Maduro, Theovald E. Moorehead, James Bridgeman, Warren Brown, Clarice A. Bryan, Horace A. Callwood, Lee M. Cole Jr, Morris De Castro, Mario De Chabert, Ronald De Lugo, Augustin Doward, Basilio Felix, Felix A. Francis, Vincente Garcia, Aureo Diaz Morales, Earle B. Ottley, David A. Puritz, Percival H. Reese, Ruby M. Rouss, Axel Schade, Roy Sewer, Julius E. Sprauve Jr, Angel Suarez Jr, Manuel Torres, and Charles W. Turnbull.
Winston Nugent
King's Hill, St. Croix

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 [email protected].


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here