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The Delegates Need Your Input


Dear Source:
I am pleased that Ms. Dena Langdon, in her recent article to the Source, has provided a semblance of what a constitution could look like. Even though the example she cited is for an established state of the union, it does show what language could be provided. Reading her article shows me that very carefully worded and specific language is required to make sure that the constitution covers what we need to write here in the Virgin Islands. At present, there is no completed constitution as the delegates have not compiled all the information they have nor have they completed all the public hearings necessary to allow the public to have valuable input.
The July deadline to complete the constitution, as the enabling law originally prescribed, has been moved up to October but it would be vastly more prudent to complete the document sooner so that it can go through the mandated process of delivery to the President of the United States for recommendations and on to the Congress for approval. That process could take 2 months. It would be a more convenient to the voters of the Virgin Islands to be able to vote and approve the constitution as a ballot question at the November General Elections. The greatest number of voters will go to the polls during this important election year and it is to every citizens advantage if the Constitution was passed by a majority of the voting population rather than having a special ballot question where it is traditionally a low-voter turnout.
As the enabling law (Act 6688-Oct. 2004 as revised by Act 6820) clearly states, the new constitution must utilize the non-controversial language which the Fourth Constitutional Convention delegates wrote. Since that effort happened twenty seven years ago, it has become abundantly clear that the language may not have any place with regard to the current attempt, thus I feel most of the language might just be controversial simply because times have changed significantly.
The delegates must consider any and all constitutional language based upon the Virgin Islands as it is today. They must look at the ensuing years since 1980 to see if we made mistakes in governing and they must also look at the realities of good government. The language they choose will be the balance between how well, or not-so-well we did as a governing nation since 1954 when the Revised Organic Act allowed the government we have today. If the delegates choose to not see the obvious flaws in our present laws, or overlook the problems we have had with disappearing funds and lack of oversight, then they are doing a disservice to the people. I firmly believe that the delegates want to create a constitution which will be good for all the people; one that is fair and takes into account the sins of the past, the needs of the people now and well into the future. The language of the Fourth Constitutional Convention notwithstanding, the delegates should look beyond what is easy or convenient and make the hard choices they know they must make to better our society.
On Monday, March 10 and Tuesday, March 11, the convention will meet on St John in an unprecedented display of fortitude. There will be four meeting in two days almost continuously. One meeting, a meeting of the whole will occur on Monday from 2 to 5 pm. From 6 to 9 pm the Committee on Government will meet. On Tuesday, the convention will meet from 2 to 5 pm with the Committee on Suffrage, Recall, Initiative and Referendum meeting from 6 to 9pm. All meetings will be held at the St John Legislature. The delegates are working hard to complete this document and they hope that all meetings will be well attended with testimony from the public. We have to thank the delegates for their hard work to date with very limited funding. It is up to us as voters to support and lend information to their efforts.
We don't have Constitution yet but we are well on our way. Your fellow citizens-the delegates-want and need your input.
Please attend the hearings on St John March 10 and 11. Your involvement will go a long way in getting this document completed. With your input we CAN have a Constitution with language that we all can live with.

Paul Devine
St. John

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