When we think about becoming, we are engaged in nature, the essence about being true to ourselves. We are looking to the future through self-actualization and aspirations for transformation. In this sense, every human being is a work in progress, a work on the potter’s wheel, a work under the direction of the human designer, God. As human beings, under normal circumstances we trust the potter to select the clay, mold and shape it, and refine it on his refining wheel, until it has reached the desired image and its integrity has been certified.
While we are becoming on the potter’s wheel, God has given us opportunities to be potters in various spheres of life. While we are becoming, being refined through the opportunities to serve humankind, we are also called to participate in the process of helping others to become, to refine their lives, to reflect the beauty of the clay from which they were created. Each of us is endowed with the attributes, the intellectual passion and creative insights, the graces, the skills, and the knowledge to help us to complete our assignments successfully.
The same concept of becoming can be applied to global, national, and local undertakings in development. The Virgin Islands has been in the process of becoming since 1834 and after one hundred and eighty-eight years, is still becoming. It has not achieved its optimum development status, and each of us as potters are given assignments to assist it in becoming the finest place it can become for humankind.
We have been doing this for generations under the banner of self-determination with slow steps with intermittent quickened movements. Today, we are at the crossroads on this journey of self-determination. As I understand, selfdetermination can be defined as a) the act or power of making one’s own decisions and determining one’s own political status and b) the state of being free from the control or power of another entity. As Cuts-Baril wrote:… the right to self-determination is a fundamental tenet of international law, influencing relationships between states and amongst the sub-units and peoples who make up those states. Rooted in the politics of decolonization, the right to self-determination is now involved by groups in a variety of 2 political contexts around the world to support claims for increased… autonomy and democratic participation. It involves a careful balancing of fundamental human rights, the interests of the state, and perceived global interest in maintaining territorial integrity and sovereignty which represent two dimensions of self-determination-internal and external.
Internal self-determination includes a wide range of practices from managing diversity to addressing historic claims for sovereignty and self-governance and external self-determination refers to the rights of peoples to define their place in the international community.
The crossroads where we are today in our internal self-determination process was energized in 1938 when Hope Stevens, a native lawyer, living in New York, visited his homeland and jolted British Virgin Islanders out of their colonial slumber. He formed the organization called “The Civic League” which began to awaken their consciousness which resulted in the turbulent 1940’s. B.V. islanders fought for the establishment of a secondary school-a battle which brough Governor Freeston from Antigua to settle the claim; a greater voice in policy making for the Territory by reducing the powers of the Commissioner (today’s struggle); the removal of the Commissioner; the re-instatement of an elected legislative council; and the improvement of living conditions. The achievement of these goals
involved demonstrations in 1948 and 1949 for greater self-determination. The results were the establishment of a full secondary school in 1948, and the return of the Legislative Council in 1950 after forty-eight years of absence by design. The political seed for our internal and external self-determination, sown in the 1940’s, began to take root with the Constitution and Elections Act, 1950 which empowered some male B. V. Islanders to vote for their legislative representatives for the first time. By 1953 the battle for universal suffrage was won and in 1954 women could vote for the first time. The Constitution and Elections Act, 1954 established the District System with five electoral districts and increased the elected representatives to the Legislative Council to six, thus exceeding the nominated members for the first time. In 1956 we strengthened our selfdetermination resolve by demanding the defederation of the Territory, thereby giving greater autonomy to the local government, and this autonomy was further increased in 1959 when the Governor of the Leeward islands was abolished. The Administrator’s powers were increased with direct responsibility to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These developments led to the Virgin Islands (Constitution) Order 1967 which introduced the Ministerial System of 3
Government, and in 1976 the Virgin Islands (Constitution) Order, 1976, which among other provisions increased the number of elected members to the Legislative council, with four members representing the single electoral district of the Virgin Islands (At large system) and the other nine members, the nine electoral districts into which the Virgin Islands was divided. The Virgin Islands (Constitution) order 2007 gave greater autonomy to elected members and the Virgin Islands Constitution (Amendment) Order 2015 provided for Junior Ministers. All those benchmarks are evidence of our self-determination.
Our main challenge at the present crossroads is to determine where we go from here. We have seen the achievements of those political leaders who became the architects of our self-determination; we have seen the constitution at work and experienced where it obstructs rather than facilitates our journey of selfdetermination. Will future generations praise or condemn us for the course we take today in continuing this journey?
The task before the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) is to rethink, revise and rechart the course of our self-determination as a people, incorporating the views, visions, and aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands. Now is the time for all of us to let our views be heard, recognized, respected, and incorporated in a new constitution, as we aim to become the best of and for which we are capable.