In part 1 of this commentary, I started sharing my thoughts on the Constitutional Review and why this exercise is laying the foundation for the best days of these Islands we call home. The more research I conduct on this topic I realise more that the system we have is not truly a democratic system but a structure of a king/queen and subjects. Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people and this is why being a non-self-governing territory as the United Nations describes our political status, is unacceptable.
We cannot flip a switch and become self-governing overnight, but it is essential to start the process NOW so that we will be ready when the time comes. As Spiderman’s uncle told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Being in control of one’s affairs as an individual requires maturity and the same principle applies to a country. The calibre of leadership required in this season is not to be taken for granted or lightly. The Leadership of a country is a reflection of the community they represent. If we are not satisfied with the job they are doing, we have every right to respectfully say so and make changes as necessary. We the People are the EMPLOYERS, not the employees and are responsible for holding our leaders accountable to the shared values of our society. Good governance is dependent on the people paying close attention at all the time as we are the ones affected when the boat runs aground, high, and dry on the rocks.
- Service Commissions: Look at streamlining of the various service commissions. The reasoning behind having a Police Service Commission and Teaching Service Commission separate from the Public Service Commission is unclear as they basically mimic each other in responsibilities. The other OT’s have a Public Service Commission and a Judicial and Law Commission.
- Side note: For good governance, any appointments to Commissions should include members nominated by the Leader of Opposition as well as the Premier.
- Law Reform. To support the rule of law, the law reform exercise started decades ago needs to be completed and a regulation made that our laws should be reviewed after a set period (ex: 10 years) to prevent the legislative framework from becoming archaic and out of touch with the reality on the ground.
- Governor’s Powers: Instances of the Governor’s discretionary powers, (“acting in accordance with” versus “acting after consultation with”) should be reviewed for fairness. For example: In our constitution Clause 91 (1) (d) where the Governor consults with the VI Civil Service Association for an appointment to the Public Service Commission but can choose not to act on the advice but must do so in the instances of the Premier and Leader of the Opposition. The VICSA’s representation of public interests is of no less value and should be given due respect.
- Self-Governance: In light of the findings of the 2022 Self-Governance Assessment Report by Dr. Corbin, a path with a timetable should be established leading to the attainment of the full measure of self-governance. This may need to be done in stages as to not overwhelm the systems. As long as it states in our constitution that the UK’s interests supersede our Virgin Islands’ interests, this is an autocracy also known as a colony and cannot operate as a democracy with a government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people.
- A commission on decolonisation should be included in the next constitution to conduct an extensive public education programme on political status options of full self-government until the territory is fully decolonised with public consultation.
- Elections Reform:
- I support campaign financing legislation to bring transparency and accountability to support free and fair elections.
- The many recommendations in the former Elections Supervisor’s post-election reports over the past 3 election cycles need to be implemented into law to strengthen our elections system and should happen by the next election cycle in 2027.
- We also should explore the benefits of a recall process of elected officials as way of the people being able to hold them accountable for their performance. However, I am not sure if this measure is appropriate in the Constitution or the Elections laws.
- I support the idea of run-off elections to promote fairness and consensus. For example, in our current system a candidate can win a seat with less than 50% of the votes casted. In a run-off election, the top 2 candidates must go through a second round of elections and obtain 50% or more of the votes to be declared the winner. Governments can be elected by a minority of voters and not a majority as some believe.
- There should be a fixed date for elections where the day and month is set and only be called early in extenuating circumstances. The prospective candidates and the voting public will have a clear expectation of when elections will be held and this also promotes political stability.
- We should also consider other options of voting besides in-person. There was once a proxy voting system years ago, but it was revoked because it was abused, however persons who may have to travel around election time or the Virgin Islands diaspora living abroad are disenfranchised of their right to vote. My philosophy is that in life you will not be able to keep the mice out the house so make sure you have good traps to catch them. This is in essence what good governance is about and when any process is implemented, we must put in measures that create the necessary checks and balances and it is well enforced after for it to be effective
Selah, let us pause and calmly think about that. End of Part 2#changeinconversationforabetterVirginIslands