26 March 2017

Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano







(San Juan, 15 de marzo de 2017). – La unión histórica de independentistas y libreasociacionistas por la descolonización y la soberanía de Puerto Rico se selló hoy en San Juan. "Ahora sí... Ganamos con la soberanía", es la consigna de la gran alianza de esos dos sectores políticos de cara al plebiscito del 11 de junio. A tales efectos, anunciaron la siguiente Declaración:

Nos mueve nuestra común aspiración de que Puerto Rico, nuestra Patria y Nación latinoamericana y caribeña, logrará alcanzar su soberanía para por fin ser dueños de nuestro destino en relaciones cordiales y respetuosas con los Estados Unidos (EEUU) y todos los pueblos del mundo.

Manteniendo nuestras particulares identidades, anclados en nuestra inquebrantable nacionalidad, le llegó su tiempo a los que creemos en la soberanía nacional, unos a través de la independencia y otros de la libre asociación, de hacer causa común frente a la embestida asimilista y exigir las herramientas y poderes politicos que Puerto Rico necesita para construir el futuro próspero que anhelamos.

La colonia llegó a su fin y la Estadidad no es solo perjudicial para Puerto Rico, sino inaceptable para EEUU por ser contraria a sus intereses.

SOBERANÍA Y DESARROLLO ECONÓMICO

La soberanía es la única forma de defender lo nuestro y de unirnos al mundo para disfrutar de las ventajas de la actual economía mundial internacionalizada.

Sólo la soberanía nos dará los instrumentos y los poderes para un verdadero desarrollo económico. La estadidad nos quitaría para siempre esos poderes.

Sólo con la soberanía, podemos aprobar leyes que protejan a nuestro comercio, industria y agricultura. Bajo la estadidad no existiría esa protección.

Sólo con la soberanía podemos escoger con qué país comerciar y negociar a nuestra conveniencia. Con esos poderes podemos promover empresas locales y atraer capital de distintas partes del mundo para nuestro beneficio, y crear así miles de empleos. La estadidad no nos otorga ni un solo poder para estos propósitos.

Sólo con la soberanía podemos acabar con las leyes de cabotaje, que nos obligan a depender de la marina mercante de los Estados Unidos, que es la más cara del mundo. Cuando podamos escoger otro transporte marítimo y comprar en los mercados que más barato nos vendan, bajarán los precios de los productos que consumimos.

Sólo con la soberanía eliminaríamos la Junta de Control Fiscal y podremos defendernos de los acreedores, renegociar la impagable deuda pública y tener acceso a financiamiento internacional.

SOBERANÍA Y RELACIÓN CON LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS

Un Puerto Rico soberano podrá acordar con los Estados Unidos un tratado de amistad y cooperación o un tratado de libre asociación, según sea el caso, que permita una relación digna y beneficiosa para ambos países, con acuerdos para el comercio, la ciudadanía y el libre tránsito de puertorriqueños desde y hacia los Estados Unidos.

SOBERANÍA Y PUERTORRIQUEÑIDAD
Sólo con la soberanía lograremos nuestra ciudadanía nacional puertorriqueña y garantizamos la preservación de nuestra identidad nacional, nuestro idioma, nuestra cultura y nuestra representación internacional, desde la gubernamental hasta la deportiva.

24 March 2017

Canada’s role in the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah

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OAU


Friday, February 24 (was) the anniversary of the 1966 coup against leading Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah. Canada played a key role. Following the coup, the Canadian High Commissioner in Accra C.E. McGaughey, wrote that “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.”

A half-century and one year ago... Canada helped overthrow a leading Pan-Africanist president. Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, a leader dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa.

Washington, together with London, backed the coup. Lester Pearson’s government also gave its blessing to Nkrumah’s ouster. In The Deceptive Ash: Bilingualism and Canadian Policy in Africa: 1957-1971, John P. Schlegel writes: “the Western orientation and the more liberal approach of the new military government was welcomed by Canada.”

The day Nkrumah was overthrown the Canadian prime minister was asked in the House of Commons his opinion about this development. Pearson said nothing of substance on the matter. The next day External Affairs Minister Paul Martin Sr. responded to questions about Canada’s military training in Ghana, saying there was no change in instructions. In response to an MP’s question about recognizing the military government, Martin said:

“In many cases recognition is accorded automatically. In respective cases such as that which occurred in Ghana yesterday, the practice is developing of carrying on with the government which has taken over, but according no formal act until some interval has elapsed. We shall carry on with the present arrangement for Ghana. Whether there will be any formal act will depend on information which is not now before us.”


READ THE FULL REPORT IN PAMBUZKA

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22 March 2017

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF TRANSITION FROM DANISH WEST INDIES TO U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS TO BE OBSERVED ON 31ST MARCH


"It was the Danish King Christian V who granted the Danish West India and Guinea Company permission to establish the colonies under the Danish flag."(The West Indian Heritage)


_____________________________________________________






ST. THOMAS — As the formal representative of Denmark, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen will be among the distinguished guests attending the ceremonies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the territory of the United States Virgin Islands, Government House announced this afternoon. Mr. Løkke Rasmussen will participate in the Transfer Centennial programs to be held on St. Croix and St. Thomas on March 31, 2017.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands makes up an important part of the Danish history and the Centennial stands for a significant milestone,” the prime minister said in an official statement. “Through my participation and my presence, I look forward to meeting the people and politicians on the islands and show them our respect for them and the history.”

Governor Kenneth Mapp said the people of the Virgin Islands will be pleased to welcome Mr. Rasmussen, his delegation, and dignitaries from around the world to take part in ceremonies and events associated with the transfer.

“This is an important chapter in our history and we deeply appreciate the participation of Prime Minister Løkke Rasmussen,” Mr. Mapp said. “I have asked the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands to treat the occasion of the Transfer Centennial as a time of both serious reflection and preparation. Together we must determine how, given our unique status and history, we can best set a path forward over the next 100 years.”

In the prime minister’s New Year’s Day address to the nation of Denmark, he made mention of this year’s Centennial commemoration and noted that many Danes are expected to take part in this year’s events.

Mr. Løkke Rasmussen has served as prime minister of Denmark since June 2015. He was previously prime minister from April 2009 to October 2011. He is the leader of the Venstre political party. He will be accompanied to the territory by his wife, Sólrun Jákupsdóttir Rasmussen.
_____________________________________



20 March 2017

GUAM VICE SPEAKER: SUPPORT FOR 'WE THE PEOPLE' PROJECT MAY UPSET GUAM'S ONGOING SELF-DETERMINATION PROCESS

KUAM

SESSION REMARKS BY VICE SPEAKER TERLAJE OBJECTING TO RESOLUTION NO. 27-34 "TO RECOGNIZE THE 'WE THE PEOPLE' PROJECT FOR ADVANCING VOTING RIGHTS FOR THE PEOPLE OF GUAM AND OTHER TERRITORIES"




TRANSCRIPT FROM 34TH GUAM LEGISLATIVE AFTERNOON SESSION ON MARCH 8, 2017 

"It should be of grave concern to us, in Guam, that the 'We the People Project' brought this lawsuit (on American Samoa) against the wishes of the American Samoa government and many of the people themselves."
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It is irrefutable that Veterans of Guam who served the U.S. Military deserve the respect and attention of the United States government. It is commendable that lawyers from Guam recognize these disparities and step up and help our veterans. There are many other concrete ways that we lawyers and non-lawyers can assist veterans. For example, we have Vietnam Veterans who still are not receiving Agent Orange disability benefits because of the discouraging paperwork and process they must go through.

Their service in Vietnam entitles those are diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or other illnesses to a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange an entitlement to medical, disability, survivor, and other benefits and compensation. Yet the lengthy, complicated, discouraging claims process discourages them. And we attorneys and non-attorneys should work together to help these veterans gain this immediate and concrete relief; and these winnable claims.

It is also equally irrefutable that the citizens of Guam are being treated unequally by the United States and face many serious injustices that require immediate action, most notably the impending live fire range being built at Northwest Field that threatens our ancient village, critical habitat, endangered species, and causes permanent injury to land that should be returned to original landowners. Voting rights as proposed in this Resolution does not give us adequate tools to protect our homelands. The people of Guam and other territories deserve to determine for themselves their governance and political status.

Resolution 27-34 (COR) proposes to recognize the “We the People Project” for advancing voting rights for the people of Guam and other territories. And to commend the “We the People Project” for advocating for the voting rights of the people of Guam.

While the resolution at first glance appears commendatory, it is being treated as a substantive resolution, and indeed, it may be interpreted by third parties as a substantive endorsement of the underlying merits or arguments of the case. In short, the resolution may have unintended consequences for the people and government of Guam, including possibly the government’s ability to intervene in the case should intervention become necessary at some stage of litigation. The government of Guam’s position in the underlying case has not yet been fully vetted, and may be controlled by current policy as contained in statute, which mandates that the government pursue decolonization and a plebiscite pursuant to UN directives. The Segovia case has the potential to impose on Guam a vote for president without a corresponding vote of the people to enter into one of three internationally recognized political statuses, as a state fully incorporated into the United States, as a state in free association with the United States, or an independent country.

Thus, the case may have broader legal consequence inasmuch as it may upset a political process that ensures self-determination for the people of Guam. A right this important – if it is to be given up – must be thoroughly considered and consciously surrendered. We should not allow it to be impliedly conceded through the adoption of a commendatory resolution.

In a similar case brought by the same “We the People Project”–against the wishes of the government of American Samoa. Congressman Faleomavaega, the Congressman who recently passed away, and the American Samoa government argued that Congress and the people of American Samoa, not the courts, should decide whether to extend birthright citizenship to American Samoa. They argue: (1) that the imposition of birthright citizenship by judicial fiat would have unintended negative consequences for the culture of American Samoa, including the ability to protect the people’s ownership of their customary lands–which Congress has long protected; and (2) that the imposition of birthright citizenship would upset a political process that ensures self-determination for the people of unincorporated territories.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal in favor of the government of American Samoa. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States in February 2016. And in June, the Supreme Court denied certiorari, upholding the decision in favor of American Samoa. It should be of grave concern to us, in Guam, that the We the People Project brought this lawsuit against the wishes of the American Samoa government and many of the people themselves.

At the public hearing on this resolution, there were no witnesses to testify. The President and Founder of We the People Project, as said earlier, submitted written testimony on this measure. And there was some discussion about this underlying case affecting American Samoa. The digest from the public hearing indicates, and I quote, page 3 of the digest, “Chairman San Nicolas thanked Vice Speaker for her statements and echoed her statements on the American Samoa state government not supporting the original case. Chairman San Nicolas indicated it is because of that reason that I Liheslaturan should chime in on the issue, one way or the other, considering that the only voice being heard now at the federal level is that of a particular state government not supporting the case, and in turn that can be extrapolated as to whether or not the other U.S. territories support the case. Chairman San Nicolas indicated that the time is now to decide on the issue, and that the Resolution can help that cause.”

I would like to read a short quote from the U.S. Court of Appeals, when they ruled in favor of American Samoa. And I quote “We can envision little that is more anomalous under modern standards than the forcible imposition of citizenship against the majoritarian will. To hold the contrary would be to mandate an irregular intrusion into the autonomy of the Samoan democratic decision-making. An exercise of paternalism if not overt cultural imperialism offensive to the shared democratic tradition of the United States and modern American Samoa. For the foregoing reasons the district court is affirmed.”

In the citations of the last paragraph, they cite the United Nations charter. They cite excerpts from the Atlantic Charter, US and UK, August 1941, endorsing respect for the right of all peoples to choose which government in which they want to live. They cite Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points address to joint session of Congress in determining all questions of sovereignty, the interest of the population’s concern must have equal weight of the equitable claims of government; who’s title is to be determined. The underlying decision in the same case where the court said, “American Samoans take pride in their unique cultural and political practices and they celebrate its history free from conquest or involuntary annexation from foreign powers.”

The plaintiffs in this action are six United States citizens who are former residents of Illinois and who now reside in Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus two organizations that promote voting rights in United States Territories. The plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act contending that it violates their equal protection and due process rights by barring them from casting absentee ballots in Illinois for federal elections due to their residence in the United States Territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, while allowing United States citizens who were previously qualified to vote in Illinois and currently reside in the United States Territory of the Northern Mariana Islands or in a foreign country to cast absentee Illinois ballots.

When Mr. Segovia resided in Illinois, he voted for President; he now votes in Guam elections. The other plaintiff, from Guam, moved to Guam. When he resided in Illinois, he voted for President. He now votes in Guam elections. So while this case reports to advocate for Guam voting rights, it really advocates for persons who used to live in Illinois to have absentee voting rights in Illinois.

The court ruled against the We the People project in both of their motions for summary judgment and when talking about the right to interstate travel: “neither the UOCAVA nor Illinois MOVE infringe upon the plaintiffs’ right to leave Illinois and travel to a U.S. territory. They are free to come and go as they please, although their decisions to relocate to Puerto Rico, Guam or the USVI have come at a cost. They moved outside of the State of Illinois and became residents of U.S. territories “in a constitutional scheme that allocates the right to appoint electors to States but not territories.” By moving to their respective territories, the plaintiffs gained the rights and privileges of citizens of their new residence. Their loss of the right to vote in federal elections was not caused by the UCOAVA or Illinois MOVE, but by their own decision to relocate.”

Guam has similar state interests as Illinois, and we have experienced challenges to our voting laws that we here at the Legislature have passed. We saw one recently in the Davis case that may seriously impact Guam’s decision to proceed with a plebiscite. As a member of the Guam Legislature, I object to Guam’s Legislature interfering with Illinois voting, I mean if the individual plaintiffs are successful then more power to them but as the Guam Legislature, I do not think it is our place. I do not want other states to come here and tell us that their residents should be voting in our elections, contrary to our laws. I do not want other countries to tell Guam or other territories who should be voting under our election statues. I just think that it is we, the people of Guam, who should decide our status. We must decide if voting rights, voting for president, if we took all the people of Guam or even all the Chamorros on Guam and in the States, put them all together and gave them this right to vote, does that help us?

That’s what we really need to decide before we move on to any kind of endorsement for that type of a voting right because it looks to me like that type of voting right will not help us in our pursuit for control over our lands or any type of control to stop live fire training and testing in our waters. That’s not what we get with this type of voting rights and the people of Guam have spoken about this. At the very least, it demands that more input be made. This is one of those things that the Guam legislature sends Congress, or United Nations, and United States advocates in the United Nations against Guam, saying that they’ve already decided the issue. They do not need the plebiscite. But I just think we do not need by purpose or accident, to give them any other ammunition that could be used against us.

We have to be very careful; we have had the benefit of learning from other countries that have made their choices in political status. We’ve seen the mistakes sometimes they made; how overbearing the United States is in that process and I think that we just need to protect ourselves from everything possible. And keep ourselves focused on what we have already decided to be our mission. So I ask my colleagues, at the very least, set this on for more hearings or to vote this down. I thank you very much.

Virgin Islanders Excel in U.S. Intercollegiate Athletics



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BVI Athletes Are Female National Collegiate Champions

Press Release

Bria Smith
Professional Cadet
Ministry of Education and Culture
Telephone: 468-3353
Email: BriaSmith@gov.vg

Nelda Huggins, en route to capturing CAC Jr. Championships U18 Girls 100m gold
and silver in San Salvador in 2012.
(Photo credit: Dean “the Sportsman” Greenaway)
Tynelle Gumbs during National Jr. Colleges Athletics Association 
Indoor Championships in 2016. (Photo credit: Tony Dougherty)


Virgin Islands athletes, Nelda Huggins and 
Tynelle Gumbs, are national collegiate champions.

Ms. Huggins is a freshman at Iowa Central State and became the first female Virgin Islander to win an individual title at the collegiate level in the United States of America. She won the 60 meters dash with a time of 7.31 seconds.

Tynelle Gumbs became the 2017 D2 National Indoor Champion in the Weight Throw with a winning throw of 21.41 metres. She attends the University of Findlay along with her twin sister, Trevia Gumbs, who also competed and placed ninth in the event with a throw of 18.80 meters.

Minister for Education and Culture, Honourable Myron V. Walwyn extended congratulations to the athletes and wished them continued academic and athletic success. The Minister also congratulated their parents and coaches including Winston Potter and Coach Omary Jones of the Top Notch Track School for laying the foundation upon which they continue to build.

Honourable Walwyn said, “We are proud of our young athletes who continue to perform at a high level of excellence and proudly represent the Virgin Islands. We will continue to support sports associations like the BVI Athletic Association and Athletic Clubs as they continue to train and develop our young athletes to compete on the world stage.”

The Ministry of Education and Culture continues to support Virgin Islands’ athletes and young persons by ensuring that the Territory’s youth excel and create a culture of excellence for themselves, and by extension, the Virgin Islands.

19 March 2017

Special Sitting Held To Commemorate 50th Anniversary Of Court

Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the British dependencies of Anguilla, Virgin Islands and Montserrat 

PRESS RELEASE

Photo: GIS/Ronnielle Frazer


Members of the legal fraternity are pictured with the 50th anniversary cake following the special sitting of the High Court to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

Her Ladyship, the Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE, Chief Justice delivered the feature address under the theme, ‘Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future’. His Lordship the Honourable Justice Barry Leon presided over the sitting.

The court was inaugurated on February 27, 1967 as a replacement to the Supreme Court of the Windward and Leeward Islands, which served the territories of the Eastern Caribbean that are now members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The court has jurisdiction in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Montserrat. The institution has also gained renowned success as a superior court of record.

Author
Colene A. Penn

Communications Officer
Deputy Governor’s Office

17 March 2017

Former Guyana Ambassador to United Nations, Noel Sinclair, joins the ancestors



Former Guyana Ambassador, Noel Sinclair


Guyana’s former Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Noel Sinclair recently passed away after a battle with cancer. He was 76 years old.
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Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
Republic of Guyana


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Director General and members of staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have received the sad news of the passing of one of Guyana’s finest Diplomats, Mr. Noel Sinclair. The news of his demise was communicated to the Ministry today. His passing represents the end of a career that was spent almost entirely within the Diplomatic Service, with the brief exception as a Master at Central High School.

Ambassador Sinclair was educated at Central High School and the University of the West Indies. At the latter institution he obtained a BA degree in French and a Diploma in International Relations. Even though he returned to Guyana after his studies at the Regional University it seems that the attractions of a newly independent Guyana seeking to find its place in the world of Global politics had a compelling fascination for him, a fascination that was to endure for a lifetime. 


Joining the newly established Ministry of External Affairs, Ambassador Sinclair quickly became a Third Secretary in our Embassy in Caracas, a Second Secretary in our Embassy in Washington from 1969 to 1972, First Secretary in our High Commission in Lusaka, Zambia from 1976 to 1979 and finally Permanent Representative to the UN in 1979. It is clear that Ambassador Sinclair’s rise in the Foreign Service was based on his understanding of international Diplomacy, his capacity for hard work and his ability for productive interpersonal relations. And it must be said that his success is all the more noteworthy because it came at a time when professional achievement occurred against the background of a highly competitive Foreign Service.

His work and achievements at our overseas Missions ensured that he would ascend to the highest position of the Foreign Service, that of Director General, a position that was re designated from that of Permanent Secretary to bring it in line with the other Foreign Ministries of Latin America. To this position, Ambassador Sinclair brought his skills as an administrator and his understanding of the needs and purposes of the Foreign Service. But his Diplomatic career did not end there. Recognizing his talent and his gifts as a diplomat, the region elected him the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA).

Any summary of Ambassador Sinclair’s Diplomatic career would not be complete without reference to his outstanding personal characteristics. Well spoken, socially sophisticated, Ambassador Sinclair was as close as one would get to the image of an ideal diplomat for a country like Guyana. If we refer to his capacity for good speech it is because his presentations at the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations were often well received. And the calm and reasoned approach he brought to his duties made him well liked and respected by his colleagues. In addition, 

Ambassador Sinclair’s enviable command of English made him a superb drafter of diplomatic documents. These attributes and his deep imbibing of a culture which encompassed wide reading and an appreciation for music and the other arts made him into a more complete human being as well as an entertaining and informed colleague.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes this opportunity to extend sincere condolences to the immediate family of Ambassador Sinclair, especially his wife and children, his brothers and his sisters.

15 March 2017

Bevacqua: Guam is a colony of the United States


Michael Lujan Bevacqua


The United Nations, through its Special Political and Decolonization Committee (also known as the Fourth Committee) keeps a list of the 17 remaining colonies left in the world. You may be familiar with some of these territories. French Polynesia, New Caledonia, American Samoa and Tokelau all sent delegations to Guam for the Festival of Pacific Arts last year. Others — Turks and Caicos, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Bermuda — are on the other side of the world.


Guam is one of these last official colonies, although you might not realize it. As we go about our daily lives, colonial truths are everywhere, but so too are our efforts to erase them. I have often written that Guam’s No. 1 industry is neither the U.S. military nor tourism, but denying our colonial present. 

Our local denial of colonial reality is something mirrored at so many other national and international levels. The United States, whose origins were fiercely anti-colonial, has kept formal colonies for over a century. The term “unincorporated territory” is meant to stand in for that colonial truth, somehow making it easier to claim that freedom and democracy aren’t supposed to apply to places that you claim to own.

Outside of the U.N., much of the world sees Guam as a possession of the U.S. or prime real estate for its bases and bombers. 

Discussing colonialism in the world today can be difficult. The world’s remaining colonizers never run out of excuses and the rest of the world conveniently assumes such things no longer exist and belong to a previous epoch. To invoke Guam’s current status as colonial often leads to a range of dismissals or rhetorical rejections.

People may respond Guam can’t be a colony because colonialism was a cruel and violent process of the past, and Guam certainly doesn’t suffer under the U.S. — it actually benefits! This is misleading.

Colonialism isn’t defined by levels of suffering and isn’t something that disappears because the colony benefits in some way. Paul Zerzan recently tried to argue this in a rival newspaper, and the late Joe Murphy used to argue it regularly in this newspaper. They claimed that since Guam benefits from colonization, it cannot be considered a colony.

An overly simplistic argument, as colonies are not defined in terms of suffering or lack of benefits, but rather the nature of the relationship that makes such exploitation possible.

They might also respond that you are being ungrateful and unrealistic and that as you come from a small, unsustainable, backward island, you should be grateful to be a colony, and that of the greatest country in the world, no less!

This is also misleading. It is a way of recasting a fundamentally imbalanced or unequal relationship as necessary, due to the inferiority of a pathetic island and islanders, who could never take care of themselves. Colonizers have argued this for colonies big and small. It has limited basis in reality.

Finally, they might simply try to correct you, as if switching the label neutralizes the sting of injustice. You will say colony and they will say territory, or protectorate or dependency or possession, or they just might say “Guam, USA.” Anything to try to deny the label that screams the need for change, for decolonization.

Looking to the future, accepting the colonial label and what it says about our relationship to the U.S., to other nations around us, will help us far more than denials.

* Michael Lujan Bevacquais an author, artist, activist and assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam.

14 March 2017

'U.S. Virgin Islands at the centennial of U.S.dependency' explored at two academic conferences in United States and Denmark

by
Charice Antonia Rivera and Eldris Bradford II



Special to OTR

Scholarly papers on the political evolution of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) were presented to two academic conferences in the the United States (U.S.) and Denmark in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the territory as a U.S. dependency. 


The most recent paper entitled "A Centennial of United States dependency - Decolonization or Colonial Reform for the U.S. Virgin Islands?" was presented at the 58th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA) which convened in Baltimore, Maryland from 22nd to 25th February 2017. ISA has over 6,500 members worldwide and is the most respected and widely known scholarly association dedicated to international studies. 

The analytical paper, delivered to the panel on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, was presented by International Advisor on Governance Dr. Carlyle Corbin.

OTR file photo
The paper focused on the choices before the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands as it examines options for its future political status evolution. In his presentation, the author noted that "the centennial is an appropriate time to take stock of developments since the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the U.S. in 1917, ushering in a transition from Danish to U.S. colonialism and the emergence of the territory as a U.S. dependency."

Corbin, who is a Senior Fellow in the global Dependency Studies Project, introduced the paper with an examination of the international standards for the full measure of self-government for those dependencies such as the U.S. Virgin Islands which were placed under United Nations (U.N.) review pursuant to the signing of the U.N. Charter in 1945. He noted that the standards were systematically refined over the next fifteen year period, culminating in the adoption of the 1960 Decolonization Declaration and its companion resolution [(1541 (XV)] which provided the minimum standards for full self-government under independence, free association and integration.

He also emphasized the significance of the core human rights conventions which confirmed self-determination as a fundamental human right for the people of the remaining territories. He made specific reference to the significance of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), indicating that "these are among the respected international conventions which have direct relevance to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other dependent territories globally."

The author emphasized the "international legislative authority of decades of U.N. General Assembly resolutions on self-determination and its consequent decolonization as collective policy positions taken by the global community to give substance to the mandate of bringing the full measure of self-government to the remaining territories, and especially the island dependencies in the Caribbean and the Pacific." Extensive comparisons were made in the presentation to the existent dependency governance models in the two geographic regions of the Caribbean and Pacific administered by the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Netherlands.

Moving to the U.S. Virgin Islands as the specific focus of the paper, Corbin cited the three historical time frames of the pre-Danish Period, the Danish Colonial Period, and the transition to U.S administration. Regarding the pre-Danish period, he discussed the evolution of the territory from the first European encounter over 4,000 years ago. He went on to address the various stages of Dutch, British and French rule through the seventeenth century, followed by the transition to Danish control through settlements on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John. He noted that Danish acquisition of the island of St. Croix from France in 1733 "served to unify the control of the three islands."

Corbin, who formerly served as Minister of State for External Affairs of the U.S. Virgin Islands Government, discussed the development of sugar cultivation as the basis of plantation economies on St. Croix and St. John made profitable through the use of the labour of those enslaved Africans who had been captured on the continent and who had survived the "infamous Atlantic passage" to the islands. While referring to this practice as a "crime against humanity," he contrasted the slave plantation economy of St, Croix and St. John to the emergence of St. Thomas as a transshipment port for trade in the Caribbean region. He noted that the plantation economy on St. Croix flourished until 1848 when "the enslaved Africans rebelled and forced their emancipation." 


Image result for Virgin Islands
en.wikipedia.org.
"The post emancipation period ushered in subsequent colonial governance mechanisms," he pointed out, "including the Danish Labour Act of 1849, and the later Colonial Laws of 1852, 1863 and 1906, before the three islands were ultimately sold to the U.S. in 1917 for U.S. 25 million in gold." Corbin went on to provide a chronology of "incremental political developments" through the century of U.S. rule dating from the earlier forms of military governance, the extension of citizenship, five attempts to draft a territorial constitution within the dependency status, as well as efforts to address the broader question of selecting a political status through referendum. He highlighted the importance of ongoing efforts by the University of the Virgin Islands' self-determination project to "rekindle a conversation on the political evolution of the territory." 

Corbin pointed out that "the specific areas of democratic deficiency such as lack of voting rights for the U.S. president and in the U.S. House of Representatives are clear indications of the political inequality which characterizes the U.S. dependency status of the U.S. Virgin Islands and other dependencies similarly situated in 2017."  He referred to Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas Islands and Puerto Rico as further examples of the distinction between territories which are not legally part of the U.S. and integrated U.S. states which are a part of the U.S., and accordingly exercise full political rights.

Corbin cautioned that extension of such 'partial rights' for the U.S. territories within the U.S. political system without examining closely the implications of such a move "would not result in fuill political equality which is a basic tenant of democratic governance." 


"Before any such unilateral change in the political status is made, he argued, "the people of the territory should be given the opportunity to express whether they wish it to be so, and only after a thorough examination of the ramifications." 

Instead, Corbin argued that "overall political status evolution was a better approach in determining the equality of rights through integrated status as a state within the U.S. political system, or as independent or associated country status where the relationship with the U.S. would be on the basis of equality."

"Interestingly," he noted "the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have adopted legislation surrounding these three options of full political equality, and are embarking on a referendum where the people will decide among these alternatives."   
In this context, he also cited existent examples of autonomous political status arrangements globally which meet the minimum global standards of self-government, including the Cook Islands in association with New Zealand, Greenland with Denmark, and Micronesia with the U.S. 

"Models like that which govern Curacao, Sint Maarten, and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean have been shown over time to have fallen below the acceptable level of these global standards," he indicated, while observing that "proposals for modernization to raise these polities to the level of full self-government are being actively pursued." 

He went on to differentiate the dependency status from the autonomous country status, while also shedding light on the models of political integration in referencing Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana whose people have full political rights in the French Republic. 

Corbin discounted the efficacy of reforming the current U.S. territorial status models in the Caribbean and Pacific "if it means that the dependencies would remain subject to the unilateral power of the U.S. Congress and therefore deficient in terms of genuine self-governance sufficiency." In this connection, he concluded that decades of legislation repeatedly introduced in the U.S. Congress to extend certain political rights to the U.S. territories within the U.S. political system "have not borne fruit, and U.S. court decisions have continuously reaffirmed that such rights are constitutionally only available to integrated U.S. states."


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With specific reference to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the author referred to "unresolved questions which would have to be addressed at the societal level as a precursor to advancing a genuine and sustainable political status process, as opposed to one of mere colonial reform of the status quo dependency arrangement where the unilateral authority of the cosmopole and the political inequality remain intact." 

In this regard, he referred to the importance of "societal realization of the democratic deficiencies of the status quo" and their impact on the political and economic situation in the territory.

"The importance of the realization by the political directorate in the territory of the need for a fundamental evolution towards full self-government cannot be underestimated," he said.

Corbin concluded the paper by indicating that "initiatives in other dependencies administered by the U.S. and European powers,  could serve as useful examples in determining a favorable approach which the U.S. Virgin Islands might take in moving forward from 100 years of political inequality to a status of full political equality." 



Diplomacy from the Periphery

An earlier paper on the U.S. Virgin Islands centennial was presented to an international conference convened last fall at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark from 24-26 November 2016. The paper, also presented by Dr. Corbin, was entitled "Diplomacy from the Periphery- the international relations of a former Danish colony," and was delivered to the Second Conference of the New Diplomatic History Network under the theme Borders, Networks and Organisations through the 20th century. Scholars from a range of tertiary institutions presented papers at the conference:



 National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies 
 American University 
 Instituto Universitario de Lisboa 
 Russian Fed. National Research University  
 University of Ghent  
 University of Birmingham  
 Chinese University of Hong Kong  
 Aarhus University 
 Lund University    
 University of Münster 
 University of Sussex   
 Aalborg University 
 University of Oslo  
 Södertörn University 
 Complutense University 
 Stockholm University 
 Catholic University of Chile
 Hebrew University 
 Bucknell University
 Georgetown University
 Aberystwyth University          
 Loughborough University         
 Universität der Bundeswehr          
  University of Turku                
 University of Strasbourg             

 
































The paper focused on the evolution of the external affairs programme of the U.S. Virgin Islands from the period 1975 through 2006 during which time the international organization activity of the territory progressively evolved. 

Corbin noted that "despite the lack of devolved political autonomy for U.S. territories to participate in international organizations, the U.S. Virgin Islands successfully negotiated substantial delegated power to engage an array of global organizations through membership, associate membership or observer status."

He pointed out that there were other areas where international organization participation was achieved "by utilizing the international legal principle of 'acquired right' as in the case of the engagement with the U.N. self-determination process where the territory's future political status remains the subject of formal review by the international community." 

Corbin recalled that the external affairs program of the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands during the period "served as an important tool for the acquisition of information, training and international exposure on a wide range of social, economic and constitutional development issues, and helped to break the territory's isolation from the regional and global development debate." He noted that such global engagement "enhanced capacity through shared experience with other non-sovereign jurisdictions." 

The paper went on to identlfy the specific international organizations in which the U.S. Virgin Islands participated including the U.N. Decolonization Committee, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC), and an array of U.N. world conferences in the economic and social sphere.

He also made reference to the challenges faced as the territory sought the delegation of authority to formally engage the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Association of Caribbean States.

The paper went on to chronicle successful initiatives in the creation of the Inter Virgin Islands Conference (and later Council) between neighboring British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands; and the Alliance of Dependent Territories between the Pacific and Caribbean dependencies administered by the U.S.

The paper concluded with an examination of the challenges faced by successive territorial governments in their sustained engagement with the United Nations decolonization process.

"In many respects, the territory exercised, perhaps, the most active^ engagement with the international system among the territories," Corbin concluded, "and the experience gained from this activity was valuable in setting the territory's place in the global environment."


     EXTERNAL AFFAIRS OF THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS (2006)

Inter- Territorial
Caribbean/Hemispheric
International

Political / Constitutional






Inter Virgin Islands Council
(IVIC)


(bilateral)

Economic Commission for Latin America & Caribbean (ECLAC)

(associate member)


Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS)

(observer status)


Study on political status & constitutional development



Offshore Governors' Forum (OGF)

(five party)


Caribbean Development & Cooperation Committee (CDCC)

(associate member)


United Nations (U.N.) economic and social development conferences

(observer status)


U.N. Review Process:

  Committee on Decolonization
(discussant)

Special Political and Decolonization Committee
(discussant)



Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

(cooperation agreement)







Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)

(member)







[Caribbean Community (CARICOM)]

(eligible)

[Association of Caribbean States]

(eligible)




Source: 

Dependency Studies Project