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Politics, Representative Democracy and Virgin Islands

-2022-23 Political Campaign
Edgar Leonard. Photo: Provided
Edgar Leonard

The next VI General Election is constitutionally due no later than February 2023 unless the incumbent government decides to call the election sooner.

The Constitutional Review Commission, led by Lisa Penn-Lettsome,  should explore establishing a date specific for the general election, as in the UK. Moreover, with the findings and recommendations release of a commission of inquiry pending and dangling over the VI like the Sword of Damocles, the constitutionally due election may be held in abeyance if the UK suspends the VI constitution and institute direct rule.

Many eligible VI voters, as well as voters in numerous other democratic countries across the globe, voluntary choose to sit out national/general elections for a myriad of reasons, including lack of interest and misunderstanding (perhaps)of the value, benefits, and high cost of not voting, lack of priority, personal inconvenience, indifference, and disgust, distrust, frustration, etc., with the governing process and with the performance, attitude, and behavior of politicians.

VI voters, especially of African descent, have not always had the right, freedom, and opportunity to vote. Many brave warriors and unselfish Virgin Islanders have sacrificed much to attain universal adult suffrage for all Virgin Islanders, not just the elite planter class and the propertied.

Consequently, due to The Great March of 24 November 1949 led by Anegadian Theodolph Faulkner, universal suffrage was granted in 1954. Previously, voters had to be propertied and pass a literacy test to vote. Voting is a priceless, cherished, precious, fundamental, and foundational right that all eligible voters must freely and voluntarily exercise. All eligible voters must register to vote, vote, and engage in the governing process.

It is the voters' choice to vote or not vote; however, voting is part of democracy,  matters, and has consequences. If you don't vote, you let those who vote, sometimes the minority, decide for you and vote for their preferences and interests that may not be yours. Some advocate that you may give up the right to complain if you don't vote. Nevertheless, elections have consequences.

Politics and Political Animalism

Politics, the art of compromise, and the world's second-oldest profession is not much different from the first, which remains unnamed. An ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, asserts that being political is human and that people are political animals. Thus, in my view, if people are inseparable from politics, then people cannot act apolitical and refuse to engage in politics, for the actions of government affects all residents.

Aristotle also asserts that the Greek city-state or Polis is the natural habitat of political animals and the place where people act cooperatively and collaboratively to create legislation and construct institutions that serve as the base for social order and justice.

Politics is the art of compromise, but politics' animating force is conflict and disagreement. In the modern political game, the combatants, i.e., Government and Opposition, often don't agree on much but agree to tolerate differences. No disagreement, no politics. Nevertheless, too often in the Westminster system, the Anglo Caribbean region included, the Opposition Party takes the term opposition perhaps too literally, tending to disagree with most things the government does.

Parliamentary Representative Democracy

The VI operates in a British Westminster-style parliamentary system. It is a parliamentary democracy, not a direct democracy. In the VI, the 15-member unicameral House of Assembly (HOA) is the natural habitat for elected members. On average, voters go to the polls every four years to elect nine (9) district members and four(4) at large members to serve in the HOA, serving four-year terms. Unlike in a presidential system, voters don't vote directly for government leaders, e.g., prime minister, premier, chief minister, etc. A majority of elected members determine who gets sworn in as government leader; the government leader as the chief executive, in turn, forms a cabinet (executive branch) from among elected members. The system is flawed, for constituting a cabinet from elected members may limit finding the technical expertise and experience needed to lead specific functions.

Additionally, there is little to no daylight between the Executive and Legislative branches. Moreover, direct democracy is impractical, unworkable, and not the most effective way to govern. Instead, voters employ representative democracy to elect representatives to represent their interests. Representative democracy does not mean that voters give up their rights, responsibilities,  and power to politicians. It is a fallacy that voters give up their power to politicians. Voters retain their power and have TRUE power. If not, why do politicians beg voters for their votes at election time? Voters must exercise their TRUE power to attain the outcomes they desire. In leadership and management, what gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated. In facilities management, you should not expect what you don't inspect. And in politics,  what gets exercised and focused upon gets attention.

Political Campaign

As noted in the introductory paragraph, the VI's next constitutionally-due election is due no later than February 2023 and can occur sooner with a snap election. The campaign has already started to unseat the incumbent government and fill the 13 seats in the HOA. Several candidates have already declared their candidacies. Campaigning is part science and part art and is mostly art. The art of campaigning is not new and harkens back to ancient times, i.e., the campaign for Consul of Rome in  64 BC. There are no cookie-cutter approaches to campaigning; they are personalized, situational, engineered, and drive circumstances on the ground.

As is the refrain every election cycle, the  VI is in crisis and at a crossroads, with this election perhaps being one of the most critical and consequential in its history.

The VI is facing a myriad of critical issues, i.e., health and safety, education, economic deepening, strengthening and diversifying,  agricultural production and food insecurity, fishing,  climate change, skyrocketing cost of living, strengthening institutions, constitutional review and political status, increasing crime rate (particularly gun and other violent crimes), public safety,   physical infrastructure (water, wastewater, stormwater(drainage), electricity,  gas, road network, parking, inter/intra-island ferry service,   ports, telecommunications, solid waste management), construction projects and services acquisition,  energy,  sports, entertainment, culture and heritage; environmental protection and preservation, disaster preparedness and readiness, land and natural resources management( 200 mile exclusive economic zone and 12-mile territorial sea), immigration and labor, airlift, border protection,  civil service reform and civil service unfunded liability, judicial improvements,  public safety, public works programme, operations and maintenance and capital budget development and execution, governing structure, social safety nets, housing, etc.

It is a long list, so consequently, any party or candidate standing for election must present a) coherent strategy and tactics for attacking the issues, b)identify funding streams, and c)present a plan of action and milestones. Undoubtedly, candidates will make many promises, and voters must question and get practical, satisfactory, and reasonable answers about the promises, holding candidates' feet to the fire. The VI  has had the means and opportunity to be farther down the growth and development path than it is. The delta between its potential and actual progress is disappointingly wider than it should be. The window is closing rapidly; the VI cannot afford to miss any more opportunities (s) to jump aboard the high-speed growth train. The burden is on the next government, the next generations of leaders, to set a new course and sustain it.

Edgar Leonard is a native Virgin Islander, amateur, freelance, and aspiring writer, and a graduate of the Florida A&M University.

22 Responses to “Politics, Representative Democracy and Virgin Islands”

  • Just saying (16/04/2022, 10:42) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Another good read brother
  • TRUE Power (16/04/2022, 16:17) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    E. Leonard, you say voters have TRUE but how come we cannot get rid of incompetent, lazy, good-for-nothing politicians until the next election? How come there is no recall clause in the constitution? If it were, a heap ah dem dun gone. It needs to be and constitution committee needs to look. The vote of no confidence is a long, long shot in getting rid of a poorly performing government. Politicians are self-serving and protect each other. A case in point is the elected member $2000 per month housing allowance; which member you see raising that issue? Nun. Furthermore, civil servant gets a housing allowance and I’m talking about the people on contract. The people on contract is another tory. Why does government rush thru non-emergency legislation in one sitting? Why more time is not reserved for public comment on bills? TRUE power you, so why does the Governor hold up (fancy term is non-assent) bills that a majority of people want? How come at election time politicians show up like a bad penny and after election they scarce like gold? Lots more to vent about but at another time.
  • Inquiring Minds (16/04/2022, 18:32) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    E. Leonard, inquiring minds want to know if you running and who, if anyone, you running with.
  • rubber duck (16/04/2022, 20:08) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    No it cannot go beyond may 2023
  • Undercover Observer (16/04/2022, 21:56) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    “As is the refrain every election cycle, the VI is in crisis and at a crossroads, with this election perhaps being one of the most critical and consequential in its history.” Agree. And as noted, the BVI has a long to do list. It will face many challenges in attacking the to do list, and among the challenges are funding sources, effective planning, project management, local skillsets and capacity, etc. Funding will be especially challenging. The BVI definitely cannot rely on the UK for a major development package. Hell, it sent our larger and sister regional countries into independence without a development package; they are still struggling even after half a century. So its (BVI) go to source is long-term borrowing.

    But the immediate hurdle is taxpayers. BVI residents increasingly demand more services but have a disdain for paying more or higher taxes. Disdain for taxes aside, many VI residents seem to lack trust and confidence in government (all governments) capacity and capability to effectively and efficiently manage financial assets.

    This campaign must be about substance, not form from the spin doctors and PR experts. Candidates must bring plans of action for addressing the myriad of issues. Candidates cannot come half-stepping. They must bring sensible, practical and workable plans. Too much is at stake ,so there is no time for amateurs. Candidates must have proven experience and demonstrate knowledge, skill and ability, knowing pullet from fowl. Furthermore, we need candidates who are willing to sacrifice for the public good/public interest, not self-interest. Servant leaders are needed. Mr. Leonard, good read. It is timely.
  • OVERTAX and FRUSTRATED (17/04/2022, 06:08) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    @Undercover, mehson, you want feh kill ah we wid taxes. BVI residents already paying land and house tax, NHI, social security, and employment tax, along with a variety of fees. They are nickel and dime us near death. We are probably per capita the most heavily taxed people in the Caribbean.

    Furthermore, government must do a better job managing the money it is already collecting. Who believes that government is exercising exemplary fiduciary responsibility? This election season there will lots of noise, tun of empty promises, plenty humility, politicians highly visible everywhere pretending that they care, etc, but in the end nothing will change. The BVI will still be trying to find itself. Lavity, Williard, Cyril, and Ralph will be restless wondering WTF. Dolph Faulkner, Noel Lloyd and departed PAM members too will be going WTF happened. I not voting for a soul, not a man Jack, this guava crop, that want to raise taxes wily nilly; they have to show me a plan and make the case.
  • Flawed Westminister (17/04/2022, 06:58) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    @E. Leonard, if I read what you wrote right, it is your opinion that the UK ‘s Westminster system of government is deeply flawed. Well, I disagree. The UK Parliament is the oldest (1215/1707) continuous representative assembly in the world. In addition to the UK, the Westminster system is used by all former members of the British Empire save force the US, ie, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, as well as numerous other former colonies. It is head and shoulders better than the presidential system used by the US that is a royal dysfunctional mess or the semi-presidential used by France. If it is so flawed, why are all these countries using it? You noted that there is no daylight between the Legislative and Executive branches., It has been working for centuries and a majority of people are not clamoring for change. It is not broken and needs no fixing. It sounds like a solution looking for a problem. Cheer up mate.
    • Stealth (18/04/2022, 04:35) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      I have no dog in this fight, if it is even a fight, but I have to engage. I agree with Leonard that the Westminster system is flawed; I would not say that it is fatally flawed though. Democracy too is flawed but not fatally flawed. Churchill:” Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’” The point is that institutions are dynamics and should undergo periodic changes as needed to improve and make them more effective. That said, the UK has a bad case of nostalgia.

      It built an Empire across the globe by invading lands in the East and West by raping them of their resources, enslaving people and exploiting and expropriating their labour to work the land to build huge wealth. The sun supposedly never set over the British Empire or so the Brits bragged. Britain grew into a wealthy world power. at expense of others. However, its ship has sailed, its star has fallen, and the Empire has faded away into oblivion.

      Nevertheless, the UK has a yearning for the prestige, status, influence, etc, of old. It is trying to maintain that prestige through the Commonwealth of Nations. But increasingly the Queen is losing her ceremonial head of state status. It is trying to hold on to and control its OTs, including the BVI. Moreover, it is trying and hoping to regain some of its prestige through Global Britain.
  • Ne Timeas (17/04/2022, 15:26) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    It is election time again. It is talking, talking season. It is silly season. Where did the BVI go wrong? Why and how did our growth and development slowed. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of hearing the same empty promises every four years. Let’s pick anything from the long, long of needs and say this the model of how a programme or a function should be run. Not one. During the budget debates, anyone rarely come forward and promote the success of their program and all that is needed is some to maintain and operate. It is always that they need a tun of money to do this or that. The HOA needs to have briefings/workshops on budget executions, ie, actual v. planned.

    Clearly, the BVI does not have the resources to fund all needs listed l, so it must prioritize. My order of priority is health, education, economy……etc. Nonetheless, regardless of the priorities, BVI taxpayers must get value for me. The BVI must be more than a place to dress and come to work to rest. Ministers, department heads, managers, supervisors, etc, must be more than holding a big job or title, they must earn their keeps. They should provide direction, coach and council as needed, and can those who have performance issues but failed to positively respond coaching and counseling. The Premier as the government needs a tool that he/she can stay up to date and aware of things so that adjustments can be made. He/she needs a dashboard where the statuses can be rolled up instantly. Metrics should be set for activity/functions. For example what is the minimum response time Water and Sewage should respond to a water leak complaint during normal working hours and after hours, etc. The sample applies to potholes and street repair complaints.

    Fellow Virgin Islanders, you are going to hear all kind of promises during the campaign. However, you need to get satisfactory answers way before heading to polls. Don’t take no 6 for a 9. Get engaged and demand answers .
  • • FLAWED WESTMINISTER (17/04/2022, 22:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    • @.Flawed Westminster (18/04/2022, 15:00) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      @.Flawed Westminister, schooling was that? The man talking truth but Flawed Westminister clap back was nothing. Nuff said.
  • Eagle and Buffalo (18/04/2022, 06:13) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Every four years we go through this ritual of lofty promises, high hopes and great expectations that are quickly dashed for nought. Here we go again at the end of four years and the same old shit. It as if the BVI(why we don’t call the place by its legal name. Even that we cannot get right) is running in place, spinning our wheels. The BVI/VI fatal flaw is poor planning and poor execution. I saw another blogger wrote a while ago that proper planning prevent piss poor performance. The BVI needs to adopt that mantra, that philosophy. The fulcrum of BVI progress is a National Development Plan; planning is the begging of every action. But it is lacking in the BVI. The BVI seems to do most things from the seat of its pants instead of working diligently from a well-structured plan. . It is suffering from that weakness, that short-sightedness, squandering precious opportunity(s). The BVI ship of state has veered off course and is taking on water. It has sent out an SOS call. Some BVI patriots and statesmen/women need to answer the call to steady the ship and set it back on course. It needs to be heading true north. Only experienced, serious, public interest,etc, candidates need respond.

    A party may have a strong manifesto but if it is not manned by the right capable and sensible people what difference does it make. None. It is as useless as a tit on a boar hog. We must look beyond party politics and look for people who can produce positive outcomes. The BVI needs YOU. And needs YOU urgently, for the clock is ticking, ticking. No more old talk. We need concrete action.

    [Let’s lead like eagles, not careen off the cliff like buffaloes]
  • Political Observer (PO) (18/04/2022, 11:00) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    The Virgin Islands (VI)(British) (If we want to be called the BVI we need to officially change our name) has come a long way from slavery to a bird sanctuary to a little sleepy hollow to a promising little booming metropolis. We got drunk on our progress, thinking that everything we touch had the Midas touch, and moving forward erratically and ditching and disregarding and planning and our progress has slowed. The VI got off course and heading precipitously near the edge of the cliff. There is hope and a little time to stop the slide off the cliff.

    However, a new generation of leaders who are visionaries, steep in leadership and management, practical, bold and forward looking, and willing to sacrifice and put public interest ahead of self-interest to take the helm, avoiding the territory from running straight and hard aground. It needs leaders with the vision of HL Stoutt, the boldness and courage of Noel Lloyd and Dolph Faulkner among other.

    This will be the difficulty and challenge for voters the next election cycle. The preference may be in a party or a coalition of the serious and willing. The survival and way forward for the VI hangs in the balance,so politics be damn; it is country first.

    Looking at the long, dizzying ist of things E. Leonard noted, we need a proven A-team. We need work horses, not show horses. Every eligible VI voter must engage, study and armed themselves with data and information, and exercise their constitutional voices by voting their conscience. Let’s go fellow Virgin Islanders, for there is a fierce urgency of now.
  • BREAKING NEWS (18/04/2022, 12:37) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    Breaking news!!! You heard here first. The BVI will not have a general election until 2025 perhaps. The same thing the UK did to the Turks and Caicos in 2019 it will do the BVI in 2022. The UK and others of its ilk are out to make a point that Blacks are inferior, corrupt (pot calling the kettle black, no pun intended) and not capable of leading and management. It will move mountains to sustain its false notion. There is a double standard the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, crown dependencies, even Bermuda, etc , are treated differently than the West Indian OTs. Wonder why? Rabbits running with foxes, thinking they are. Snakes are snakes. R…ts are r….ts. Truth.
    • @Breaking News (18/04/2022, 16:39) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      @Breaking News. pure speculation. The commission of inquiry you are alluding to has not been release as yet and only Sir Hickinbottom and Gov John Rankin know what is in it. Whatever the findings and recommendations I’m confidence was not made with malice or any for any political bent but to push the territory in the right direction.You painted the British Empire as some invader and exploiter. Yes, Britain used land, take resources, and force people to work. However, the colonialism left the colonies in a better state with improved infrastructure, health, education, etc. Look at the economic success of Nigeria, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc British colonialism also left its former colonies with with the west minister system, democracy, rule of law. The UK has no personal agenda against any OT whether they have majority white or black populations. Specifically, the UK has nothing against the BVI. In fact, governors are sent out to work closely with the OTs to help them grow and move forward.
      • Quiet Storm (18/04/2022, 20:39) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
        @@Breaking News, with all due respect, this is a 5-yard dump truck load of bullshit. You want to revise history and present the impression that the British Empire and colonialism were intended to enlighten, civilize and benefit the people in the colonies. You know that is a big lie and a myth, for Britain didn’t give and still does not give a rat’s ass about West Indians, Africans or Indians and other Asians.

        Colonialism’s sole and primary purpose was to benefit Britain and its people, not people in the colonies. Colonialism, the slave trade, and slavery created the British Empire, built the UK’s economy, and created wealth among the elites of the Victorian Era. They confiscated the land from the natives, committed genocide, and enslaved Africans to work the land for the benefit, profit and of the colonialists.

        In regards to democracy and rule of law, how could colonialists enslave, oppress, torture, brutalize, kill, rape, deny education, provide poor healthcare, fed a poor diet, deny the ability to vote, work for government or stand for election, due process and then leave and bragged that you introduce the colonies to democracy and the rule of law? Hog wash!!! Resources depleted causing the colonialists to flee, coupled with revolts, the legacies of slavery and colonialism are still evident to this day, ie, psychological damage, racial strife, disunity, poor economies, poor infrastructure, healthcare and educate, etc. Nevertheless, the Brits cannot let go of its signature social ordering of race, especially Blacks who are viewed as inferior and try to stunt their progress to sustain their social ordering lie.
    • Quiet Rebel (21/04/2022, 12:18) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      @Breaking News, rumors are swirling that the CoI is going to be released to the government today. Will the constitution be suspended?
  • Old Gen v New Gen (19/04/2022, 08:59) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
    The old generations of politicians are head and shoulders above the new generations of politicians. The new generations may be more educated and have access to more technology and more tools yet the record of older generations of politicians, ie, Lavity Stoutt, Williard Wheatley, Terrance Lettsome, Alban Anthony, Oliver Cills, etc, is unmatchable. What did the old dogs bring the BVI? Airport, more motorable roads, comprehensive education, financial self-sufficiency, tertiary education opportunities, improved economy, social security, deep water port, etc. The older Gs talk less and accomplished more, less materialistic and more interested in the public interest, long-term thinkers and more vision, etc. The new generation of politicians drop the baton. Consequently, growth and progress have hit the doldrum and progressing as slow as molasses in Antartica. The BVI needs more visionaries, more politicos who wants to put public interest over self-interest, more long-term, and strategic thinkers and planners, more talented and skilled politicians, etc. The BVI is in a funk in a deep and widening hole. Virgin Islanders, it is your company so step up to the plate. The low key, nonchalant attitude is not and will not cut it. Get off ah yu asses and stop depending on others and every or woman for themselves. That dependency attitude and behavior is self-defeating and destructive. I can go on but the new Gs need to step forward.
    • RealPol (19/04/2022, 13:22) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      Old Gen v New Gen, there is some truths to the New Gen not measuring up but the Old Gen failed the New Gen. There is an erroneous fear in the BVI, as in the rest of its sister regional countries, with old politicians teaching younger ones the ropes driven by fear that they may replaced/displaced them. Makes no sense and a senseless belief. Does the BVI constitution even makes any reference to a position of Deputy-Premier. Appointing a Deputy-Premier seems to be a personal political choice/card played by the Premier instead of a choice made by the people. Constitutional Review Commission are you listening. Then the UK is only going to let the BVI have what it wants it to have, not what people wants and deserve to have, ie, input on selection of Governor, representation in Parliament, vetoing Governor’s non-assent of bills, etc. The UK control of West Indian colonies and people historically has been a top priority of the UK. In regards to 2022-2023 general election, I’m doubtful it will happen. The trend lines for the BVI are similar to that of Turks and Caicos’ in 2009.
  • Old Gen (19/04/2022, 10:59) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply

    @Old Gen v New Gen, dem New Gen can’t touch the old Gs at least not yet with all their education and alphabet soup credentials. The New Gs needs to get out of the wagon and starting pulling the wagon with pompous, status seeking, do nothing and title crazy @##$.

    • NPolitico (19/04/2022, 12:18) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      @Old Gen, you took the lumber, a baseball bat, to the Young Gs. The BVI people like the easy road, like too much freebs and too dependent. Their dependency is too slave-era-ish and sickening and troubling. Virgin Islanders were once by necessity a hardy and independent group of people because they were cast aside and left to fend for themselves. But now they have gotten soft and too full of themselves. Without a serious change of behaviour and attitude and soon, the BVI collapse right back to bird sanctuary status is eminent. Finally, I’m delighted with the commentaries. People are saying what is on their minds, which is important for the politicos to know. I took a hiatus from blogging but now I’m motivated to jump back in the ring. Mr. Leonard, in the commentary emphasized that the true power resides with the people. Nevertheless, true power is useless unless used effectively. Perhaps, Leonard’s next article can list how the masses can used its true power. There is more horsepower in People Power.
  • Silent Majority (19/04/2022, 18:05) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    The silent majority are on the sidelines without any say or input. Expats are building the BVI and keeping the economy afloat, yet have no say in its governing. The silent majority have no say and most of the minority either do not understand politics and the value of voting or don’t give a rat’s tail or thinks growth and development happen by magic or through osmosis.

    Though expats may not be able to vote, I will make a big assumption( we know what assumes means—-ass-u-me) that they (expats) want to see the territory progress and thrive and strongly encourage the minority to get actively engaged, getting off their duffs and their high horses. They have a moral obligation and the patriotic duty to get engaged actively in governing. It is painful watching from the sidelines seeing a disaster looming and cannot do anything. Some may say keep out da people business but we should all be concern. This is where we live and work. I don’t know Mr. Leonard ( thought he was Bobby from Bobby’s Uptown Market son but advised other wise) but appreciate his contribution in shiny some light on voting and territorial issues.

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