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The Virgin Islands Constitution & the Greater Good

Kedrick E. Malone is a Consultant and a former Contract Civil Servant with the Government of the Virgin Islands where he served for over 15 years in many senior leadership and policy positions working with four Chief Ministers/Premiers. Photo: VINO/File
Kedrick E. Malone

Ironically, the Virgin Islands Constitution review was to be considered in 2017 as it is customarily up for review every 10 years.

Ironically, in August and September of that year, the Territory was rocked by the most destructive rainfall in recent memory and two catastrophic category 5 hurricanes recorded as the most powerful and destructive in the history of Atlantic hurricanes. From that period on, the Virgin Islands has endured a series of other unprecedented events, including  the worst global pandemic in 100 years and the collapse of its governance system resulting in a Commission of Inquiry accompanied by an Order in Council, held in reserve by the Governor, to Suspend our Constitution. It is almost as if the events of the past six years were designed to expose the vulnerabilities of the Virgin Islands for some purpose. Now that we are finally on the road to a new Constitution, we can conclude that the events of the past six years was to get us to address the core issues revealed to us during this period of trial and tribulation so that we can confront and address them in the new Constitution, to the extent possible, as we march on to the next stage of self-determination.  

The Need to Focus on the “Greater Good”

In my brief stint as Permanent Secretary to the former Premier in 2019, I recommended that a nationally branded campaign was needed to rally Virgin Islanders behind the “greater good” cause of rebuilding the Territory following the hurricanes of 2017. I proposed a communication and community engagement campaign called “BVIdeal”. It was intended to inspire and help Virgin Islanders see how each of us could contribute to the mission to build back the BVI as the “Ideal” place to live, work, invest and visit. The then Premier rightfully pointed out that the “deal” as part of the branding could be spun by our detractors to do further damage to our financial services sector by misrepresenting our industry as they continue to do. He proposed that we use “BVI Love” and so it was. The original intent to promote the greater good among Virgin Islanders as part of our national rebuilding efforts.

Development at what Cost and for Whom

Under the Ministerial system of government, the Territory experienced enviable success in its development, thanks to greater autonomy achieved by the struggles of our ancestors and the vision and tenacity of our leadership. Many prospered individually from the success of our tourism and financial services industries but the collective society, the greater good of the Virgin Islands, did not experience an equal level of success. The Territory’s public service, infrastructure, environment, education, health and spiritual development lagged thus negatively impacting our quality of life.

The events of the past six years have provided an answer to the question many have asked in the past: Development for whom? The question indicated that the overall vision was not clear or articulated so that everyone could focused on the greater good. The past six years have awakened us as if to say, the greater good of the Virgin Islands needs your attention. The current Constitution review is the perfect time to infuse our Constitution with the foundation upon which laws, policies, practices and standards can be built to serve the greater good.

Greater Good Provisions in the Constitution

A fellow Virgin Islander pointed me in the direction of the Cayman Islands Constitution which to me has many “greater good” provisions we can learn from. We share many commonalities such as environment, industries, culture and heritage, overseas territory status and other areas that makes them a good comparative nation. But our best reference of what is needed in our constitution comes from our best teacher, our experiences over the past six years. Here are some suggestions to consider when making your contribution to the Constitutional review:

  1. Spiritual Life: We say often that we are a Christian society but this important value is not encased our Constitution as it is in the Cayman Island Constitution where it mentions “Christian values”, “Christian heritage” and being a “God-fearing people” in its Oath and Affirmation section. Certainly we know that our ancestors endured great hardship to keep and build the Virgin Islands and it was their faith in God and their Christian values that sustained them. Should we not have this core value and foundation of our society encased in our Constitution?

The Cayman Constitution also defines marriage as between the opposite sex and our current Constitution does not.  Do we want to share this value and do the same or do we want to have a “civil partnership” provision or some other definition that recognize the human and civil rights of all?

  1. Environment: Whilst our Constitution speaks to environment health in Clause 29, it is not as explicit as Cayman’s and does not hold Government accountable as does Cayman in its Clause 18 which says that “government should adopt reasonable legislative and other measures to protect the heritage and wildlife and the land and sea biodiversity ….”. Does our environment not need this provision?

  1. National Development Plan: Good, proper and relevant physical, educational, health and social service infrastructures should be treated as a fundamental right of Virgin islanders given our limited resources, small size, environment, economy and vulnerabilities. Our experiences have confirmed that we have challenges in these areas and our Constitution should guarantee that they must be guided by a long-term Plan. Should the current National Integrated Development Strategy, the need for there to always be an updated version every ten years and for the Plan to be implemented independent of political influence be a Constitutional provision?

  1. Education: Education of the history, culture, constitution and current affairs of the Virgin Islands will anchor our diverse and multicultural population in a common Virgin Islands identity which will strengthen social cohesion and foster a commitment to the greater good of the Virgin Islands. Should this not be a fundamental Constitutional requirement for all born, bred and given status in these Virgin Islands?

  1. Public Service: The public service is the engine that delivers  on the political mandate of those elected by the people to look after their needs and aspirations. When it does not work effectively and efficiently, it is tantamount to stifling democracy. Greater clarity and specificity in the roles, responsibilities and qualifications for the leadership roles of the public service are needed as well as clarity of the role of Ministers relative to the Governor, Deputy Governor, Cabinet Secretary, Permanent Secretaries, Department and Statutory Board Heads and Chair of Committees and Statutory Board Chairs are needed to allow the public machinery to operate in the best interest of the Territory and its greater good. It is time to remove the conflicts within the system and roles. Should there not be a specific section of the Constitution that speaks to the Integrated Roles, Responsibilities and Rights of Public Servants listed above?

This is not an exhaustive list of provisions for the “greater good” that should be in the next VI constitution but I hope it gets us to consider the importance of attending to the greater good of the Virgin Islands we mature as a democracy.

The Obligations of My Generation

The greater good of the past six years was to prepare us for this juncture in our development and advancement as a people. My parent’s generation was much more focused on the greater good than we have been in recent years. We have reaped the fruit of the labour of our forefathers who saw to it that we were educated both mentally and spiritually and preserved ownership of the land so that we may have a foundation upon which to build. Their values were squarely more focused on the greater good of the society and as a result, many Virgin Islanders have prospered. We have an obligation at this juncture to do the same for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We can do this by ensuring we pass along a Virgin Islands better, or as good as it was given to us. We do that by sharing and passing on our knowledge, experience and wisdom and by ensuring that our next Constitution gives them a platform to master their own destiny.

Kedrick E. Malone is a Consultant and a former Contract Civil Servant with the Government of the Virgin Islands where he served for over 15 years in many senior leadership and policy positions working with four Chief Ministers/Premiers.

5 Responses to “The Virgin Islands Constitution & the Greater Good”

  • SO HE WAS OVERLOOKED (24/01/2023, 20:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
  • ABC (24/01/2023, 20:41) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    another great read but too long
  • West side (26/01/2023, 09:53) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    He making sense
  • BVI Constitutional Law Student (28/01/2023, 16:19) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Where can one submit feedback for the constitutional review? Is there an online platform?
  • Stay Focus on Immigration.. (01/02/2023, 13:38) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Get that sought out and show us your skills and ability...Then we will take it from there. As for now you have too many doubters.

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