Following the 70th anniversary of the march that led to the restoration of the Virgin Islands’ legislature, Premier Andrew Fahie announced plans to initiate a delayed constitutional review process before the month is out.
On Nov. 24, 1949, more than 1,500 Virgin Islanders marched to the then-Commissioner’s Office to air various concerns, Mr. Fahie recounted in a statement the day after the Sunday anniversary, which was not commemorated with an official observance.
“This historic march demanded a change to the way matters affected the lives of Virgin Islanders then [and] now, and this will continue well into the future,” the premier said. “This mass demonstration was the catalyst for political development in our territory, leading to the evolution of the modern Virgin Islands.”
During the protest, which was led in part by Anegadan Theodolph Faulkner with the help of Isaac “Glanny” Fonseca and Carlton de-Castro, Commissioner J.A.C. Cruik shank was given a list of demands, which Mr. Fahie quoted in his speech. “We the people of the British Virgin Islands, theoretically a free people by reasons of the fact that we are supposed to be British subjects and citizens of the British empire, are today in numbers assembled as a demonstration of protest against certain conditions under which we have hitherto been forced to live,” the document stated, adding, “One of the purposes of this demonstration today is for us to achieve a measure of political freedom for ourselves and the generation of the future.”
Following the march and other activism by groups such as the Civic League and individuals including Hope Stevens of Tortola, who previously had petitioned the United Kingdom government for political change, the Legislative Council was restored in 1950 for the first time since its 1901 abolition, Mr. Fahie explained.
“General elections followed, and the stage was set for Virgin Islanders to make key political decisions such as remaining outside the West Indian Federation in 1958 and introducing the ministerial system of government in 1967,” he added.
Today, the premier said, the VI continues to face challenges with its political development that have been compounded by the 2017 hurricanes.
“Whilst recovery is in full progress and much has been done since 2017 to restore a sense of normalcy, we have not reached the development plateau we enjoyed before the hurricanes,” he said. “These challenges are not unlike the ones which precipitated the great march of 1949.”
Accordingly, he promised the government will “initiate the process that will lead to the overdue constitutional review” that originally should have been scheduled for 2017 based on the longstanding practice of holding a review every 10 years.
“Perhaps it is coincidence that the great hurricanes of 2017 have pushed the initiation of this review to the 70th anniversary of the great march of 1949,” Mr. Fahie said, noting that he previously mentioned the review in his Budget Address last week.