In November 1950 the Virgin Islands held its first general election in nearly half a century, choosing the members of the soon-to-be-restored Legislative Council in accordance with a constitution adopted earlier that year.
This 70th anniversary is cause for celebration, and we applaud the House of Assembly for holding a special sitting this month to commemorate an occasion that too often has passed largely unnoticed.
In the future, though, we would like to see much more fanfare each year. To our thinking, an annual observance should include public activities and school events honouring historical figures who played a part in the restoration and the 1949 protest march that led up to it.
Names such as Theodolph Faulkner, Isaac “Glannie” Fonseca and Carlton de Castro should be as well known in the VI as famous foreign singers and movie stars.
An annual observance would also be an opportune time for government to boost support to the VI Studies Institute and other scholars to research the history of the restoration. Some of today’s seniors, after all, attended the 1949 march and were old enough to vote in the 1950 election.
As the territory prepares for a constitutional review this year, the anniversary is even more important than usual. The restoration of the legislature was a key steppingstone in the VI’s political development.
Since then, the territory has moved gradually through a series of constitutions that have devolved greater power from the United Kingdom to elected leaders here.
We hope the next constitution will continue this trend. But as we have argued often on this page, the VI also must ask itself hard questions.
Why, for instance, hasn’t the territory fully shed the colonial yoke 70 years after the restoration of the legislature? If the population wants to remain a part of the UK indefinitely, shouldn’t leaders be pushing for a more permanent arrangement, such as seats in the UK Parliament under a system agreed by the people here?
If, on the other hand, the people want full independence, isn’t it high time to ask what is standing in the way of that goal and how it can be reached?
By this time next year, we hope that such questions will be answered. In our view, the current system of government — which in spite of much progress is still rooted in colonialism no matter what euphemisms are used to describe it — should not be considered a permanent solution.
Such discussions should be renewed yearly at this anniversary. Surely, we owe that much to the men and women whose 1949 march and other activism led to the restoration of the Legislative Council seven decades ago.