Kudos to the new Virgin Islands Youth Parliament for providing a shining example of the enlightened public dialogue the territory needs from its leaders.
This month during the body’s first sitting since it was re-established under the current government, parliamentarians between the ages of 18 and 35 debated the merits of full self-determination for the VI.
They did a splendid job. Drawing on extensive advance research, they concisely and clearly explained the territory’s various paths forward.
Then they politely but firmly debated the benefits and drawbacks of each, contributing immeasurably to an extremely important conversation that has been picking up steam in recent months as a constitutional review looms.
We trust that members of the House of Assembly were listening. Indeed, we long to hear such well-researched civic dialogue consistently in the territory’s actual legislature.
Unfortunately, however, the conversation in the HOA has a tendency to devolve into grandstanding and political marksmanship designed to obfuscate rather than to enlighten.
In recent months, for instance, the HOA has often discussed the topic of self-determination,
but at no point has any legislator taken the time to clearly explain the territory’s options as the youth parliamentarians did early in their discussion.
Instead, HOA members often have wielded the topic as a weapon to achieve political ends.
Such unhelpful rhetoric is largely responsible for an alarming level of public confusion surrounding the question of self-determination.
And this topic is only one example. Too often, discussions in the HOA seem deliberately calculated to confuse.
To be fair, the Youth Parliamentarians — who are nominated by HOA members and the director of youth affairs and sports — do not have to worry about winning over voters in the next election like their HOA counterparts.
But that is no excuse. There is no reason that politics in a democracy can’t be compatible with higher ideals.
Moving forward, HOA members should keep in mind that part of their job is educating the community and raising the level of public dialogue — just as their younger counterparts did this month.
We applaud the Youth Parliamentarians for their hard work, and we urge everyone who has not already done so to listen to their impressive debate before the constitutional review kicks off.
Such enlightened dialogue will help the territory make well-informed decisions as it takes the next steps toward what we hope will be greater autonomy.