From pines to palms
A new Beaconite has been getting her bearings this month. Dana Kampa grew up in Wisconsin in the United States, and she spent the last two years covering news in a small community in the Pacific Northwest. Here, she will be reporting on government, features, Hurricane Irma recovery efforts and more. She arrived on Tortola for the first time with only two suitcases and a hope to widen her horizons. While she knew of the Virgin Islands’ reputation for a welcoming sense of community, she was sincerely moved as residents provided helpful advice at every turn, aided her in finding a place to sleep, and opened their houses to her on Christmas. Before leaving Wisconsin, the reporter — by complete coincidence — met a woman who had lived on Tortola for 40 years. Connie had moved to the Virgin Islands at about the same age the Beaconite is now, and she was happy to share her stories about living here. She even drew a map from memory in the reporter’s notebook of all the important places to know in Road Town. The Beaconite appreciates how life offers little moments of unexpected joy, the serendipitous occasions that keep a reporter on her toes. The celebration of a new year and a big life change prompted a healthy dose of reflection and resolution. Thus, the Beaconite resolves to (1) work hard to deliver valuable, compassionate, hard-hitting reporting that is uncompromisingly direct and honest — the kind that communities everywhere deserve — and (2) take the time to appreciate the simple pleasures, like making a new friend, that make life worth living. She wishes readers a great New Year and hopes to meet many of them soon while out on the job.
Independence from the United Kingdom has been an idea floating around the Virgin Islands for centuries, and recent events, ranging from Brexit to the threat of public registers, have reinvigorated discussions. But what about doing the exact opposite? John Penrose, a Conservative member of the United Kingdom parliament, suggested in an interview last week that overseas territories should be made an official part of the UK akin to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, which send representatives to Parliament while maintaining their own devolved governments. “It would show that we are committed to being a global nation post-Brexit,” he explained. It’s worth considering. It’s no secret that Virgin Islanders often feel overlooked, ignored and/or taken for granted by the powers that be in London, and this method would guarantee them a voice at the table. Of course, questions arise. How would immigration be handled? Would the VI lose its identity to a flood of relocating Brits? Would the VI be able to continue to set its own corporate tax rate, or to regulate its financial services industry? Would a territory-wide referendum be held? Mr. Penrose said that should be left up to each OT. “The important thing,” he said, “is there should be an open-handed, generous-hearted offer on the table for as many of them that want to pick it up.”
After witnessing a decision on a particularly interesting case in Magistrates’ Court, a Beaconite has been contemplating the efficacy of the new Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court sentencing guidelines. The case in question concerned a man who lied to a vulnerable woman in order to take her money. Following sentencing guidelines, the magistrate presiding over the decision gave the man a suspended 6.5-month prison sentence — the maximum for his charge is three years — which means that he will not spend any time behind bars as long as he repays the woman by late February and is not convicted of an indictable crime in the next year. At first, the Beaconite was surprised that the sentence — dictated by the sentencing guidelines — was so light, but later he reconsidered. In the United States, many studies have found that first-time offenders jailed for small infractions go on to commit more serious crimes, and in some states judges have given out alternative punishments such as public shaming that have proved effective without adding to the (already bloated) prison population. In handing down her decision, the magistrate said she thought it was more important for the victim to receive her compensation than for the man to serve a prison term. After some thought, the Beaconite agrees, and wonders if more decisions affected by the guidelines will result in lighter prison sentences and greater focus on righting wrongs, and he is curious to see what effect this will have on deterring crime.