Last week, a Beaconite virtually attended a community meeting that, on the surface, was unremarkable. It took place in an empty classroom and lasted less than an hour. Politicians spoke about the importance of an upcoming project, a developer explained the technical specifics, and residents asked questions and aired grievances. The next day, Premier Andrew Fahie was arrested in Miami, prompting Governor John Rankin to release the Commission of Inquiry report, a damning assessment of Virgin Islands governance and politics. Having spent much of the past week reporting on these stunning revelations, the Beaconite has thought a lot about that milquetoast community meeting. For him, it’s come to represent everything special about VI politics. In few other places do constituents have such direct access to their elected representatives or share such strong cultural and community ties with them. The result is an electorate that often treats their constituents more like friends and family than like political prizes to be won over. Confronting the issues exposed by recent events is sure to be a difficult and divisive task, but one the territory should confront head on. Protecting the kind of politics the Beaconite witnessed on Wednesday — where politicians listen to civilians with empathy and contractors design projects around community concerns — is worth the coming struggle.
Abuse prevention support
While on a jog in Cane Garden Bay, a Beaconite came across a wonderful display outside Ivan Dawson Primary School advocating for the prevention of child abuse. The reporter is glad to see government being more outspoken about these issues, launching a whole month in recognition of the need to stop such violence in its tracks. She only hopes that the louder the community is in saying it will not tolerate child abuse in any form, the better protected youth will be. Such abuse has a ripple effect through communities now and for future generations. The government advises people to look out for the signs of child abuse, like unexplained injuries, depression, fear around a certain adult, difficulty making friends, and sudden eating or sleeping habit changes. The Beaconite will always endeavour to be vigilant, and she hopes fellow community members will do the same.
“If it’s about individuals, and if it’s about the failures in sort of limited areas of the Constitution or the political process, [the result of the Commission of Inquiry] might not be a suspension of the Constitution,” Dr. Peter Clegg, an expert on the overseas territories at the University of the West of England, told the Beacon a few months ago. “But if it is more widespread, or if it’s more systematic — if it goes beyond just a few individuals — then I think the suspension of the Constitution is really the sort of the quickest and easiest way of making the changes.”
Given this analysis, a Beaconite feels that in a way, the arrest of Premier Andrew Fahie — said to be unrelated to the Commission of Inquiry — is a distraction from the actual issue at hand. At heart, the COI was not about the current people in office and whatever they allegedly did or didn’t do. It was about the system, and going forward, the focus needs to be on that system, and how it can better serve the people of the VI. The Beaconite believes that’s why simply holding an election for a new government isn’t the answer. Good governance isn’t about preserving the same system only with “better guys” this time. Every disastrous leader in history has believed he or she was “better” than the ones that went before, and trusted by the people who put him or her in office. But if the system enables or even encourages that person to fail, then he or she will fail. Keep the focus on changing the system, not the people who run it.
On the road
While a Beaconite travelled out of the territory, news broke about the premier’s arrest and detention. Though her flight was delayed more than five hours, she was engrossed in keeping up with the breaking news and kept in communication with her colleagues and friends about it. She immediately got hold of the 19-page affidavit and read each sentence carefully. These past few days have been filled with uncertainty, and the reporter hopes to stay at the forefront of what’s developing. This time, she believes, is crucial and pivotal for the territory.