06 September 2013

Former US Virgin Islands Commissioner joins the ancestors

Noted Farmer, Former Ag Chief Oscar E. Henry Dies at 97


Oscar E. Henry

Former V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Oscar E. Henry passed away Aug. 30, at the age of ripe old age of 97, leaving behind a lifetime of devotion to the territory, its culture and farming traditions. His death prompted an outpouring of praise for the well-known St. Croix farmer, from a who's who of V.I. notables.

“Oscar Henry served our territory with distinction as an official with the federal and local governments," said Gov. John deJongh Jr., in a statement. "He was a tremendous leader who helped bring about change to the Virgin Islands in a way that honored and preserved the territory’s heritage and cultural legacy.”

“The Virgin Islands and particularly Frederiksted has truly lost another one of its icons with the passing of Oscar Henry,” Delegate Donna Christensen said in a statement.

“Mr. Henry was an advocate for the betterment of Frederiksted and St. Croix and he was quietly active in supporting entities that enhanced excellence, such as the Good Hope School,” Christensen said.

"It was his hard work and discipline that planted the trees and built the many buildings, and helped lay out the pastures which form a large perfect square north of Frederiksted, particularly visual from an airplane on its final approach when landing on St. Croix. The territory and the nation are grateful for his service,” she said.

Henry’s diverse farm in Estate La Grange was known for its mangoes, avocados, the healthiest livestock and sheep, and surrounding apartments built of stone surrounded by manicured lawns.

In the 1970s, Henry took the post of Agriculture commissioner under Gov. Juan Luis, after 36 years of working for the federal government, including 24 years with the U.S. Customs Service. He is also a past president of the St. Croix Agriculture and Food Fair Committee. At the 1999 V.I. Agriculture Festival, Henry was named V.I. Farmer of the Year.

Like many members of his generation Mr. Henry began his working career with VICORP in Estate Bethlehem where he was instrumental in bringing a lot of Crucians on board. He was a jockey in his youth and worked with Merwin Shipping and the Selective Service Administration before joining U. S. Customs where he worked until he retired.

He came out of retirement to serve as Commissioner of the V. I. Department of Agriculture during the King Administration and also served on the Casino Control Commission during the Schneider Administration.

Henry and his herd of Senepol cattle were one of four herds that founded the V.I. Senepol Association, which later became the Senepol Cattle Breeders Association.

As a customs official, Oscar Henry was in charge of the Port of Frederiksted. The historic customs building in the town now bears his name as tribute to his years of service and important contributions.

Groups Condemn Sale of Deadly Attack Helicopters to Indonesia

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) today condemned the U.S. government's decision to approve the sale of deadly Apache attack helicopters to Indonesia. The sale demonstrates that U.S. concern for greater respect for human rights and justice in Indonesia are nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

The new Apache attack helicopters will greatly augment the capacity of the TNI to pursue "sweeping" operations, extending TNI capacity to stage operations after dark and in ever more remote areas.

The sale, announced during the visit of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Jakarta, ignores the appalling record of human rights violations by the Indonesian military (TNI), which will operate this deadly weapons system. 

The helicopters are offensive weapons often used in counter-insurgency campaigns.

The TNI continues to conduct military campaigns in West Papua. The military's "sweeps" and other military operations purportedly target the few remaining, lightly-armed pro-independence guerrillas. In reality, the operations are aimed at repressing and intimidating Papuans. The sweep operations, involve assaults on remote villages in West Papua, destroying civilian homes, churches and public buildings and forcing civilians from their homes. These attacks drive civilians into surrounding mountains and jungles where many have died due to a lack of food, shelter or medical assistance.

The new Apache attack helicopters will greatly augment the capacity of the TNI to pursue "sweeping" operations, extending TNI capacity to stage operations after dark and in ever more remote areas.

The statement by Indonesia's Minister of Defense that the sale does not include any conditions on the use of these weapons is especially concerning. The TNI use of these weapons platforms will be largely unconstrained. TNI personnel are not accountable to the civilian judicial system nor is the TNI as an institution subordinated to civilian government policy or operational control. For decades, the TNI has drawn funding from a vast network of legal and illegal businesses enabling it to evade even civilian government budgetary controls. Legislation to restrain the TNI has been weak or only partially implemented.


On Monday August 26, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced that the U.S. had closed a deal for Indonesia to buy eight AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for a half a billion dollars. The U.S. did not attach conditions restricting their use.

The sale represents the latest step in the Pentagon's increased engagement with the TNI. In 1999, restrictions on U.S. engagement with the Indonesia military were tightened as the TNI and its militia allies were destroying East Timor (now Timor-Leste) following the UN-conducted referendum on independence. Through the 2000s, restrictions on engagement with the Indonesian military were gradually lifted, even though it remained unaccountable for its past crimes in Timor-Leste and throughout the archipelago  and rights violations continue in West Papua and elsewhere. 

Last year, ETAN and WPAT coordinated a letter signed by more than 90 organizations urging the U.S. not to sell the deadly attack helicopters to Indonesia. The groups warned that the helicopters will escalate conflicts in Indonesia, especially in the rebellious region of West Papua: "Providing these helicopters would pose a direct threat to Papuan civilians." 

ETAN, formed in 1991 and advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. Since its founding, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. 

See ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org WPAT publishes the monthly West Papua Report.

Contact: Contact: John M. Miller, +1-917-690-4391, john@etan.org

Ed McWilliams, +1-575-648-2078, edmcw@msn.com