19 May 2009

Virgin Islands Self-Determination – A Pan African Perspective

As the United Nations begins its 2009 consideration of the remaining, mostly small island, non self-governing territories under international consideration, Virgin Islands writer and activist K. Leba Ola-Niyi provides a Pan African perspective on the self-determination process of that Caribbean dependent territory.

by K. Leba Ola-Niyi,
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

In his book "America s` Virgin Islands," William Boyer wrote: "As an unincorporated territory, along with Guam, the Virgin Islands occupied the lowest rung of the American colonial ladder, a status that obligated the United States government to make yearly reports to the United Nations." An incon¬venient truth is that an unincor¬porated status is a colonial or non-self-governing territory. When we look at the UN list of 16 Non Self-Governing Territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands are one of such over¬seas territories that -have not yet been totally decolonized.

Let us be aware of the colonizers' policy of indirect rule. In his book "Virgin Islands," Gordon Lewis wrote: "Like all the Caribbean colonies, the Virgin Islands have been governed by the imported constitutional models of the respec¬tive metropolitan centers, first Copenhagen, then Washington. The governmental institutions of the present-day period are thus colonial replicas of those models with their legal-constitutional framework derived from the major metropolitan enabling acts - the Danish Colonial Law of 1906, the terms of the 1917 transfer, the 1917 Act of Congress passed by Congress to provide a temporary government, the first and second Organic Acts passed by Congress in 1936 and 1954, respectively, and most recently the Elective Gov¬ernor Act of 1968."

Thus, the administering power passed these legislations to effectively manage and control its possessions, both internally and externally. Local constitutional reforms are merely window dressing that retains the colonial paradigm and relationship between the federal government and its overseas territories. It will not transfer real power. Although the Danish rulers trans¬ferred these islands to the Ameri¬can colonialists for $25 million in gold coins, let us always recall and recommit ourselves to achieve the goals and principles of our libera¬tion struggle that began in 1672.

Our story tells many accounts of our struggle for freedom, self-determination, human rights, social justice, and dignity. History hon¬ors and respects the people and leaders who fight for their freedom by any means necessary. Our ancestors were determined to be the masters of their destiny rather than remain slaves or servants in this colonial territory.

The purchase of a people in 1917 was simply an act of U.S. imperialist adventure in the Caribbean. U.S. imperialism can be traced to the so-called Manifest Destiny and Monroe Doctrine. In other words, a white supremacist, capitalist, and expansionist element believed that they had the "divine" right and duty to conquer, control, colonize, and exploit the Caribbean, Central and South Americas. One of Washington's imperatives is to build a regional empire that includes colonial and neo-colonial territories.

This so-called Transfer was not about the liberation, freedom, self¬determination, democracy, and basic rights for the African inhabitants. Copenhagen transferred power and sovereignty to Washington. These islands served as a strategic military outpost to protect U.S. national interests in its so¬-called back yard. Consequently, an African freedom struggle led by Rothschild Francis and D. Hamil¬ton Jackson arose to address and end powerlessness, poverty, and prejudice under white naval autocracy.

Colonialismm is an enemy of all freedom-loving peoples. According to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, colonialism is Western policy by which the administering power controls and rules dire and national sovereignty to the people of the Virgin Islands. Self-determination is our human right, value, and objective that can¬not be negotiated or compromised. Since our ancestors had abol¬ished slavery and serfdom in the 18th century, our vocation is to eradicate colonialism -old and new manifestations - in this century. We must organize, centralize, educate and agitate to complete the process of decolonization.

The 1960 UN Declaration on Decolonization affirmed that "all peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development". In addition, Article 73(b) of the UN Charter demands that the administering powers must promote the policy and condition for full self-government in their overseas territories. The United Nations must renew its commitment, merit, implement the General Assembly's resolution of 1960, 1514 (XV), and complete its decolonization mandate for the eradication of colonialism in the remaining 16 peripheral territories.

The international community, along with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and African Union (AU) must extend solidarity and offer assistance to the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Therefore, we must come together to achieve the goals of African liberation. The instinctive desires or aspirations of our people must be fulfilled.