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Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Rohlson, though, in that position you are not stating the position of the people of the Virgin Islands a year ago. You were the ones that brought up the comparison down here a year ago. That is the reason for this inanuscript that was just placed in the record. Because the comparison was supposedly to show that the United States of America was not treating its areas in the Caribbean with as much consideration as far as autonomy and self-government is concerned as the other areas.
That may be your position, but that is not the position you left in the minds of the committee a year ago.
Mr. Rohlson. I could not defend that proposition because I do not agree with the proposition that the United States is not treating us as well. To the contrary, most Virgin Islanders feel we are being well considered. We feel if you can get to the core of our problems you are willing to help us to solve them, and I believe that is the reason why we are here giving our time today.
Mr. O'BRIEN. But you realize, Mr. Rohlson, do you not, if you have an elected governor that all of these problems which exist now will not vanish? There is still a possibility that an elected governor and the legislature may have difficulties. You may have an elected governor of one party and the legislature controlled by another.
Mr. Rohlson. That should not create any difficulty, because right now in the Congress you have a President of one party and the Congress controlled
by another. Mr. O'BRIEN. I would not say it did not create any difficulty. It may. I think it creates difficulty, particularly for members of my party who may have come from districts which also gave a majority to the President. It requires a considerable amount of soul searching on our part.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Rohlson, would you bear in mind today you have a bridge to Washington through the Governor to the Secretary of the Interior perhaps, because he is not a native, at the moment that would be automatically destroyed, it would be removed the moment you got your elective governor. Is it not conceivable
and some of your people have so expressedthat you not only would not have more voice in Washington, you indeed might have less? One reason being that you do not have your established political parties here.
We understand, and I think the testimony has indicated, that in the past 3 to 4 years you have accelerated rather rapidly the establishment of clear-cut party lines. Hawaii and Alaska definitely do have the same parties, as it happens, that exist in the mainland, and those local political parties do have the ear of mainland parties as it now stands, and directly.
These are practical considerations, but it is possible when an area is so dependent as you gentlemen have indicated here today—the whole activity in the islands is wrapped up in this organic act, which is subject to congressional action. But the practical consideration is there if you had your elective governor. It is something to bear in mind, I believe.
It is an expression of opinion on St. Thomas. I had not heard it put that way particularly, but it certainly seems to be worth thinking about.
Mr. ROHLSON. The thing that worries me and the practical consideration I am concerned about is the fact that we have not been given a clear-cut reason as to why we cannot have an elective governor except Hawaii does not, Alaska does not, and Guam does not. As I said before, I feel each territory should be considered on its merits.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, may I answer that?
Mr. ASPINALL. The answer to that, Mr. Rohlson, is, as long as you must be dependent upon Federal funds raised from outside of your area to maintain government within the islands area, then you must accept a certain responsibility from the mother government. There is no other way out of it.
Now, whether it is a question of elective governor or not, you still must be beholden, and you cannot get away from it, because that is an implied understanding with all areas outside of the sisterhood of States.
The first objective that anybody in this island should attempt to obtain is to become self-sufficient. How do you become self-sufficient? That is largely your responsibility.
Congress is willing to help in the undertaking in whatever procedures you or Congress may find.
But until that time the answer to your question is the answer that I have given you. And just as simple as that.
Mr. ROHLSON. Congressman, it is also true that almost every country in this world—almost every country in this world—is being subsidized by Federal funds in amount much in excess of that which the Virgin Islands receives.
I agree with you we should become self-sufficient as soon as possible. Personally I advocate that every day of my life. I hate to know that we have to accept one dime from the United States Government. But I do not believe that our inherent democratic rights under the Constitution should be abridged because we are subsidized.
Mr. AsPINALL. You do not have the rights unless Congress gives them to you, Mr. Rohlson. You understand that. Your argument about what is happening in foreign areas has no place in this hearing.
Mr. Rohlson. I do not think these rights should be denied because of the fact that we are economically not self-sufficient.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr Rohlson, you speak of abridgement of rights. The Congress of the United States might well be encouraged and inclined at this moment-and Mr. Aspinall is talking abont history,
Ther fact is that the Virgin Islands raises not in excess of eight hundred to nine hundred thousand dollars from purely local revenues. Over and above that there is a substantial additional amount that is raised by operation of Federal tax laws.
Now it might be argued that the taxpayers of the United States have a vested interest in the wise use and expenditure of those funds outside of the ones raised by purely local measures. If that is true, then Mr. Aspinall and 434 other Members of Congress have a direct responsibility to follow the application and use of those funds in any deficit appropriation area.
If those tenets are sound, then it follows that Congress might well be encouraged to give you an elective governor next Monday if the sole funds that could be controlled by the local legislature would be the eight to nine hundred thousand dollars raised locally, and then
let the Congress through its Appropriations Committees, as has been done in the past in offshore areas, appropriate upon a line item base all of the deficit expenditures in the Caribbean for the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Rohlson. There is one weak point in your argument. The Congress of the United States gave Puerto Rico an elective governor before the Commonwealth status, with the full return of internal revenue funds still in effect, customs duties, and all of the other Federal subsidies we are receiving; but they did not say then they had to control Puerto Rico, should still appoint a governor for Puerto Rico because they were receiving 20 to 25 million dollars a year in Federal grants. Mr. ABBOTT. If we are examining history,
we are also aware the Foraker Act and the Jones Act, the Federal Relations Act, from the moment Puerto Rico was given an organic act, put Puerto Rico in an entirely different status than any other American-flag area, and with particular regard to taxation.
Mr. Rohlson. It is very difficult for me to tell the people of the Virgin Islands we cannot have an elective governor for the reasons stated. They seem to think that as long as the governorship of the Virgin Islands—without casting any aspersions—is a political plum we will have a difficult time to have an elective governor.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Joseph.
Mr. JOSEPH. I am in favor of an elective governor, but, after listening to the arguments, I wonder if I should say anything on it.
I believe, as Mr. Rohlson expressed, while we should be cognizant of the fact we are not self-sufficient, I believe with more responsibility and the two-party system it would work toward that, and if any change is to be made in the organic act that should be incorporated.
Speaking of the question of Resident Commissioner, I believe if we have a Resident Commissioner, we might not have the need nor necessity for so many committees to come down here. You might find out from him up there just what is needed down here.
Dr. MILLER. I think I would be against that. [Laughter.]
SECTION 11. Governor : The Governor of the Virgin Islands should be elected by the qualified voters in the Virgin Islands and have the power as stated in the organic act in its present form to be exercised under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior, but only responsible to the Secretary of the Interior as expressly stipulated in the new Organic Act of the Virgin Islands and other United States statutory laws. In its present form the organic act forces all or any governor to execute only according to the judgment of the Secretary of the Interior and only would be acting as the Secretary's representative. Under such conditions, it would be less shadowy that the President, when appointing his Cabinet, name the Secretary of the Interior as Secretary of the Interior and Governor of the Virgin Islands. That is exactly how the Secretary of the Interior is acting with his supervisory powers over the Virgin Islands, and so naming him would represent the truth more clearly to the eyes of the world. All Virgin Islands residents would then know for sure that our executive officer is the representative of the Secretary of the Interior, and not !abor under the assumption that our newly appointed and later elected governor is not a governor as other governors in the United States. The power of the Virgin Islands Governor should not be restricted to the judgment of any other man but the President.
Elective governor: We Virgin Islanders insist we be treated as citizens of the United States and not as second-class citizens. The right to elect our own. Government has been attained by us after 20 years of United States' training. If the United States insist that we Virgin Islanders are not prepared as yet, then the blame should rest with the United States Government itself, for the fact would be that our teachings were not proper and basic. Assuming that the United States Government met us in kindergarten some 40 years ago (not be reflective on the Danish Government, for surely we had a higher standard than that), it would seem to any clear-thinking man that had we been given the proper training, we must, after 40 years, be in position to graduate to the standard of self-government, including popular election of all elective offices as in any and all other States of the Union. The United States Government in 1936, by granting us an organic act, which was 20 years ago, recognized the results of their tutelage. Certainly if it took the Virgin Islands 20 years of sound training program to complete such grades in democracy as to receive an organic act in 1936, to take more than another 20 years under the same teachers or school of thought before we could receive our BA in democracy would be clear cut that that college of democracy is wanting. Since my civic pride and love for my country, the United States compels me, not only to accept, but to promulgate that my country is the greatest teacher on earth, I cannot only understand, believe or accept, but demand that we in the Virgin Islands be awarded our graduation papers in the form of a revised organic act describing more self-government and greater autonomy.
Mr. LAWAETZ. I think a Resident Commissioner would be kind of a stepping stone to have an elective governor at a later date. As Mr. Rohlson says, probably 1960. I recall Mr. Hodge himself stated here 1960 to Congressman Powell a year ago.
I think a lot of the dissatisfaction in the island and why there is such great clamor for an elective governor is because the new organic act has been so poorly administered. That is why we are anxious to improve our government and feel it cannot be worse even if we elected our own Governor.
I believe if the organic act were carried out and administered right we would not have the people crying so much for an elective governor as they are today.
Unification of the islands is just in the beginning stage. We have differences between our islands, we have differences between our towns, and I think it would be rather difficult to elect a governor in this island at this present stage that would be satisfactory to the majority of the people.
Mr. ABBOTT. You would agree among other things, would you not, that from the discussion yesterday the difficulty in achieving a balance between St. Croix and St. Thomas under your present setup of administrative level would not overnight be solved by an elective governor?
Mr. LAWAETZ. Yes. Absolutely not. I think it is all poor administration why the people are craving for a change of some kind, especially on this land. I believe if put to a vote for an elective governor tomorrow it would probably get 99 percent, but they want an elective governor because nothing can be worse than it is today.
Mr. O'BRIEN. May I ask you, Senator, when you say "poor administration," you divide that responsibility, do you not?
Mr. LAWAETZ. I do not think I can divide it very much. I believe the division might be 10 to 90. It might be a little on the part of the legislature, but on the administration end I think you have 90 percent wrong where this island is concerned. I am not talking about the overall picture, but where this island is concerned.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Do you think it is possible under the existing organic act, with the limitations placed upon him, for any governor, no matter who he may be, to come down here and administer satisfactorily to the people?
Mr. LAWAETZ. I believe so at the present time; yes.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Even with the hobbles placed upon him by the organic act, the Interior Department, and the difficulties sometimes with the legislature?
Mr. LAWAETZ. I would think so; yes, if you found the right man.
Mr. O'BRIEN. He would have to be something of a superman, though.
Mr. LAWAETZ. I would not say so. I would not say so. He would find a lot of cooperation here in this island if we were met halfway.
Mr. ABBOTT. You would agree, would you not, that someplace in 62 vetoed measures there was harassment of the Governor by the legislature?
Mr. LAWAETZ. Absolutely not in the 62. The majority of the vetoed measures was based, as Mr. Hodge said before, on confirmations.
Mr. ABBOTT. When I say "harassment,” I mean friendly harassment. A collusion is what I am saying between the Governor and the legislature, that is, the executive and the legislative branch.
Dr. MILLER. I think the record speaks for that because the heads of these departments that have been proposed by the Governor were turned down by the legislature, which is your right but is seldom done in the States. So it shows a collusion among the legislators to harass the Governor and sabotage the act, in my opinion.
In other words, there was no cooperation. You had a right to deny him these funds, you had a right to pass legislation that was not acceptable to him; but he had a right to veto it, and he exercised the right and power we gave him and wanted him to have. But until you can get cooperation between both branches—and it is certainly a two-way street between the Governor and the legislators--if I were Governor down here-I might make a friendly suggestion while the Governor is here. It would seem wise that the Governor would sit down with the legislative branch and talk over some of the legislation and present a program for the islands and have it discussed, and also discuss who might be department heads. He may have done so.
If there are no department heads here, as I noted you complain about, it is because you have not confirmed them in most instances. That was your right under the act. But to sit down with you men and work it out if you can. If it cannot be done, then you have to go your separate ways, and I expect you would run into some vetoes that would not make sone of you very happy. There has to be a cooperative effort made.
Mr. LAWAETZ. If I may say, I cannot or the legislature cannot go to the Governor as a body without the Governor's invitation. We had an election here about 2 months ago. We have broken up a body that was considered unfavorable to the Governor. You have good people in there now. All of us are willing to cooperate with the Governor.
But we have never even been called once to Government House to propose any future plans that might be coming up. Nor has the Governor presented us with a name of a commissioner and explained to us that this man is qualified, “We know this man is so-and-so. What do you boys think about it?"
When we get down into the legislature suddently here is a man to pass on, and we do not know him from Adam.