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Dr. TAYLOR. Governor Gordon and representatives of the organizations mentioned, if you will come to the front table we will be happy
to have you.
TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES: VALDEMAR HILL, CHAIRMAN, VIR
GIN ISLANDS UNITY PARTY; WALTER A. GORDON, GOVERNOR, VIRGIN ISLANDS; CHARLES K. CLAUNCH, GOVERNMENT SECRETARY, VIRGIN ISLANDS; EARLE B. OTTLEY, VICE CHAIRMAN, LEGISLATURE, VIRGIN ISLANDS; JAMES A. BOUGH, MEMBER, REVISED ORGANIC ACT COMMISSION, VIRGIN ISLANDS; DANIEL W. AMBROSE, INSULAR DEMOCRATIC PARTY, VIRGIN ISLANDS; GEORGE H. T. DUDLEY AND JOHN RUSSELL, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, SAINT THOMAS, VIRGIN ISLANDS
Mr. O'BRIEN. You are quite welcome, Governor Gordon, and we are happy to see you again.
Governor GORDON. Thank you.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Chairman, as we proceed with these witnesses and so we can make as clear as possible the intended procedure, I should like to say to this group, prior to their identifying themselves and whom they represent, that it was our hope we would be able to confine testimony from this panel-type presentation to the sections numerically as we come to them.
I understand from the spokesmen for a couple of the groups that what has been done is this: They have prepared a statement embracing the entire organic act, with various headings under the legislative functions, the executive functions, the financial and fiscal provisions, and so on. There will be a great temptation as some of these amendments come up in, let's say, section 5 or 6 or 8, some of those where there has been a drive to secure amendments, to jump back into provisions such as section 28 dealing with fiscal provisions, but I believe the chairman will attempt to control that in case we get too far afield.
At this time, Mr. Chairman, I would like to suggest, if we could, from right to left at the table, have each of the gentlemen present identify themselves-of course, this is for the record only because they are readily identifiable—and to make a brief statement to the committee before we proceed to the sections, particularly to identify who it is they represent.
Mr. HILL. My name is Valdemar Hill, and I am chairman of the Virgin Islands Unity Party, a local political party.
Governor GORDON. I am Walter A. Gordon, Governor of the Virgin Islands.
Mr. CLAUNCH. I am Charles K. Claunch, Government Secretary of the Virgin Islands.
Mr. OTTLEY. I am Earle B. Ottley. I am vice chairman of the legislature and chairman of the Organic Act Commission of the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Bough. I am James A. Bough. I am a citizen member of the Revised Organic Act Commission of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.
Mr. ABBOTT. At that point, Mr. Bough and Mr. Ottley, could you state for the record, so the members will have an understanding, how
the commission came into being, how it was selected, and what its function is, please?
Mr. OTTLEY. The commission was established by the legislature in February 1956. It is composed of 6 members of the legislature and 7 civic leaders, including the president of the American Virgin Islands Civic Association in New York. The commission is charged with the responsibility of appearing before Congress and members of congressional committees to urge a greater measure of selfgovernment for the people of the Virgin Islands.
Mr. AMBROSE. I am Daniel W. Ambrose. I represent the St. Thomas Democratic Club as its president, and the Insular Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands as its secretary-treasurer.
Mř. DUDLEY. My name is George H. T. Dudley. I am a member of the executive committee of the chamber of commerce and represent the chamber of commerce.
Mr. RUSSELL. My name is John Russell. I am executive secretary of the chamber of commerce and here with Mr. Dudley.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you, gentlemen.
SECTIONS 1 AND 2
Mr. ABBOTT. In accordance with the unanimous consent request of the chairman, we will proceed to consideration of the 1954 organic act. Since sections 1 and 2 have not been, I believe, called into question, space could be left in the record for setting them out at this point, turning then to section 3.
(Secs. 1 and 2 follow:)
ACT OF JULY 22, 1954 (68 STAT. 497) Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands."
SEC. 2. (a) The provisions of this Act, and the name “Virgin Islands" as used in this Act, shall apply to and include the territorial domain, islands, cays, and waters acquired by the United States through cession of the Danish West Indian Islands by the convention between the United States of America and His Majesty the King of Denmark entered into August 4, 1916, and ratified by the Senate on September 7, 1916 (39 Stat. 1706). The Virgin Islands as above described are hereby declared an unincorporated territory of the United States of America.
(b) The government of the Virgin Islands shall have the powers set forth in this Act and shall have the right to sue by such name, and in cases arising out of contract, to be sued : Provided, That no tort action shall be brought against the government of the Virgin Islands or against any officer or employee thereof in his official capacity without the consent of the legislature constituted by this Act.
The capital and seat of government of the Virgin Islands shall be located at the city of Charlotte Amalie, in the island of Saint Thomas.
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. ASPINALL. Before we get started on these sections, I would like to have an opportunity given to anybody that might have a suggestion to make, if there is any suggestion, so that we can clear up the whole organic act at this time. Although we have no legislation before us, we do not know whether or not there will be legislation introduced in the next session of Congress as to sections 1 and 2.
So, in order to make our records clear, I wish the chairman would ask if there are any statements to be made for those sections for which we have no legislation appearing before us.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think that is a very fine suggestion, Mr. Aspinall. At this time I will ask if any of the gentlemen at the table here, or anyone in the room, has suggestions in the way of proposed amendments to section 1 or 2 of the organic act.
SEC. 3. No law shall be enacted in the Virgin Islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or deny to any person therein equal protection of the laws.
In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to be represented by counsel for his defense, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to have a copy thereof, to have a speedy and public trial, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, and to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.
No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law, and no person for the same offense shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment nor shall be compelled in any crimnal cause to give evidence against himself; nor shall any person sit as judge or magistrate in any case in which he has been engaged as attorney or prosecutor.
All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties in the case of criminal offenses, except for first-degree murder or any capital offense when the proof is evident or the presumption great.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.
No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be enacted.
All persons shall have the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and the same shall not be suspended except as herein expressly provided.
No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.
Private property shall not be taken for public use except upon payment of just compensation ascertained in the manner provided by law.
The right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.
No warrant for arrest or search shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Slavery shall not exist in the Virgin Islands.
Involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted by a court of law, shall not exist in the Virgin Islands,
No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances.
No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party, oragnization, or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the Virgin Islands of the United States shall be qualified to hold any office of trust or profit under the government of the Virgin Islands.
No money shall be paid out of the Virgin Islands treasury except in accordance with an Act of Congress or money bill of the legislature and on warrant drawn by the proper officer.
The contracting of polygamous or plural marriages is prohibited.
The employment of children under the age of sixteen years in any occupation injurious to health or morals or hazardous to life or limb is prohibited.
Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to limit the power of the legislature herein provided to enact laws for the protection of life, the public health, or the public safety.
Mr. ABBOTT. Section 3, of course, sets out the bill of rights of the organic act. Do any of you gentlemen here at the table, first, have any suggestions for amendment of the bill of rights by way of clarification, deletion, or addition of sections?
Dr. MILLER. May I ask a question there, Mr. Chairman?
Dr. MILLER. This present bill of rights, section 3, follows the pattern of that of the United States Constitution; is that correct?
Mr. ABBOTT. I believe that is so. With reference to double jeopardy?
Dr. MILLER. Yes. Mr. ABBOTT. Yes, sir. It evolved directly from the Federal Constitution provision, I believe.
There is one question that has arisen, I believe, with respect to the fourth from the last paragraph, which occurs on page 2 of your print of Public Law 517, which reads:
No money shall be paid out of the Virgin Islands treasury except in accordance with an Act of Congress or money bill of the Legislature and on warrant drawn by the proper officer.
Could I ask you, Governor Gordon, or the government secretary whether there has been any question raised as to the operation of that provision when related to the balance of the organic act?
Governor GORDON. I do not recall any occasion where there has been any objection to that provision being raised by anybody.
Mr. ABBOTT. And no feeling, to your knowledge, that it might collide with the fiscal provisions where found in the act or the authority of the legislature? Governor GORDON. Not to my knowledge.
Mr. ABBOTT. Do any of the other witnesses at the table have any comments to make on that provision?
Mr. OTTLEY. I believe this section is a good one, and even though it might appear a little curious to have it in the bill-of-rights section, if you take it out of that section, it appears to me it should be inserted somewhere else in the organic act, because it is an important provision that should be in there somewhere.
Mr. ABBOTT. The question that has been raised, I believe, Mr. Ottley, is simply that-whether it is properly found in the bill of rights. So long as it is contained in the 1936 act in that place and carried forward in the 1954 act, the counter suggestion has been it be retained there.
Are there any other suggestions on that from anyone else at the table or in the audience? That is on section 3.
Mr. Hill. I would like to say it is a very important provision and should be in the organic act;
and since it is in the bill of rights now, it may as well stay there. It is more of a technical question as to where it should be placed rather than the importance of the provision itself.
Mr. A BROTT. Do any of the members have questions on section 3?
Dr. MILLER. One question. I noted the proposed amendments to the 1954 organic act in section 3.
Do any of the panel members have suggestions, as to the proposed amendment to the act, which reads:
No political or religious test other than an oath to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States applicable to the Virgin Islands, and the laws of the Virgin Islands, shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the government of the Virgin Islands.
I believe there were 3 measures introduced in the 84th Congress which would add that amendment to the present organic act. Have vou any comment on the proposed amendment?
Mr. Hill. I would say this: It goes along with similar language included in the merit-system law of the Virgin Islands, and I see no objection to having it in the organic act.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Do you believe it would be necessary?
Mr. HILL. It is better to have it in the organic act rather than in a law that only provides for employees of the executive officers of the executive branch of the government.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Do you think it would be possible under the present reading of the bill of rights for a person to be barred from office as a result of political or religious tests?
Mr. Hill. No.
Mr. HILL. In a sense. However, it would make the bill of rights fuller and more complete; but we do have laws to that effect at the present time.
Mr. ABBOTT. There has arisen the question whether an amendment should be added which, in addition to the oath to support the Constitution, should be framed as a loyalty oath.
Would the comments you have just made, Mr. Hill, preclude the requirement of a loyalty oath?
Mr. HILL. Mr. Abbott, the organic act of 1954 includes the loyalty oath for all civilian employees.
Mr. ABBOTT. The question I am asking: Do you feel with this amendment there might then be collision with the loyalty oath?
Mr. HILL. Yes, it makes it fuller in the organic act, more complete.
Mr. O'BRIEN. As I said earlier, if anyone in the room wants to offer suggestions at any time as we proceed, feel perfectly free to do so.
Mr. AsPINALL. Mr. Hill did not answer Mr. Abbott's question. His question was: If you put it in the organic act itself, would there not be a collision with that provision in the organic act as to the requirement for a loyalty oath?
Of course, I may say to you, Mr. Hill, that I differ somewhat with you in regard to what should be put in the bill of rights. I think that it should be a wide framework and should not be too specific except as to those protective measures which naturally fall into it.
If there is a possibility of collision to which Mr. Abbott has made reference, would you not rather see it remain as it is rather than to have an apparent collision of two similar situations within the basic law ?
Mr. HILL. I agree with you on that.