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Mr. ABBOTT. Before you close, at that point, Mr. Chairman, could you state, Mr. Joseph, what this group is which you represent—the Virgin Islands Civic Movement?
Mr. JOSEPH. The Virgin Islands Civil Movement.
Mr. JOSEPH. It is an organization primarily for the benefit of the people here that is not so much interested in politics but more with the internal affairs of our government on the whole. We strive to do that because we believe that the people here misunderstand what really is politics and what is civics. So we try to divide it in such a way that we can come to a better understanding.
Mr. ABBOTT. Does your membership include people on all of the Islands?
Mr. JOSEPH. It includes members right here in St. Croix, and we have one or two in St. Thomas, but it is not far extended over there. We have no members on St. John.
Mr. ABBOTT. You have simply undertaken a study or an activity which, as you describe it, is for the benefit of the people of all the islands.
Mr. JOSEPH. All of the islands.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you. I think at this point we will move into the panel plan which we have found to be quite effective.
I may suggest that it may not be necessary to cover every section at length, because I assume there are many sections in the act which everyone wants to have stand as they are, and there is no use belaboring them.
I would like to make one other statement while it occurs to me. Of course, we do not know what the committee will recommend after we study this record. It is entirely possible that the committee may not favor many changes in the organic act. But I think that the committee would desire in its report not only to cover any recommended changes it might favor, but also to outline reasons for not making changes which were proposed.
I think that that would be more satisfactory to Congress. I feel it would be more satisfactory to the people of the islands, so that you would not feel we heard suggestions and just brushed them under the rug, that we did not consider them at all. I think that is the feeling of the committee.
Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, if I may, I would like to call the attention of the committee to the presence of three members of the Christiansted High School staff and 39 members of the student body in the room today. The teachers are Mrs. Pearl Byrd Larsen, Mr. James A. Livas, Jr., and Mr. Theodore Tynes. The students have signed their names on a list, which I suggest be placed in the record if it is satisfactory with the committee members.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I want to say for the committee and for myself, that the teachers and the students are most welcome, and that we will be happy to have the names of the teachers and the students made a part of the official record of this committee.
Without objection, the names will be made a part of the record at this point. I wonder if the group would stand up.
(The names follow :) Teachers : Mrs. Pearl Byrd Larsen
Erna Beckles Roosevelt Heyliger
Cleone Hector Aldolphus Gaskin
Claudette Forbes Gwendoylin Allicks
Leona Williams Rupert O'Bryant
Raymond Finch Camille Johnson
Lorraine Liburd Winston Hodge
Viriley Harris George O'Reilly
Estalina Bastian Carl Sealey
Jean Peebles Tyrome Simpson
Juan Luis Sidley Harby
Estaban Riviera Betty Christiansen
Ashley Andrews Raphael Van Putten
Alphonso Milligan Ulric Francis
Ernest Lynch Alphonso Harrison
Clifford Knight Ivan Williams Mr. O'BRIEN. I just want to say-I am sure that I echo the sentiments of every member of this committee, every Member of Congressthat it is a pretty wonderful thing to have young people such as yourselves come here and listen to the testimony at a congressional hearing, because, while tomorrow might seem ages away to you at your age, it is very, very close indeed, and the time is imminent almost when
you will be wrestling with the same problems your elders are grappling with today. Perhaps if the day comes when you have an elective Governor in the Virgin Islands he may very well be among the group standing here today. Thank you very much, and you are very welcome indeed.
I think at this point, Mr. Abbott, it would be well to outline the matters to be discussed, and from time to time the members of the committee will undoubtedly have questions, and some of them may go back to statements made a little earlier.
Mr. ABBOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Off the record. (Discussion off the record.)
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Chairman. For the members of the panel and the people present, at the direction of the chairman several months ago, in recognition of the fact there was then pending a total of 20 measures in the 84th United States Congress, 20 bills proposing to amend the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, the staff of the committee, with frequent conferences with committee members, sought about developing the background information which would permit this subcommittee to proceed with hearings in the Virgin Islands.
As most of the people present are aware, perhaps, at the time some of these measures were considered, because of the differing views both of witnesses who appeared in Washington and from information transmitted to members on several of the more controversial measures, it was agreed that the best place for establishing a forum to consider these measures would be in the islands themselves. To that end there was developed, as a working paper, the committee print which has been placed before the members and panel members.
As one of the witnesses accurately characterized it, it contains three columns—the 1936 organic act, section by section. Actually, of course, there were 1 or 2 amendments to the 1936 organic act, so that what we have in that column are the provisions that applied prior to the enactment of Public Law 517 of the 83d Congress, 2d session, of July 22, 1954 (68 Stat. 497), and, of course, officially designated by section 1 of the act as the "Revised Organic Act."
In the third column have been set out amendments which have been formally proposed to the 1954 organic act. As indicated, a total of 20 bills were introduced and referred on the House side, of course, to the full committee and, in turn, automatically, under our rules, to the subcommittee which sits before you today. There were a number of duplications in those bills, as will be indicated as we proceed to them.
SECTIONS 1 AND 2
Under previous order of the Chair, as we go, starting from the top down with section 1, each section will be set out in its entirety, and thereafter questions raised as to whether there are comments on the existing provisions.
(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 con ituted 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. ABBOTT. Section 1, of course, simply cites the title of the organic act.
Section 2 deals with the applicability of the act and declares the islands to be an unincorporated territory. Previously, as many of you know, the Virgin Islands were designated as an insular possession. Because of certain court decisions and a desire to more accurately characterize the offshore flag areas of the United States, it was agreed that the proper designation of the Virgin Islands for legal and political purposes—and I mean political purposes in its pure sense-would be to characterize them as an unincorporated territory.
Under that section also, the Governor of the Virgin Islands, as previously existed under the 1936 act with respect to the two municipalities, the legislative assembly was granted these basic powers set forth in the act, and reference was made in the 1954 act authority
wise to tort actions being brought against government officers or employees.
Finally, section 2 established the capital at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.
Now, are there any recommendations from the panel members?
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Joseph has a suggestion on section 2 within his statement. Although I might disagree with him violently on the proposal that he presents, nevertheless I think that he has the right to have that statement put in the record at this point, and then, if he wishes, to comment on it.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Joseph, would it be satisfactory if the written comment you had were inserted in the record at this point?
Mr. JOSEPH. Yes.
Mr. JOSEPH. Section 2, subsection (b), government power to sue et cetera : The present act provides that tort action cannot be brought against the government without the consent of the legislature. I suggest that that be changed in a way which would make it possible that the government be sued in an action of tort for simple negligence without the consent of the legislature. But in the action of tort for serious negligence that such action be brought against the government with the consent of the legislature.
The government should be responsible to members of the public for simple negligence and not totally exempt from the master-andservant rule depending only on the opinion of the legislature. When an employee of the government realizes that through his negligence, his employer, the government, is responsible and is made liable for his action, and in like manner he, the employee, can be sued by the government for his action under the rule of master and servant, it would create a more responsible staff of government workers. Under the present setup politics would play a great part in determining action and thereby reduce the sense of responsibility among members of such political parties in power.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you.
Mr. ASPINALL. Now, Mr. Chairman, I wish to advise Mr. Joseph that his position runs contrarywise to general law. Although there are exceptions, nevertheless this would be a complete exception to general law under which we operate throughout the flag area. That is all I have to say.
Mr. O'BRIEN. If there are no further comments on that particular section, we will move along.
(Sec. 3 follows:)
BILL OF RIGHTS
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 criminal 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, organization, or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the Virign Islands or 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 the 1954 organic act sets out the bill of rights for the Virgin Islands. Insofar as the 1954 provisions are related to the 1936 organic act, they are the same provisions but came out in a slightly different order in the 1954 act.
Three measures introduced in the 84th Congress and pending--and I would like to explain that in a moment-would amend section 3 by adding at the end thereof the following new paragraph:
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.
Before we invite comments on that, for the understanding of the people present, when we refer to these measures presently pending in the 84th Congress, as you know, the Congress continues during a 2-year period, and although adjourned sine die, it remains as a body politic and, of course, could legislate if a special session were called. So that bills introduced in January of 1954 or thereafter have been