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Democrats Sanction Break-Away Senators

Jan. 16, 2005 — The Territorial Committee of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands in a meeting Saturday, voted to sanction Democratic Sens. Lorraine L. Berry, Allah "Foncie" Donastorg and Shawn-Michael Malone. The vote came from a motion made by Territorial Committeewoman Maria "Chi Chi" Heywood near the end of the six-hour meeting held at Gertrude's Restaurant on St. Croix.
About 50 Democrats, who were present at the meeting, voted in favor of a motion to recognize the seven-member Democratic minority senators as the official Democratic organization in the 26th Legislature. The vote was almost unanimous, with one opposing vote – Senate President Berry's. Majority senators Donastorg and Malone did not attend the meeting.
Heywood said because of Berry's 22 years as a legislator and her long involvement in the Democratic Party, Heywood was reluctant to be harsh with Berry — which is why she said she worded the motion so carefully.
But in a sometimes acrimonious session, several party members called for "consequences" while others urged that the matter be put aside.
The vote effectively ostracizes the three democratic majority members from the Democratic Party. According to Heywood the vote takes away the senators' right to vote in the territorial committee, which they are automatically awarded as an elected Democratic senator
The three Democratic senators, Berry, Donastorg and Malone, formed a consensus majority with independent and Independent Citizens Movement senators three weeks after the General Election. Members of the Democratic Party, as well as Delegate Donna M. Christiansen, decried the actions of the break-away Democrats.
Berry was voted president with Independent St. Croix Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste as vice president. Other members of the majority include, Sens. Celestino White, Sr., Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Usie R. Richards, Liston Davis, Donastorg, and Malone. (See "Democrats Split to Give Independents the Majority").
Making up the seven-member minority are Sens. Craig Barshinger, Roosevelt David, Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Ronald E. Russell and Juan Figueroa Serville. All were present at the meeting except Barshinger.
James O'Bryan, former Democratic State Chair said although the party has seen "disappointment and setbacks" many elected leaders are Democrats. He asked the senators not to get "bogged down with providing fodder for the media" and called for a "renewed commitment to the electorate." Kevin Rodriquez said the issue regarding Berry should be "tabled."
Berry remained unruffled amid the tension. "I have been a Democrat for 36 years, 22 of which I have served in the Legislature." She called for the party to support its members, especially women and to encourage them to run for office.
"Notwithstanding what a few activists want," said Berry, "I will continue to run as a Democrat."
Minority leader, Sen. Roosevelt David referred to the "unfair" allotments given to minority senators and, while he urged a healing of the party, said, "If there is an infraction, punishment should be meted out."
Serville was the most vociferous in his remarks. "The healing process should begin with the president," he said. Serville said Berry was "lashing back" at the minority because they did not support her presidency. The freshman senator called Berry's actions "spiteful, belittling and embarrassing."
Russell called for "leadership by example." He said, "We need to move forward."
Hill said, "We must have the strength to deal with this matter," adding, "The fact is Sen. Berry lost the vote in one body and she went to the next one."
"We don't want to sanction Senator Berry, but what she did was wrong," James said. "I feel bad that this will taint her record."

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