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HomeNewsArchivesV.I. Democratic Party Infighting Reaches BBC's Orin Gordon

V.I. Democratic Party Infighting Reaches BBC's Orin Gordon

May 19, 2005 – The ongoing fracas over remarks made by Senate President Lorraine Berry in her weekly Monday morning radio address has reached international attention.
The BBC Caribbean radio broadcast Wednesday evening on WSTA Radio, replayed Thursday morning on WVWI radio, focused on Berry's remarks and Sen. Louis Hill's response. According to Radio One , Hill contacted the BBC to express his concern.
After losing her leadership of the Women's Caucus in the Democratic Territorial Party last Saturday, Berry lashed out at Democrats. (See "Democrats Officially Give Berry the Boot").
What Hill objected to was Berry's description of the politics of other Caribbean islands, and the reaction it might draw from them. Hill is from Dominica.
Referring to a "climate of vindictiveness," Berry said, "It reminds me of the politics of some of our neighbors, in which parties are political tribes. You are either for or against the Labor Party, or, in the case of Guyana, where the (Democratic Party) state chair Cecil Benjamin is from, the two parties are racially based."
Commenting on the remark, BBC host Orin Gordon said to Hill, "some might say she is speaking the truth. "I believe in emerging democracies," Hill replied. "I don't believe that is a sound statement at all. I can only say that the senate president may have suffered a lapse in judgment, and it is my hope that she will retract her statements immediately."
But in the interview with Gordon Berry defended her remarks. She quoted from her previous radio address, "I must wonder aloud if this is the model that my detractors have in mind for the Virgin Islands. Either you support the Democratic clique or not."
Gordon said that some might see Berry's comments as a "low blow." Berry said, "The language I used is consistent with British literature."
She continued, "Anything Sen. Hill is saying is unfortunate. He has not lived here long enough to understand our culture. Sen. Hill wanted to be senate president, and he didn't get it. I got it, and he has continued to undermine me from that day."
Hill was elected president of the 26th Legislature on a six to four vote by his Democratic colleagues last November. Three days later the Democrats had splintered and Berry was elected president by a newly formed senate majority.
Territorial Democratic Party state chair Cecil Benjamin made himself clear Wednesday with a seven- page rebuttal of Berry's statements. Basically, Benjamin said, Berry broke the rules when she joined a Senate majority that included independent and Independent Citizen Movement members.
He was incensed at Berry's remarks about Caribbean island politics. He said, "We are concerned of the impact her statements will have on the relationship with our Caribbean neighbors in the OECS and Caricom at a time when this territory is hosting top level government police commissioners of the region. Her statement is grossly insensitive, insulting and disrespectful to the people of the Caribbean."
Berry was initially voted in for the chairmanship of the party's Women's Caucus at a January meeting. The vote to oust her was a reverse vote. Benjamin said Thursday morning the reason for the vote was that Berry was voted in before the committee imposed sanctions on Berry and her two majority Democratic colleagues – Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Shawn-Michael Malone – for joining the majority which comprises independent and Independent Citizen Movement members.
Benjamin said Thursday, "Norman Jn Baptiste and David Jones have both had the same thing happen to them; they forfeited their vote and privileges for the same reason. They crossed the line. It is against the rules of the party."
However, Benjamin concluded, "Our doors are still open, and we will certainly welcome her back in the party if she follows the majority rules. We would like to have her back with us and to move on."
Berry had a meeting on Thursday morning, and was not available for comment.

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