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STATEMENT OF HENRY ROHLSEN, ST. CROIX BUSINESSMAN AND
FORMER MEMBER, VIRGIN ISLANDS LEGISLATURE Mr. ROHLSEN. Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, my name is Henry Rohlsen. I am a native and resident of the Virgin Islands.
For many years I have been actively engaged in the civic and political affairs of the Virgin Islands, particularly in our struggle for an improved standard of living, a sound and strong economy to provide revenues needed to achieve the goal of self-support, representation in Congress, the right to elect our Governor, the right to vote for the President of the United States.
I have served in the Legislature of the Virgin Islands as a member at large from St. Croix and served a term as chairman of the municipal council in St. Croix prior to the new organic act.
Presently I serve in several civic and governmental boards and committees.
I am engaged in business in the Virgin Islands.
During the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to study, discuss, and work on many community problems.
I have witnessed the phenomenal growth of our economy and the improvement of our standards of living which has occurred during the last 5 or 6 years.
The contact of day-to-day living and its problems gives one a feel of the pulse and knowledge of the hopes and aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands concerning their political and economic future as your fellow American citizens.
The news that Ralph Paiewonsky was appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands by the President of the United States, subject to confirmation by your committee, brought great satisfaction and joy to a vast majority of the people in the Virgin Islands.
Mr. Chairman, this is as it should be for Ralph Paiewonsky has worked untiringly for more than 20 years in the interest of the Virgin Islands and its people.
During this time he has been a moving figure in every major study made by the Virgin Islands on the role of political and economic progress.
In the passing of these years he has devoted a great portion of his time and life and in many instances neglected his own business, looking after the business of the people of the Virgin Islands.
To the best of my knowledge, he has never sought compensation from the government of any kind for the valuable services rendered the community.
His reward has been in witnessing the benefit accruing to the islands, a major portion of it, the result of his labor.
He did not accomplish all of this alone, but was a stalwart and moving force behind it.
Ralph Paiewonsky is a good leader and the people of the Virgin Islands are confident that he will make a good Governor.
His experience and knowledge of the Virgin Islands and its problems would be of great value in our continuing struggle to become selfsupporting, to gain representation in Congress, and the right to elect our Governor.
We have found him to be a loyal American citizen, a dedicated Virgin Islander, a capable, hard working, progressive, God-fearing person.
His integrity is respected throughout the Virgin Islands and whereever he is known.
Since 1936 he has been very active in the Democratic Party on a national and local level. He has been a bulwark of strength in the building of our Democratic clubs in the island and he is quite familiar with the rough game of politics occasionally played in these islands.
If elections had been held in the Virgin Islands among the candidates being considered for the governorship, Ralph Paiewonsky would have won the election by a wide margin.
The people of the Virgin Islands strongly support the President's appointment of Ralph Paiewonsky as Governor of the Virgin Islands.
Before coming here I talked with the man in the street, business and civic leaders, members of the legislature, and with many of our new residents, to get their reaction to this appointment.
My findings are that the community at large is solidly behind the appointment of Ralph Paiewonsky and pray and hope that your committee will confirm.
We have been informed through the local press in the Virgin Islands that Ralph Paiewonsky has been subjected to a letter writing campaign, first designed to prevent his nomination and now to block his confirmation.
It is to be expected, particularly so with any aggressive business or political leader in any community of the world, that he will from time to time be required to step on toes and that as a result make enemies. It was expected that Ralph Paiewonsky's opponents would use every effort at retaliation by trying to prevent this nomination which is their right and privilege and was done in this case.
To continue the same tactics after the nomination has been made in an attempt to thwart the will of the President of the United States, the people of the Virgin Islands do not condone.
Let no person say that such obstruction is in the interest of the people of the Virgin Islands. This to me represents selfish interests and will hurt rather than help the people of the Virgin Islands.
The time now is for all Virgin Islanders and residents to join with Ralph Paiewonsky in getting back to the task as quickly as possible in continuing the struggle to make the Virgin Islands a better place to live in, and an asset to our great Nation.
Mr. Chairman, our future lies ahead not in the past, or with the grievances of any individual or group.
The Virgin Islands want Ralph Paiewonsky to be our next Governor. This can only be accomplished by the confirmation of your committee, which we trust and pray will be granted without undue delay.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and your committee, for the opportunity afforded me to come to Washington and appear before you on this matter.
We hope that your committee will be able to visit the Virgin Islands, hold hearings and find out for yourselves the tremendous progress that is being made and to get the correct answers to all of your questions.
Again, many thanks for this opportunity.
Let me say to you, so that it may not be misunderstood in the Virgin Islands, the questions which I have continued to ask about the Virgin Islands Corporation and trying to keep it from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, are not in any way related to the qualifications of Mr. Paiewonsky to be the Governor of the islands. · All I am trying to find out is if I cannot stir up a little interest in them, the people down there, to try to get these things from being such a drain on the Treasury of the United States.
I know he is a competent businessman. If confirmed I would like to see him go into that problem.
Since you have made, in my regard, a good, fair statement, I thought I would make that one to you.
Mr. ROHLSEN. Mr. Chairman, concerning questions you have been asking concerning the Virgin Islands Corporation, I have worked for many years representing the farmers of the islands and I have been in close contact with the Virgin Islands Corporation from time to time.
With your permission I would like to make some comments as to why I think the Virgin Islands Corporation is losing money.
The CHAIRMAN. Go ahead. I have dragged it in, myself, it does not relate to the nomination, but you have a right to do so.
Mr. ROHLSEN. First, we have tried in the Virgin Islands, those connected with farming have tried, to get the Virgin Islands Corporation to set up a program whereby they would divest over a period of time their large sugarcane acreages to individual farmers and eventually to get the Corporation completely out of the sugarcane growing and cultivation business.
We have had some success in having them make an experiment of this and a few years ago they did set up 10 farms which were turned over to former employees of theirs who were farmers and excellent farmers and this project has been a success. Why it was stopped we do not know.
Instead of the Virgin Islands Corporation trying to continue their program and encourage it, they have been leasing land and trying to expand their sugarcane cultivation.
It is my opinion and the opinion of many persons in the islands that the program should be directed toward getting the private sugar growers into the sugar growing business and getting out of it on an organized and progressive scale.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. · Are there any questions.
Senator ALLOTT. I have one thing to say here. You mentioned in your statement about the barrage of letters. I simply want to make it clear, Mr. Chairman, two things:
This is not a court of law, and we are not bound wholly by what we hear here, though it would be my hope that we expose this whole affair completely as far as we can in the committee.
But as far as I am personally concerned, I have not received any letters that I know of from the Virgin Islands on this.
I only say this for the reason that someone else on the committee yesterday made a similar statement.
I would not like whatever action the committee might take to have the implication that this is the result of the barrage of mail because the barrage of mail does not exist so far as my own office is concerned.
Mr. ROHLSEN. May I mention in the newspapers there appeared an article that there was a letter writing campaign.
The CHAIRMAN. I was the recipient of most of it, I understand. I understand, too, I do want to assure you that other members of the committee have also told me the same thing that Senator Allott just said; namely, the other Senators have not had many letters about the nomination.
I think the letter writing enthusiasm probably confined itself to the newspaper and did not get into the mail very much.
Senator DWORSHAK. What business are you in?
Senator DWORSHAK. Who paid your expenses to come here and testify ?
Mr. Rohlson. I did, sir. I came here unsolicited.
Senator DWORSHAK. Are you representing anybody or any group besides yourself?
Mr. ROHLSEN. No, sir.
Senator BURDICK. I have one question. When were you a member of the legislature?
Mr. ROHLSEN. 1951 to 1954.
Senator BURDICK. You were not a member of the legislature in 1957? Mr. ROHLSEN. No, sir. Senator BURDICK. That is all, Mr. Chairman. The CHAIRMAN. That is all. Thank you very much, Mr. Rohlsen. Mr. ROHLSEN. Thank you, sir. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Alexander.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH ALEXANDER, STATE CHAIRMAN OF THE
VIRGIN ISLANDS DEMOCRATIC PARTY Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Joseph Alexander. I am a native and resident of the Virgin Islands.
I am engaged in business there. I am a former Virgin Islands legislator, having served for 26 years in that capacity. I am state chairman of the Virgin Islands Democratic Party.
The President of the United States has nominated Hon. Ralph Paiewonsky for the high office of Governor of the Virgin Islands. I heartily endorse this nomination and respectfully urge your committee to recommend to the U.S. Senate its confirmation.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Paiewonsky and his family almost all my life. They are held in very high esteem by all those who have come in contact with them.
I personally have been associated with Mr. Paiewonsky in matters of legislation; have worked with him very closely all through the years, in business, social, and civic matters, and have found him to
be very conscientious in whatever was being discussed, considered, or undertaken.
So I have an intimate knowledge of his ability and background, and, therefore, know he possesses those qualities that should go to make him a good Governor, if he is confirmed.
He has been our Democratic national committeeman for 20 years.
But apart from this partisan office, he is personally well known and respected by the people in the islands, and his appointment as Governor of the Virgin Islands is supported by more than 90 percent of the population.
Failing to stop his appointment by the President, a small group of individuals stooped to discredit Mr. Paiewonsky. Several members of this group are known to me personally, and I can assure you without any question or equivocation that they do not represent the feeling or the will of the majority of the people of the islands.
Senator DWORSHAK. Can you give us the names of some of those people, their background?
Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. Senator, you had a gentleman right here today, Mr. Brauer.
You had Mr. Wisener, and you have Mr. Rockoff. They took a very active stand against Mr. Paiewonsky.
Senator DWORSHAK. Are they residents of the islands? Mr. ALEXANDER. Yes, sir; they are all residents of the islands. Senator DWORSHAK. What does Mr. Wisener do? Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. Wisener came down there a few years ago from the State of Connecticut and started a real estate business. He has taken a dislike to Mr. Paiewonsky without any justification simply because, mainly, of business reasons.
He is a real estate man and when Mr. Paiewonsky wanted to take some property taken out of his hands and give it to another real estate agent, Mr. Wisener disliked Mr. Paiewonsky on that account,
Senator DWORSHAK. Who is the other man? Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. Rockoff, a fellow in St. Thomas who has been a member of the Democratic club over there, but he was interested in a fellow by the name of Connie Gay and naturally he was boosting his nomination.
So he also took a very adverse position against Mr. Paiewonsky and sent up cables here as an imposter using designations to which he was not entitled.
The CHAIRMAN. What was that again? We went through one of these charges a minute ago.
Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. Rockoff. Rockoff. I think he used the designation of State chairman when he should not have used it.
The CHAIRMAN. You say he sent cables?
The CHAIRMAN. Doing what, now, pretending he had a position he did not hold ?
Mr. ALEXANDER. Yes, he signed as State chairman. He is not a State chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Could you give me some indication of what Members of Congress got them?
Mr. ALEXANDER. It was disclosed to me, sir, in confidence. Do you insist that I divulge that to you publicly?