Turks & Caicos -
Good morning Ministers. Thank
you for bringing direct talks to this process; it is something that
we have consistently called for.
The Peoples Democratic Movement stands
for political and constitutional advancement of the people of the Turks
and Caicos Islands. We believe in a system that is democratic and accountable.
We therefore cannot support any measure that will cause regression of
the Turks and Caicos people and our rights. We submit that the aims
of improving integrity in public life, more efficient arrangements for
government, and an improved justice system, achieving a parliament representative
of the people, bettering public financial management and promoting an
inclusive community are not at odds with constitutional advancement,
however this draft does not accomplish this for our people.
In the spring of 2009 the three main
political parties in the United Kingdom decided through consensus to
intervene and partially suspend our constitution because there was deemed
to be a high probability of systemic corruption in the Government of
the Turks and Caicos Islands. Most persons felt that the real
purpose of the suspension of the constitution was to provide an opportunity
for the British Government to fight corruption and bring to justice
those who were accused of criminality in Government without local interference.
However, it was our system of
Government and way of life that has also been put on trial and the measures
to correct a system deemed inappropriate by HMG are being imposed against
the will of the people. Out of a sense of love, compassion and
duty to our people we have made efforts to at home and here in London
to alter this approach but have been met with resistance on the part
of the FCO officials, and the Interim Government in favor of forging
ahead with an agenda to correct a “system” that has not been proven
to be the problem but to the contrary in the case o f the Public Accounts
Committee of 2007-2009 helped to uncover the wrongs of the old Government.
Simply put, it wasn’t our 2006 constitution
or its organs that failed but those elected by the people and the decision
makers at FCO that failed to act appropriately on behalf of the people.
In fact, in a paper entitled
Governance in the UK Overseas Territories:
The Case of the Turks and Caicos Islands
this point about UK Government neglect is well argued stating,
the UK government can be blamed for not doing enough to pre-empt the
collapse in governance in the TCI in the first place. There had been
strong indications for several years that there were deep rooted problems
in the TCI. Numerous studies were undertaken that highlighted issues
of concern……After the last report the Governor of the TCI expressed
serious concerns about what was happening and even suggested a Commission
of Inquiry into Crown Land deals should be established (TCI Commission
of Inquiry 2009: 94-95). However, despite these reports only limited
action was seemingly taken by the UK authorities. The FCO was certainly
aware of some of the problems in the TCI.”
Since our focus in these talks is the
restoration of our constitution to aid a swift return to a democratically
elected Government and Legislature it is important to note that there
are very flawed and dangerous arguments that underpin the proposed changes
which have been put forward by some of our own quietly ambitious Turks
and Caicos Islanders, who have used our political misfortunes of having
elected incompetent and venal Governments over the years as an opportunity
to push a political agenda of obtaining power but in the guise of improving
society. The false arguments we hope to address are:
our political parties are insular and control a monopoly on the Government
and elections process,
That there are individuals who have a
contribution to make to the advancement of the Government and deserving
people are being denied because they cannot climb the ranks of these
That our community is not open enough
to allow residents a right to participate in the direction of the country,
That transactional politics have corroded a system of free and fair
, That Some islands and people in the Turks and Caicos
Islands are unrepresented in the Parliament and deserve special status
at any cost and
That the political parties must be regulated
because they cannot be trusted to put measures in place to police themselves.
And finally, that we(the political parties) have no greater mandate
than those appointed by the British Government.
During these discussions we intend
to disprove these arguments and prove that through our history, though
not perfect, our people have sought to advance constitutional measures
to protect the rights of individuals, improve the checks and balances
in the administration of Government, and most importantly promote the
Institution of Integrity in Public Life, and that the proposed draft
constitution is an overreaction to correct an anomaly in our history.
We also intend to prove that the underlying assumptions bringing about
the draft constitution are flawed. Effectively, our plea is for the
UK Government to reconsider its approach and enact a constitution that
gives the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands greater autonomy over
our destiny, the Government the right and power to govern while giving
the Opposition and the people of the country the opportunity to check
the Government. We will address this situation through outlining
our views on critical provisions of the draft including:
b) House of Assembly including its size (including committees), its
functions and limitations and how it is made up (voting system).c)
Powers of the Governor vs. 2006 constitution.
Public Finance and the Watchdog Institutions.
e) Proposed constitutional Silence on trial by Jury.
Constitutional amendments that would
give greater authority and responsibility
to the electorate, the Legislature and the Executive including
referendum provisions and delegation of certain reserve powers.
Most observers to these talks
including the international community, the UK Parliament, the
TCI people, Caricom and our brothers and sisters in the other Overseas
Territories are watching carefully to see if you continue to listen
or whether they amount to a rubber stamping of
a rejected proposal.