By Hayden Boyce
SUN Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Premier of Bermuda, Dr. Ewart Brown, have condemned the United Kingdom’s (UK) decision to indefinitely postpone elections which were scheduled to be held in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in July, 2011.
In a statement released on September 30, CARICOM stated it was greatly concerned with the recent decision of the British Government to postpone general elections in the TCI. The regional body called for direct rule to be replaced by self rule in this British Overseas Territory, and for a return to democracy for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which has been an Associate Member of CARICOM since July 1991.
Noting that this decision will result in the continuation of the imposition of direct rule from London for an undetermined period and, consequently, in a delay in the return to constitutional government, CARICOM added: “This recent disquieting development reinforces the view of the Caribbean Community that the imposition of direct rule is totally at odds with the development of good governance, including improved fiscal and administrative management, in the Turks and Caicos Islands – the professed aim of the policy of the British Government.”
“That objective,” CARICOM added, “cannot be met by the continued disenfranchisement of the Turks and Caicos Islanders, by the denial of their inalienable right to shape their own future nor by the artificial widening of the voter base. Good political and fiscal governance cannot be handed down. Its nature and contours have to be moulded by the people of the territory.”
Established on August 1, 1973, CARICOM’s 15 members now comprise Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Associate members are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Meantime, Bermuda’s Premier Dr. Brown, who is a close friend of former TCI Premier Michael Misick, said he was “deeply saddened by the continuing, dreadful delay in restoring full democratic rights to the people of Turks and Caicos Islands.”
In a media statement, Brown said: “Historically governments and government leaders throughout the world that have taken the step of suspending free, democratic elections have been roundly condemned and sanctioned. If this were to occur in Zimbabwe for example, the world and the UK government in particular would refer to the move as barbaric and characterize its government as a cruel dictatorship.
The Premier continued, “Bermudians and the people of Turks and Caicos share deep historical and familial ties and it is my fervent hope that free elections and a government duly elected by the people will be quickly restored to that country.”
Last month the UK Minister for Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, during a visit to the TCI, said that the delay would allow time for further important work to take place on public financial management and good governance reform on the island and will allow for the reforms to become fully embedded.
"The UK Government has considered all the Interim Government’s work over the past 12 months; all the challenges that remain, not least economic stability; and, taking all of these factors into account, we have decided that the elections will not take place in July 2011,” he said.
Sections of the TCI Constitution were suspended on August 14, 2009 following a Commission of Inquiry report into allegations of corruption in the country.