Statement of the Turks and Caicos Forum
Presented to the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee
delivered by Alpha Gibbs
5th October 2010
Your Excellency Chairman Chipaziwa, Committee Members, to you we extend our greetings, I am Alpha Gibbs and I appear here today on behalf of the Turks and Caicos Forum as a follow-up to our appearance on June 22, of this year before the Committee of Twenty Four. Accompanying me at this hearing is Mr. Benjamin Roberts, who served as our designated spokesperson at the June 22 appearance.
Our continuing concern, now, as it was in June, is the blatant unchecked, unmonitored failures of our Administering Power, the United Kingdom in the discharge of its responsibilities for the Non-Self Governing Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
On August 14, 2009 The United Kingdom through an Order in Council suspended significant and critical areas of the duly adopted Constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands. With this suspension, the following assaults on the Fundamental Human Rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands were unleashed.
1) The duly elected representatives of the people were removed from office.
2) The Parliament was disbanded.
3) The native born Deputy Governor was removed from office and no replacement has been hired.
4) A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office career civil servant was appointed Governor with the responsibility to administer the governmental and administrative affairs of the Territory. This Governor is now attempting to execute the total and combined functions previously administered by a Premier and six cabinet ministers of government.
5) Alien consultants are hired into every Government Department and are not engaged in the mentoring or in the capacity building of the talent pool of the native born salaried civil servants. Instead these consultants work in isolated pools without interaction of local counterparts.
6) An alien consultant has been hired to develop recommendations for Constitutional and Electoral Reforms in the Turks and Caicos.
7) On that fateful date on August 14, 2009, the Governor arbitrarily announced that July 2011, was established as the date for the return to parliamentary democracy in Turks and Caicos.
8) One year one month and one week later on September 21, 2010, Henry Bellingham, the UK Parliamentary Secretary of State and Minister for the Overseas Territories announced that elections in Turks and Caicos will not be held until the following preconditions are met:
a) Public finances are firmly set on the path of a balanced budget within three years.
b) More work is undertaken to stabilize the economy.
c) Preparations are made for elections in light of the outcome of the constitutional and electoral
d) The reform process is embedded.
e) Further progress is made in the criminal investigations recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.
The above preconditions are arguably quite vague and highly subjective and not sufficiently defined so as to be measurable or quantifiable in any manner. As yet there has not been a publication of `The Reforms' nor a timetable for their implementation. The criminal trials are not expected to commence until October of 2011.
We contend that the attainment of a balanced budget and progress along the pathway of a vibrant economy are noble objectives, but the achievement of either or both of these objectives are not and will never be acceptable reasons for the disenfranchisement of an entire people. The attainment of the stated random and ill defined objectives is not an acceptable reason for the suspension of constitutional democracy.
The declaration by Henry Bellingham is in direct contradiction of UN Declaration 1514 (XV) of December 1960 and constitutes a denial of the fundamental human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Declaration 1514 (XV) object 3 declares that `Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence' In our case we take leave to substitute the word independence with the phrase parliamentary democracy.
We herein request, that this Fourth Committee inquire of and demand of your member State, the United Kingdom, an explanation of their assault on the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and further require of the United Kingdom, that it present to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands a timetable for the development and implementation of a meaningful and defined plan with objective benchmarks and measurable milestones for the return of parliamentary democracy to the Turks and Caicos Islands; and that the development of such plans shall incorporate the expressed and informed wishes of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
On November 22, 1988, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 43/47 entitled "International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism" and part of that resolution in Part II paragraph 7 reads: `The United Nations, in cooperation with the Administering Powers, should ensure that all acts of self determination are preceded by adequate and unbiased campaigns of political education.' We do declare that we have never witnessed any acts of political education executed by the Administering Power in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
We contend that during this period of direct rule by the Administering Power, therein lies an ideal opportunity during which time unbiased political education can occur. Should this unbiased political education occur, the process of electoral reform and the subsequent retention and sustainability of such reforms would be greatly enhanced and native born parliamentarians and administrators will have an opportunity to be better prepared for their eventual roles as representatives of the people.
The United Nations On December 8, 2000 declared the period 2001 through 2010 the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and we in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the twilight of this decade are currently made to feel as if we are being re-colonized by the United Kingdom.
The native born population are experiencing a state of siege and heightened frustration and have developed the fear that their rights and their ability to control their destiny is under assault and will be further attacked by the recommendations of the alien Consultant for Constitutional and Electoral Reform. This fear has its foundation in one of the early recommendations of the consultant, which states that non-citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands should be granted the right to vote, merely on the basis of length of residency within the Territory. This recommendation, Your Excellency, is another example of the disregard for the fundamental human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Section III paragraph 10 of the November 22, 1998 resolution goes on to state:
`Administering Powers should take the necessary measures to promote the political, economic, social cultural and educational advancement of the peoples of the Non-Self¬Governing Territories thereby facilitating their exercise of the right to self-determination and should continue to provide the United Nations with information in accordance with Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations.'
We contend that the Administering Power of the Turks and Caicos has failed in meeting this recommended action. The UK has not only failed in advancing the Territory but has also failed in its oversight responsibility.
The prior Constitution of the Turks and Caicos and the recommendations for a new Constitution gives excessive powers to the UK appointed Governor. The Governor's office has responsibility for `good governance and oversight' however the immediate past Governor failed miserably in this regard and as we know, this past Governor has not been included as a subject for inquiry, as has been the lot of the native born elected political leaders, who will likely become the subject of criminal proceedings.
We will in no way offer an excuse for any party or entity but we decry the apparent inequity in the application of judicial and administrative corrections. It is our contention that the UK should launch an Inquiry into the failures of the responsible officers of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the prior Governor as it relates to the discharge of their responsibilities for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
After four centuries of neglect and disinterest the UK seems to be taking the approach that it can in a mere twenty-four months design and gift wrap for the Turks and Caicos a perfect set of reforms and policies which will transform the Territory into a well run democracy, free of corruption and enjoying balanced budgets into perpetuity. This is all to be achieved while excluding the native born people of the Turks and Caicos. Islands from any involvement in the development and design of the reforms.
We cannot conceptualize how any reform so designed and formulated is expected to be sustainable by the existing civil service and known political leadership, if they are not intricately engaged in its design and development. The current approach by the UK leaves us to speculate that part of the `reform plan' is the displacement of the native born population from its prior position of political leadership and supplant it with non-native groups.
In 1999, The UK published a White Paper entitled Progress through Partnership for the Overseas Territories. We see no evidence of a partnership arrangement in the current approach.
We request that the United Nations through its various Organs and Committees establish a monitoring team to provide some oversight and hold the UK accountable to its obligations to the Non-Self Governing Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Without such oversight, we fear that our rights will be restricted, our people marginalized and our heritage lost.
We thank you for the opportunity to present our Petition.