Progressive National Party Statement
While it is heartening that Minister Bellingham has kept his promise to visit the TCI soon after the recent discussions on the Draft Constitution in London, it was certainly disappointing that on this visit he brought with him neither a constitution nor did he give any indication as to when the People of the Turks and Caicos Islands can expect to receive a date certain for elections in 2012. Equally disconcerting is the fact that the Minister and the entire Administration continue to be vague concerning the extent to which the milestones that the Minister has laid down are being met.
Following the meeting between the PNP delegation and the Minister and his team we can say that there now seems to be some greater appreciation by the Minister of the general level of frustration with the process and in particular the Administration’s failure to keep the people informed in any meaningful way concerning the issues that impact their daily lives and their ability to survive let alone thrive in these Islands.
While the Minister did not accept the invitation of the Party to provide details concerning exactly where they were on the milestones, coming out of the meeting the Minister has agreed that the Governor would provide the Progressive National Party with detailed and regular updates concerning the Administration’s progress on the milestones. We look forward to this and expect that the Governor would be forthright in identifying the key deliverables attached to each milestone and whether in each case they have been met, and where they have not been met give an indication as to when we can expect that they will be met.
We made it clear to the Minister that with respect to elections in 2012, he is not, in our view, speaking with the certainty that characterized his language when we met in London last month. In the circumstances, we make it clear that we have no confidence that elections will be held in 2012 and we encourage every Turks and Caicos Islander to continue to be vigilant and agitate for the return of Representative Government to our country. True democracy is always fought for and struggled for. We become complacent at our peril!
In this regard we must require the Administration to be transparent and public in its plans regarding the establishment of the Electoral Boundaries Commission and the ultimate mapping out of the constituencies. We continue to be concerned that political parties will not have the right to make appointments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission but we expect and have made clear to the Minster the need for political parties to be involved in that process in a meaningful way.
The Minister in his press statement spoke to the intention on the part of the Administration to confer Turks and Caicos Islander status onto those persons qualifying for same. The Progressive National Party’s position is that the Interim Administration ought not to grant such status to any individual other than those persons who qualify through marriage or adoption. In London we agreed the minimum requirements for the same, and it should now be a matter for an elected Government whether, and to what extent, those minimum requirements should be enlarged by legislation. The Interim Administration has in the past assured the people of these Islands that it is not their intention to enlarge the franchise, and we are prepared to hold their feet to the fire on that promise.
The Progressive National Party supports the establishing of a clear path to TCI status and we believe that once an individual has qualified and has expressed the desire to acquire the status, the decision as to who should get the same should be random. We make it clear however that the grant of TCI status ought not to be considered an entitlement and there will be those who for objective and defensible reasons may be denied the grant.
The restructuring of the civil service was also of concern to us and we impressed upon the Minister the need to ensure that the restructuring is accompanied by the necessary training for Turks and Caicos Islanders so that we can be satisfied that the Service is continuing to represent, for Turks and Caicos Islanders, an opportunity for public service and meaningful employment. We do not want our civil service to be a revolving door for expatriate “expertise”. There must be a firm policy of transferring that expertise.
When we see Turks and Caicos Islanders being replaced by non nationals at the highest levels without the need for explanation or justification we are deeply concerned. This type of attitude is counter productive and is not conducive to the development of a Public service that is motivated, that is sustainable, and that is able to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly complex society.
During our meeting, Mr. Capes was able to indicate that some three ministries have already been the subject of review and that resulting from the review out of a total of 600 staff members some 50 jobs were found to be surplus to requirement. He indicated further that of those 50 persons, a significant number have been able to be redeployed in other public service positions. We continue, however, to be concerned that Mr. Cape’s plans for the service are being kept secret and that persons are not being given sufficient notice that their employment is being terminated. We have since our meeting written to the Minister with copy to the Governor and Mr. Capes requesting among other things, that in relation to the Civil Service, the Administration makes public its objectives for the Public Service and give details of the deliverables and the time frame in which it hopes to achieve them. We have asked further that the Administration consults with, and keeps the Civil Service Association abreast of its plans in this regard.
The people of these Islands were rightly upset by the statements made by Minister Bellingham during his press conference which lead persons to believe that the Minister was deliberately seeking to give the impression that billions of dollars had been stolen from the Treasury by elected officials. We raised this matter with the Minister and he has instructed the Governor to issue a statement clarifying his position. We do not feel that a statement seeking clarification is good enough and we have in correspondence asked that the Minister go a step further and produce the methodology that Mr. Llewellyn used for arriving at his figures, with specific reference to those particular bits of property that are being questioned. Absent an ability to justify his figures the statement should be completely retracted. Our party has, and continues to be vilified by this Interim Administration. In doing so, this Administration has taken on all of the trappings of a political party and that is to be regretted.
As we did when we met in London, the Party again impressed upon the Minister the need for the Administration to view the People of the Turks and Caicos Islands as their partners in the process towards the return of a democratically elected government. The Administration has not as yet begun to do that.
That, notwithstanding, this Progressive National Party will continue to agitate on behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands for the return of democracy and for the promotion of good governance and sustainable development.
We believe that we can have it all!
We believe that we deserve it all!