ELECTIONS NEXT YEAR DOUBTFUL
By Hayden Boyce
TCI SUN Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
There appears to be great doubt about whether elections that will return the Turks and Caicos Islands to self-rule, will be held next year. While officials from the United Kingdom keep saying in broad and general terms that it is their intention to hold elections in 2012, they have so far refused to give a date and have been expressing concerns about the milestones that have to be met before voters go the poll.
It was widely expected that when Hon. Henry Bellingham, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, visited the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday July 14, that he would made a major announcement such as releasing the date for elections. However, when pressed by The SUN to give a date, he refused.
He said the Constitution has been passed, and that was a major milestone, but he is not prepared to say categorically that all of the work will be completed in time for elections.
“As far as the elections are concerned, I made it absolutely clear that there is every chance that they will take place next year, but you’ve got to meet the milestones. To make an announcement of a definite date, I can’t do that because it is not possible for me to say categorically that all of the Ordinances will go through. For example, we’ve got to the start work on the Ordinance governing the electoral process.
“If the milestones are met, there’s a very, very good chance of elections, but it’s in the hands of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Bellingham said. “They’ve got to work together on this process so we can have elections and you will then have a democratically elected government back in place. We have goodwill in place and with the Interim Government keeping up the tempo, we will make enough progress with those milestones and have elections next year, but I’m not prepared to say we are definitely going to do that. The events are beyond my control. I can’t say categorically that all of the work will be completed but I am very confident that the work will be completed and we will have elections.”
However, in the House of Commons on June 23, 2011, MP Emma Reynolds asked Bellinghman what recent assessment he has made of the likelihood of the Turks and Caicos Islands meeting the milestones prior to 2012. He replied: “There has not been sufficient progress to date against the milestones to conclude that they will be met prior to 2012. However, following a visit to London last week by a Turks and Caicos Islands delegation, good progress is now being made on the new Turks and Caicos Islands constitution.”
Bellingham said the milestones set out by myself and the Minister of State for International Development on December 9th last year, point the way to that future, as well as being crucial to our ability to set a date for elections in 2012. He noted that he was delighted that they were able to complete the substantive work on the first milestone, amendments to the constitution at the end of the visit of the Turks and Caicos Island delegation to the UK last month.