03 August 2011

Turks & Caicos Islands Progressive National Party Leader discusses road to elected government


Open Letter from PNP Leader Clayton Greene to Governor Gordon Wetherell

His Excellency
Gordon Wetherell
Grand Turk

Turks and Caicos Islands

Your Excellency,

You would have hopefully received our letter to Minister Bellingham following on from his most recent visit to the Turks and Caicos and copied to you. As we have not received an acknowledgement we write today in this open fashion because of the singular importance that we place on the milestones that must be completed so that fair and free elections can be held in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the people of these Islands can be returned to representative government which is their right.

Minister Bellingham has indicated that he continues to be confident that those elections will be held in 2012! In the passing of the new Constitution, a major milestone has been met. While we continue to condemn the systematic and unnecessary transfer of power from the true representatives of the people to the Governor that characterizes the new constitution, we are happy that the Interim Administration may now concentrate its efforts on achieving the remaining milestones.

We understand from the recent pronouncements of the Chief Financial Officer that the projected deficit for 2012-2013 is now $9M and that she is well on her way to achieving a balanced budget in 2013-2014. We believe it to now be settled that the balancing of the budget is not a precondition to elections, but merely that the Country must be on a path to a balanced budget.

The Social and economic cost of achieving this milestone is already being felt with Public Sector job cuts, to which we will return, coupled with a shrinking private sector capacity and an Interim Administration that seems intent on pursuing a program of unconscionable raising of fees and taxes without the commensurate attention being paid to the creation of jobs and opportunities that would allow us to have money in our pockets in order to pay the fees and taxes! The scant regard that has been paid to the people of Middle Caicos who lost their employment in the Works Program is but just one example of the human suffering that is caused when a Government judges its actions by its impact on the bottom line without regard to the social and human cost.

So that there might be no unnecessary delay in the return to representative Government, we ask that you turn your attention quickly to the appointment of the members of the Boundaries Commission so that the work of the Commission can begin in earnest. With the Constitution now settled, there is no reason why the Electoral Boundaries Commission might not be appointed. We are still convinced that a greater say in the makeup of the Commission should be had by the peoples’ representatives and we fully expect that your successor will accept without question the nominees of the political parties for appointment to the Commission.

We understand that some time ago and before the new Constitution was settled, instructions were given to the Supervisor of Elections to suspend the continuous updating of the roll of electors. This action is not only scandalous; it is illegal, because the Elections Ordinance had not been repealed. There is no reason why the Supervisor of Elections may not continue to take applications for registration from persons qualified to vote. We need however to know when it is that we can expect to have for consultation, a Bill that would govern elections and the representation of the people generally. There was, before the House of Assembly prior to its suspension, such a Bill, and this should form the starting point for the new legislation. That Bill contains provisions dealing with election expenses and the registration of political parties and so therefore, it is a natural place to start. There is no reason why the work of the Boundaries Commission and the preparation of the legislation may not be conducted simultaneously.

There is no magic in what is required to be done by way of legislation, and we do not see why the legislative framework could not be in place within a 12 month period, and we therefore make the declaration that elections must be held by July 2012! Nothing focuses the mind of man more than having to work to a schedule or a date certain! The Interim Administration has not been prepared to fix a date certain for elections and so we have done it for them.

Of equal concern is the fact that this Interim Administration seems hell bent on rolling back the efforts of the last Government to prepare the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands for the world of work and worth through education. We note in this connection that the practice of granting scholarships to the valedictorians of the 4 public High Schools in this country has been abandoned. This is completely and utterly discouraging and runs counter to the principle of merit based reward that must be the foundation of our developing Country.

On the further issue of scholarship and training, we note that a number of students are returning home and are not being able to find jobs! While we appreciate that this country cannot be built by Turks and Caicos Islanders alone, we are duty bound to ensure that every Turks and Caicos Islander finds meaningful work at home. A careful look at the availability of jobs must be done by the Labour Department to ensure that qualifications are not inflated and that there is a natural match between those available jobs and the requirement to perform them. It cannot be right that work permit holders are continually on jobs and Turks and Caicos Islanders are walking the streets!

We suggest that, beginning with the hotels, the Labour Department engages upon an exercise that will determine with respect to each employer and each category of employee, the ratio of Turks and Caicos Islanders to Expatriate employees and that the Labour Department will further require each employer to identify the steps that it is taking to prefer Turks and Caicos Islanders in its employment policy. The Progressive National Party is determined to keep the feet of this Administration to the fire so that there is not a further and possibly irreversible economic disenfranchisement of the Turks and Caicos Islander.

Our concerns in relation to employment or the lack thereof is compounded by the recent spate of dismissals from the Public Service. We have complained that the process of right sizing the Public Service seems to lack a broad policy direction. We repeat our advice to the Interim Administration to ensure that the Civil Service Association is fully engaged in the right sizing exercise beginning with the formulation of the policy and moving through all phases of its implementation. It is not right that a person finds out that his particular job is being made redundant days before he is required to pack his bags and clear out his desk.

We write to you knowing that you will be leaving soon but hoping that you will convey to your successor, the absolute need to hear the cries of the people and try as best he can to ease their pain and soothe their hurt. We trust that he will be respectful of the people of these islands and true to the ideals of democracy to which we all subscribe.

Yours faithfully,
Clayton Greene

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