The Decolonisation PapersOccassional papers on the self-determination/decolonisation process.
TURKS AND CAICOS FORUM
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THE
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE OF 24
June 20, 2012
Alpha Gibbs on behalf of Turks and Caicos Forum
Your Excellency Chairman Morejon-Pazmino, Committee Members,
Thank for allowing us the opportunity to petition your Committee. 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 24, 2011 before this Committee and our appearance before the Fourth Committee on October 5, 2011.
The issue which summons our presence today is the continuing violation of human rights of the native born citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands at the hands of the Administering Power, the United Kingdom as well as the lack of transparency in the governance process of the interim administration and the inequitable application of the law. We are extremely concerned that the despite the UK’s membership within the UN its failures as an Administering Power seem to go unnoticed and without adverse consequences.
We acknowledge the UN Resolution on the Third International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism. However we note that if this Third Decade is expected to experience greater progress toward decolonization than the past two decades then the circumstance in the Turks and Caicos Islands demands greatly improved performance from the Administering Power, the United Kingdom, in the discharge of their responsibilities under UN Charter Article 73. The circumstance demands greater capacity building within the Non-Self Governing Territory of Turks and Caicos and more effective monitoring by the UN, to assure that the elements and objectives of Resolution 1514; 43/47 and subsequent Resolutions are met and responsibilities are discharged as agreed and covenants are adhered to and our human rights in the Turks and Caicos Islands are not violated.
The conditions within the Turks and Caicos cries out for an impartial and neutral assessment. The need for an objective and impartial assessment is necessary, greatly in part because the Administering Power, in decreeing direct rule from London, seems intent on obscuring and covering its failures with respect to oversight and responsibility for good governance while concentrating its efforts on investigations of locally elected members of the Turks and Caicos Parliament.
The administration of justice appears inequitable in the pursuit of correcting wrongs against the people of the Turks and Caicos. Alleged wrong doers of local origin are in some instances being dealth with, according to the letter of the law while favoured expatriate perpetrators of UK origin are given preferred treatment. For example the former UK appointed governor who presided over cabinet during the era of high corruption has not been sought for questioning nor has he been charged with any crime nor has the UK appointed attorney general of the same era. We find this circumstance rather challenging as many of the corrupting events originated with cabinet decisions. Bothe the Governor and Attorney General were defacto members of cabinet. Further a member of the British house of Lords is known to have significant financial interest in companies which facilitated some of the corrupting activities and again we hear of no investigative action in this direction.
Another example of questionable application of justice is an instance where the UK led interim administration has permitted the mortgagee of fraudulently conveyed crown land to be made whole through the sale of a part of the subject parcel while local beneficiaries of fraudulently conveyed crown land are experiencing confiscation of similarly conveyed parcels. In our estimation such inequitable actions do not speak to good governance or transparency in government.
The removal from office of all parliamentarians in the Turks and Caicos on August 14, 2009 is not consistent with the action taken in the UK against its own Parliament in matters of malfeasance by British Parliamentarians. We are well aware of the fact that during a similar time frame at least five British Parliamentarians have been tried and convicted of fraud while in office, two peers from the House of Lords and three Parliamentarians from the House of Commons. It is noteworthy that neither the indictments nor the convictions resulted in a suspension of parliamentary democracy in Britain. However as a result of suspicion of guilt on the part of a few Parliamentarians in the Turks and Caicos the entire parliament was dissolved and, an interim dictatorship, established presided over by a UK appointed governor and other British civil servants.
This extreme action taken by the Administering Power against the Turks and Caicos is evidence of the failures of the Administering Power in the discharge of its obligations under UN Charter 73. It is evidence of the failures of the Administering Power to exercise its reserve powers for oversight and good governance as enshrined in the Turks and Caicos Constitution. It is evidence of the violation of the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The UK contends that its Order in Council of August 14, 2009, and the resulting direct rule by a British appointed Governor implemented good governance in the Turks and Caicos, however the evidence on the ground points to the contrary. Continuing lack of good governance exists in part for the following observations:
1) Citizens of Turks and Caicos do not have access to any avenue of redress for grievances against the interim administration; dictatorship by the Governor persists.
2) The position of the Complaints Commissioner was vacated with the Order in Council of August 14, 2009 and has not been filled.
3) The propaganda promulgated is that ‘in practice the Governor works under an interim constitutional arrangement with an Advisory Council to formulate policy and a Consultative Forum to allow the people’s voice to be heard’ (see paragraph 14 of the UN February 28, 2011, Working Paper). The truth is, the peoples voices are never heard on matters of national significance nor are the voices of dissent heard within the afore-mentioned bodies.
4) Inquires for information of National importance by members of the Consultative Forum are routinely ignored and or rebuffed by senior members of the Governor’s team.
5) The public is unaware of the substance of the debates if any which transpire within the Advisory Council and the Consultative Forum. Transcripts of such deliberations, if they exist, are not available to the public nor are they available to the members of either body. Furthermore there is no dialogue between the two bodies.
6) Processes for the allocation of government resources and benefits are no more transparent now than they were three years ago. To many of us the processes seem as questionable now as they were prior to the August 14, 2009 suspension of parliamentary democracy in Turks and Caicos. The appointment of the attorney general as the sole decision maker in the allocation of crown land will not improve transparency of the process, in fact it removes transparency.
7) Accountability levels of the public service and UK consultants to the interim administration are no more evident than they were three years ago. We have witnessed no attempts at capacity building within the civil service. The recently announced three day visit by civil servants to the county seat of Norfolk in the UK cannot suffice for capacity building.
8) Fiscal management within the public sector is as questionable now as it was three years ago and in some instances it is possibly worse. The British appointed CFO is recklessly pursuing the introduction of a Value Added Tax regime, much to the distress of the citizenry even though superior alternatives are known to exist.
9) Turks and Caicos Citizens residing abroad continue to be denied the franchise because of an onerous residency requirement of twelve out of twenty four months in the aggregate, which the UK does not apply to its own citizens residing abroad. UK citizens residing abroad are allowed the privilege of absentee balloting, as do many countries around the world. Further the UK only requires of its citizens living abroad the obligation to register once every 15 years. However the UK is about to authorize a new Constitution in the Turks and Caicos Islands which is more onerous that the currently suspended Constitution, in that, the Constitutions now allows members of the British Armed Forces to vote in the Turks and Caicos while not being subjected to the residency requirement. It is a widely held belief within the Turks and Caicos Islands that there are not any native born Turks and Caicos Islanders who are members of the British Armed Forces, hence we find this provision in the Constitution to be particularly suspect especially when juxtaposed against the disenfranchisement of native born citizens living abroad.
10) Article 21 clause 1; of the International Human Rights Law states that ‘everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives’. The United Kingdom has blatantly violated this law with the disbandment of Parliament within the Turks and Caicos on August 14, 2009 and the removal of the duly elected representatives of the people from their elected offices. The United Kingdom continues to violate this law with the debarment and disenfranchisement of a significant segment of native born citizens from the electoral process. The United Kingdom has violated this law and the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands with the imposition of a dictator in the form of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office appointed Governor who functions as the sole authority on the affairs of the Territory.
11)Article 21 clause 3; of the International Human Rights Law states ‘ the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures’. The UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced recently that general elections will be held in the Turks and Caicos Islands on November 9, 2012. This feeble attempt at correcting an egregious wrong is grossly flawed, as the voter registration process administered by the non-elected Interim Government has instituted barriers to the registration process which has made compliance extremely difficult. One such difficulty is the cost and extremely slow process of securing basic identification documents from the appropriate offices of the Interim Administration. There are reports of citizens being unable to pay the required fee for a birth certificate and thus being denied the ability to register as a voter. Another difficulty is the narrow window for compliance with the registration requirements. The registration window opened April 9th and closes June 30, 2012. Furthermore announcements to, or facilities for registration, has not been made available to Turks and Caicos citizens residing outside of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It goes without saying that any election held within the Turks and Caicos under the currently designed processes cannot be considered to be genuine and as such will be a violation of the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Your Excellency, we herein request, that this Special Committee of 24 inquire of and demand of your member State, the United Kingdom, an improved explanation of their assault on the human rights and denial of access to parliamentary democracy of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and their retardation of the progress of the Turks and Caicos toward self determination. We further request that this Committee persuades the United Kingdom, to restore to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands their lost economic value during this period of maladministration both during the prior government and during this interim administration.
As on prior appearances, we request that the United Nations through its various Organs and Committees establish a monitoring team to investigate issues human rights violations in the Turks and Caicos Islands and provide some oversight of the activities of the interim administration and hold the UK accountable for its obligations to the Non-Self Governing Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands. We also request the formulation and execution of a C-24 Visiting Mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands within the immediate future. Without such oversight, we have witnessed that, a UK appointed governor will ignore our best interest, our human rights are violated and our people further marginalized in the land of our birth lost.
We thank you for the opportunity to present our Petition.
The changing landscape of TCI government
TCI News Now
by David Forbes
Permit me some space on your website to enlighten the people of the TCI to what is taking place under the interim administration. I also want to sensitize members of the Advisory Council and the Consultative Forum.
When the PDM administration left office in 2003, all key positions in the government were localized, this continued under the PNP. Concerted efforts were made to train local people and build capacity among our people to ensure they are capable of doing their jobs.
This development has been drastically reversed by the British over the past three years. Frankly speaking the actions of the British Government is tantamount to naked modern day racism.
The above strong statement is supported by the following analysis from TCIG press releases and other well-placed sources.
The results of these decisions are far reaching for any elected government and for the long term sustainable development of the TCI. This trend will also undermine any efforts towards independence. Both PNP and PDM are now talking about nation building. The PNP for certain is pledging to take the TCI independent. None of these proposals are feasible with the brain drain of TCI natives, the removal of local capacity and depriving the islands of an inner ability “to run its own affairs”.
What will happen to all of these replacements after elections are completed and there is a localized Turks and Caicos government? Can this be considered a long-term trend of replacing career civil servants with these replacements? Mind you some of the persons going home were lazy and dysfunctional and probably should never have held such positions of responsibility in the first place. They in some limited cases almost justify these incorrect steps being taken by the interim government.
By and large in all cases where bad apples are weeded out and the good ones going home, there are locals, natives, persons with huge experiences in government and education, who can replace the outgoing persons. Mr Governor, CEO, CFO, the Public Service Commission, which is supposedly “local” and has the final say, must know that these decisions cannot be justified on any level. In 60% of the cases here, you are all being totally racist.
Finally, one must ask the British government a serious question: “Did you come to wipe out corruption of the former government or did you come to install a latter day apartheid system?”