17 May 2011

Another prominent member resigns from Turks & Caicos 'consultative forum'

by Gemma Handy
Turks & Caicos Weekly News
LIME chief Drexwell Seymour has become the latest person to quit the fractured consultative forum – weeks after the body erupted amid budget drama. Mr Seymour told the Weekly News that the blow-up in the aftermath of the forum’s axed April 5 meeting had been the final straw.Sparks flew when six forum members, including Mr Seymour – infuriated over the tardy receipt of vital relevant documents – refused to attend a scheduled budget debate.The meeting was subsequently rendered inquorate and the budget controversially passed without forum input.It is not the first time forum members have taken umbrage over the late delivery of paperwork with some accusing the Government of paying lip service to the body.
The telecoms boss has been replaced by 61-year-old Mac Motors businessman John Phillips.It is the latest shuffle within the embattled forum established in 2009 to act as a go-between for ordinary Islanders and the interim administration.Initial chairman Carlos Simons stepped down in March last year to be replaced by former teacher and Cancer Foundation president Lillian Misick. Erstwhile Chief Secretary Cynthia Astwood and pastor Courtney Missick were appointed as inner tensions continued to rumble.
Mr Seymour revealed he had been poised to bow out of the forum on two previous occasions but had been asked to reconsider by the Governor.“What really pushed me to do it this time was the whole process with the budget hearing. I told the Governor that was the burning point for me.”He said while he enjoyed the opportunity to take part in debates and had found the forum to be a “rewarding experience” he had grown increasingly frustrated with how the organisation’s role fitted into the interim administration’s operations.
“We would debate Bills and other matters but we would never see the end result.“Whenever we make recommendations we never know what’s happened to them, whether they were accepted or not, we get no feedback.”
Mr Seymour said it was crucial to ensure forum members were given enough time to prepare for debates and were equipped with the necessary paperwork well in advance. “Another thing we could do as a forum is better communicate with the public by holding public meetings before a Bill is to be debated.“I would personally seek people’s views by calling them up. It could be done better on a public basis and then we can go back and say this is what people think.”He added that he had received mixed feelings from the community following news of his departure.“Some have said they are disappointed and that I should not have given up.“Others have congratulated me.
”Governor Gordon Wetherell expressed “regret” over Mr Seymour’s departure and said he had been “grateful” for the businessman’s input to the forum.During his tenure, the LIME boss has striven to represent business people in the TCI. Last year he implored the Government to urgently review stevedoring charges which he said were stifling local enterprise.He also initiated a ‘buy local’ campaign after conducting a Provo-wide survey of firms who said they were losing out due to Islanders shopping for goods and services overseas.Fellow forum member, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, said Mr Seymour’s exit left a “void”.“His accounting background coupled with being a major player in the private sector was an invaluable asset. “I know he did not take this decision lightly and I salute him for his contribution made whilst there.”The outspoken attorney, who has often been vocal against the Government’s seeming disregard of the forum, said the organisation’s role needed to be reviewed.
“After two years maybe it needs to be assessed as to whether it remains useful in its current form or whether we as members are making sense in our role. “I believe the forum can be of greater use to the people of this country in this period and more importantly in ushering us into a period where we see the return of elected representatives. “It must be seen to be one of the institutions preparing for this return by practising transparency, honesty and integrity.
”She continued: “There are many who remain who still have the best interests of the country at heart and I serve for no other reason than to speak up on what I believe is in the best interests of us as a people. “Whilst it may not always be popular for many to be on the forum, I believe it can be made more useful. I will not be distracted or discouraged on this path.”Ms Cartwright-Robinson revealed she had come under pressure to quit following her decision to boycott last month’s budget debate.“Persons have called on me and other colleagues to resign because we felt it best to adequately prepare for the budget session. “I do not think I was wrong for wanting to do my best and if I am fired for this (as some have called for), then and only then will I bow out and I will do so gracefully with a clear conscience knowing that I served honestly and to the best of my ability.
”Forum chairman Lillian Misick declined to comment on Mr Seymour’s departure at the present time.

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