16 May 2011

Turks & Caicos Political Leader wants referendum on Constitution drafted by UK for the territory


Progressive National Party (PNP) Leader writes UK calling for referendum on Constitution

Clayton Greene, Leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP),  has written the United Kingdom (UK) Government calling for a referendum on the proposed changes to the voting system in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and all other controversial aspects of the constitution. The following is the full text of the latter which Greene, an attorney-at-law and former Speaker of the House of Assembly, wrote to Mr. Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Foreign & Commonwealth Office:

Dear Minister Bellingham:

Just one week ago today, the United Kingdom had its Alternative Vote Referendum where Britons in their millions took to their local polling stations to inform the government that they did not wish to change the “first past the post” electoral system currently in place. Forty five million people across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland were given the opportunity to express their individual position on so fundamental an issue as the system used to elect representatives to their Parliament.

At the same time in these Islands, an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom some thirty two thousand persons are denied an opportunity to do the same.

For all the blatant disregard of the wishes of the Turks and Caicos people by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) over the last two years; for all the feeble, insulting and deceptive ‘efforts’ at inclusion that never seem to place value or give any credence to the impassioned and unanimous pleas of Belongers; nothing so far has been as unashamedly despotic and gravely unacceptable as the recent announcement that the FCO will not conduct a public constitutional consultation meeting in Providenciales, but will broadcast a televised call-in show allowing interested persons to ask questions.

The approach of the FCO to the Turks and Caicos Islands and its characteristic lack of democratic process are in stark contrast to the approach of the British Parliament to its citizens at home. It cannot be suggested that the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands deserve any less than the 45 million Britons.

The United Kingdom held the referendum not because they were unsure of the outcome; the polls having already predicted the outcome with statistical certainty; but rather because they understood that on issues that are as constitutionally far reaching as changes in the voting system representative democracy is not good enough – each man must in those circumstances exercise his individual voice.

The proposed constitution not only threatens an equally fundamental change to the voting system in the Turks and Caicos Islands but further, marginalizes the vote of the Belonger population and the constitutional authority of representatives in their Parliament to such an extent that we must question whether under the proposed regime we would in fact still have a representative democracy.

The FCO, led by the British Parliament has been unashamedly hypocritical in denying the people of these Islands the referendum. Of the 36,000 people that make up the population of the Turks and Caicos Islands, 23,000 reside on the island of Providenciales. It takes a great deal of effort and an exceptionally wild imagination to wrap one’s mind around the idea that the FCO could accurately determine public opinion on the various controversial proposals without holding at least one public meeting in Providenciales.

When Turks and Caicos Islanders most desire and deserve a representative, responsive and transparent government that incorporates their opinions into the decision making processes, they get instead an administration that is patently out of touch, demonstrably insincere and single-minded in its desire to exclude Turks and Caicos Islanders from any meaningful participation in the decisions that impact most profoundly their future.

For Democracy’s sake I call on the FCO to reconsider its position and not deny the residents of Providenciales an opportunity to participate publicly in the consultations.

Moreover I call on the British Parliament to govern the Turks and Caicos Islands with the same creed and code that it governs its citizens at home and allow a referendum on the voting system and all other controversial aspects of the constitution as proposed. The proposed constitution is revolutionary.

A revolution that is against the expressed will of the people is dictatorial. A referendum is the democratic response not only in the United Kingdom but in the Turks and Caicos Islands as well.

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