09 August 2011

Corruption or Colonialism? The Turks & Caicos Political Crisis


Ansel Loya

United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), overseers of the British Overseas Territories, finalized its scheme to bring a new constitution to Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The order in parliament was made on 20 July, finalising the constitution to be activated at a date not yet released. The new constitution was drafted by “constitution experts” from the UK government.

A leading point of contention persist with the Turks and Caicos people that the latest constitution was designed, made and ratified by the UK with only suggestions from unelected local delegates from the Turks and Caicos. It was not put to a vote or referendum by the TCI population.

Preceding the constitution, and even today, are overwhelming accusations of corruption against the former TCI government. In August 2009, the UK took direct rule of Turks and Caicos based on accusations of corruption. The corruption accusations against the previous administration could fill volumes of treatises. However, surprisingly insufficient are any charges brought upon those accused. With talk and accusations of corruption used so prevalently in TCI, particularly by the FCO, one would expect to see the perpetrators behind bars ages ago. Consider that the UK has withheld democracy and withheld elections from the citizens of TCI, and in the interim a new constitution has been passed without their vote. With the power that the UK has taken from TCI citizens, coming between the citizens and democracy, why are the perpetrators not in jail? An on going two year UK corruption investigation continues, but should not that have been conducted prior to taking democracy and withholding elections from the TCI people?

The UK designed a misconception in TCI that there was no mechanism in place to correct corruption prior to UK direct rule. The UK made it its duty to install new mechanisms to correct the corruption, hence the new TCI 2011 Constitution. In truth, the UK had only to rely on the 2006 Constitution to identify mechanisms in place to correct government corruption in TCI. The 2006 Constitution, like the 2011 Constitution, grants the UK governor the authority to intervene in such an instance. In the case of TCI, the UK governors made no complaints of corruption though were fully engaged in local government.

Absent in the TCI 2011 Constitution is the will of the people for which it serves. In particular, the UK has added an entire provision in the 2011 Constitution bestowing citizenship with voting rights to foreign residents in TCI. The foreign residents, who hold citizenship in their own country as well, will outnumber the TCI people. UK support will be bolstered by the new citizens and the numbers of the new citizens’ vote will obstruct the will of the TCI people. This is a lose/lose proposition for the TCI people.

This same model of UK intervention is foreshadowed in Cayman Islands. Premier McKeeva Bush has admonishing the UK to refrain from interfering in Cayman government as there are righting mechanisms in place to deal with government failures (if any) and elections are around the corner. Westminster’s government model of formality does not work with the island culture, said McKeeva Bush. Nor should the citizens suffer the loss of democratic rights resulting from heavy-handed political corruption accusations which has been layed against McKeeva Bush pending any proof.

Like in TCI, Cayman has been overwhelmed by Westminster’s resourcefulness in procuring competitive media to be the voice of the people in place of proper democratic mediation. Discouraging the citizens from communicating their political choices are armies of political dissenters permeating the discussions in favor of UK policy and against the local government. In the interim, UK intervention is planned, thwarting the citizens’ democratic choices, as the UK conveys its “overwhelming support,” support of the citizens as reflected by public complaints against the local government.

Currently in TCI, the UK continues to encourage the people to act upon or discuss the 2011 Constitution, purportedly in order to evidence that they had input in it. A new UK governor is scheduled to arrive this month to enforce the new 2011 Constitution. The people continue to be under pressure and under-represented, disenfranchised. Without a democratic vote, we may never know the true will of the TCI people.

Interestingly, the UK is currently rewriting its 1999 White Paper which promises autonomy to its oversees territories.