07 November 2011

Former Turks & Caicos Governing Party, ousted by the British in 2009, adopts independence platform


Resolution of the General Council of the Progressive National Party October 24, 2011

WHEREAS the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands have passed from hand to hand among European Powers finally resting with the United Kingdom in 1799.

AND WHEREAS since becoming a United Kingdom Colony in 1799, the Turks and Caicos Islands have been passed by the United Kingdom among its other colonies, most notably Jamaica and the Bahamas.

AND WHEREAS the peoples of the Turks and Caicos Islands were for many years following the failure of the Loyalist Plantations and the closure of the Salt Industry abandoned by the Government of the United Kingdom.

AND WHEREAS the peoples of the Turks and Caicos Islands notwithstanding this abandonment and abdication by the United Kingdom Government of its responsibility have made major strides and have brought significant prosperity and social justice to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and have put in place most of the major institutions needed in an independent and well functioning modern democracy.

AND WHEREAS the facts are that in recent times the United Kingdom has:

1. Taken away our Constitution, suspending our most basic laws and altering fundamentally the forms of our Government.

2. Trampled upon our democracy by suspending our duly elected Government and have declared themselves vested with power to govern over us without our consent.

3. Suspended our duly elected Legislature and have also declared themselves, without our consent, vested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

4. Refused and continues to refuse to allow us to again elect our own Government.

5. Stood up and called together in the place of a democratically elected government a mock legislature and a mock executive, none of which have the consent of the people over whom they preside and both void of any power to deliver for the progress of our people.

6. Endeavored to deprive the people of these Islands of their right to Trial by a Jury of their peers.

7. Established a multitude of new offices, and have sent to our Islands swarms of their own people to fill these offices and to harass our people and take away their chances to earn a livelihood, while at the same time they have cut the salaries, emoluments and pensions of our people.

8. Imposed Taxation upon us without our consent and without any meaningful chance of representation from our people.

9. Curtailed the inward investments into our Islands thereby ruining the buoyant economy which we once enjoyed.

10. Settled a new constitution for our Islands which erodes our human rights as a people and erodes the powers of our duly elected government.

11. Failed to consult with the people of these Islands in a meaningful and genuine way regarding the establishment of a new constitution.

12. Failed to take due account of the political aspirations of our people and have generally abdicated its responsibilities under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter to prepare these Islands for self-determination.

AND WHEREAS at every stage of these oppressions, the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms, and our repeated Petitions have only been answered by repeated injury.

BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE, THE PROGRESSIVE NATIONAL PARTY, relying on the Providence of God and accepting as we do that the relationship between these Turks and Caicos Islands and the United Kingdom is not in the best interest of the people of these Islands, and accepting further that the time has come that we as a people chart our own future towards progress and prosperity, hereby undertake to actively seek and pursue the independence of these Turks and Caicos Islands from the Government of the United Kingdom.

AND WE FURTHER RESOLVE AND DECLARE that the independence of these Turks and Caicos Islands from the United Kingdom is an objective of our Progressive National Party and we do require same to be a prominent plank in our Party's platform and we undertake the following:

1) As a party to engage upon a programme of educating the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, particularly our youth to the responsibilities of citizenship in an independent county and to the boundless possibilities of an independent Turks and Caicos Islands;

2) As a government to secure as soon as practicable a referendum to signify the settled will of our people on the question of independence.

ADOPTED BY the National General Council of the Progressive National Party this 24th day of October, 2011.

PNP vows to seek independence

Written by Richard Green
FP Turks & Caicos Islands 

The Progressive National Party’s National General Council has passed a resolution vowing that — if it wins power in the next elections — the party will seek a national referendum for independence of the Turks and Caicos Islands from the U.K.

The resolution that was passed Oct. 24 says the PNP will launch a programme to education the public on the responsibilities of citizenship in an independent country and to hold a national referendum on independence.

The call for independence is the first official move by a political party to call for independence in many years. If the PNP takes power and holds an independence referendum, it would be the first national referendum in TCI history.

“As the leader of the Progressive National Party, I say to you all that the question can no longer be whether there will be or whether there should be independence,” said PNP Leader Clayton Greene. “The question must now be when. Let us together and with confidence embrace our future.”

Talk of independence has been growing slowly since the U.K. suspended parts of the TCI Constitution and the elected government in 2009 amid allegations of government corruption and with government finances in peril.

Since the U.K.’s original date in 2011 for returning local government control was postponed — now expected near the end of 2012 — local support for the U.K. takeover has waned while the idea of independence is gaining supporters.

The British have said they would increase their presence in the TCI and would not allow a repeat of problems with corruption and government finances. However, the U.K. is not opposed to independence, as Foreign Minister Henry Bellingham reiterated in September during a speech in Bermuda:

“Let me be quite clear on the question of independence. Successive British governments have said that it is for the territories themselves to decide whether they wish to remain connected to the United Kingdom but that any decision to cut that link should be on the basis of the clearly expressed wish of the majority of the people of the territory in question. This government also supports that approach.”

In addition to the TCI, the nearby countries that are still Overseas Territories include Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Montserrat.

The most recent calls for independence have come in Bermuda and Anguilla, but they haven’t gained much traction. Recent polls in Bermuda show that 73 percent of its people are against independence.

A 2005 discussion paper prepared for the Bermuda Independence Commission (BIC) concluded that “independence is a meticulous, time-consuming and serious business. A business to be undertaken by a serious, meticulous, intelligent, mature and patient population.”

If the TCI followed an independence plan like the one envisioned by Bermuda, it would have to draft a new Constitution that not only defined powers and rights, but what kind of new government would rule:

Constitutional monarchy such as the Bahamas that still has connections to the U.K. as a member of the Commonwealth

Executive presidential republic like Guyana and the U.S.

Non-executive presidential republic like Trinidad and Tobago

Those decisions would be reached in an Independence Conference that would include members of both parties and the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which would work out the complicated legal mechanics of independence.

Upon independence, the TCI government would be responsible for everything, including matters reserved under the present Constitution for the U.K., including international affairs, defence, internal security and police.

The Cayman Islands and Montserrat currently appear content with their territory status, the latter because of much needed U.K. financial support since the 1995 eruption of the Soufrière Hills Volcano that forced the evacuation of two-thirds of the island’s 12,000 residents.The following Caribbean countries have gained independence from the U.K. but remain Commonwealth nations:

Jamaica, 1962
Barbados, 1966
Bahamas, 1973
Dominica, 1978
Saint Lucia, 1979
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 1979
Antigua and Barbuda, 1981
Saint Kitts and Nevis, 1983

Former British territories that are independent but not members of the Commonwealth are Trinidad and Tobago (1962) and Guyana (1966).

Turks & Caicos return to elected government delayed again


By Hayden Boyce
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
Turks & Caicos Sun

After stating that they intend to hold general elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands by summer next year, the Interim Government has once again changed course and is now saying they will be held by the end of 2012.

What is interesting and noteworthy, is that Philip Rushbrook, a spokesman from the Governor's Office, said that the new Electoral Register of voters, the final component of the election preparations, “is unlikely to be ready until September 2012”.

This, together with wide-spread uncertainty about the Interim Government’s ability to meet their own milestones, has fuelled speculation that elections to return the Turks and Caicos Islands to self-rule will not be held in 2012, but rather in 2013.

On Monday 20th September 2010, Overseas Minister Henry Bellingham announced the postponement of the elections scheduled for July 2011 in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The delay was to allow time for further important work to take place on public financial management and good governance reform in the TCI and allow time for the reforms to become fully embedded.

In a document to the media entitled “Preparations Required Before a Future Election”, Rushbrook said: “When the decision is made for the new Constitution to come into force an election is expected to follow within thirty days. Elections are not spontaneous events. Careful preparations are necessary, particularly in TCI where the new Constitution has made several changes to what existed before. These preparations are at an early stage and the aim is to complete them between now and next year. A programme of work has been planned and discussed recently at the Advisory Council. Its principal intention is to replace or update ordinances and procedures to ensure future elections are representative and conform to the new Constitution.”

Rushbrook was careful not to be date-specific on the introduction of the new Constitution. He, however, keeps using the operative word “intention” when it comes to having elections next year, which some have regarded as creating space for the UK to change course yet again.

Rushbrook noted that four distinct areas of activity have been identified, namely: A new ordinance to define the responsibilities and standards expected from political parties and individuals during elections and in public office; a revision to the detailed election procedures prescribed in the Elections Ordinance to bring it up to date with internationally recognised practice; a new Boundary Commission to define the ten new territorial constituencies and an updated Electoral Register of voters.

He added: “Independent election monitors in previous years identified weaknesses in the procedures and manner by which elections were conducted. A modernised electoral process and an accountable system of political conduct underpin the reforms defined and expected in the Constitution. Consequently, a new ordinance will be prepared to define the responsibilities and conduct of all involved in election campaigns and holders of an elected public office.”

Rushbrook reminded that the milestones relate to completing a new constitution; introducing new ordinances on the electoral process, integrity in public life and public financial management; establishing transparent accountability of public finances; putting the government finances on track to achieve a fiscal surplus; implementing a transparent and fair process for citizenship; pursuing civil and criminal cases identified by the 2008 Commission of Inquiry; implementing a new Crown Land policy; and progressing substantial reform of the public service.

He said that case law and independent election monitors have identified deficiencies in a number of key areas in the existing Elections Ordinance. The underlying intention of an updated Elections Ordinance is to specify the procedures and duties to be performed when staging an election.

“These procedures are detailed and methodical and are designed to establish a scrupulously fair set of voting and election arrangements. The Electoral Reform International Society (ERIS) reviewed the existing TCI electoral procedures in 2009 and found several weaknesses. They concluded the present Ordinance no longer meets international standards. Supplementary work by the TCI Elections Office has identified further changes necessary to accommodate new voting arrangements described in the Constitution. To be ready, the Elections Ordinance must be revised well ahead of a decision to hold new elections. This work involves a thorough examination of existing election procedures by the Elections Office, with external support organised through the FCO in London on make the changes identified by ERIS. It is planned for this support to be available during the next four months. Once all of the changes are settled, revisions to the existing ordinance will be prepared and presented to the Advisory Council,” Rushbrook added.

He said the Census scheduled for February 2012 has a direct bearing on when the new election boundaries and Electoral Register of voters can be prepared, adding that both of these activities will benefit from access to the most up to date information on population distribution and it is now known the initial census data will be available in April 2012.

This means realistically setting up a new Boundary Commission and compiling a new Electoral Register cannot take place until after April. Fortunately, if plans are in place beforehand it is estimated the implementation of these activities should be reasonably swift with completion in a matter of weeks,” he stressed.

The new Constitution requires ten new constituencies defined with broadly similar numbers of constituents and using the most up to date population information. Therefore, a new Boundary Commission is planned for spring 2012 and will comprise of three members appointed by the Governor. Detailed preparations will be made during the winter period by the Elections Office, with assistance expected from members of the Association of Electoral Administration in London. Once defined and approved by the Governor, the new constituency boundaries will be set out in a new Boundaries Ordinance.

The UK strategist said that the 2009 incomplete revision of the Electoral Register is now out of date and with the creation of ten new constituencies, from the present fifteen, it no longer reflects the new arrangements. To replace the Register in time for elections the Elections Office has started on plans to prepare a new one during summer 2012, he said.

“An important aspect of this work will be the development of a clearer definition of the voting district for each voter, particularly where an islander has family ties on one island but lives and works predominantly on another. Measures will be put in place to discontinue the practice by some voters to register in two districts,” he added.

A small Electoral Preparations Group involving the TCIG, Attorney General's Chambers and the Governor's Office has set up the initial programme of work. As the pace of this work is set to increase the Group will be expanded to include wider integrity and community interests. It will have the principal role to steer the programme of work to completion within the next twelve months.

The general approach to consultations, including where appropriate the seeking of views from all islands, will be broadly similar to the one followed to complete the new Constitution, Rushbrook said.