13 September 2013

Turks & Caicos Premier questions British constitutional power to appoint the dependent territory's Attorney-General

"...the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands gives...(the British Governor) the authority to appoint the Attorney General (AG) without consultation with the Premier, but I see this provision within the constitution as being totally unacceptable."

Letter from Dr. Hon Rufus W. Ewing, Premier, Turks and Caicos Islands 


Governor Damian R. Todd

September 2, 2013

 Dear Your Excellency,

I write to you on a matter of grave concern which I had expressed to you in February of this year and repeatedly since I became Premier. This matter is the issue of the current Attorney General Hon. Huw Shepheard, for whom you recently declared your intention to renew a contract in the post of Attorney General for an additional three years.

Your Excellency, I know that the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands gives you the authority to appoint the Attorney General (AG) without consultation with the Premier, but I see this provision within the constitution as being totally unacceptable. The AG is the legal counsel for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government, and as Premier and Head of Government's business in Cabinet, it is only proper and fitting that the Premier ought to be given the opportunity to give input into the appointment of the AG, if not appoint the AG himself, as is practiced in the case of Bermuda. I wish to further submit that the AG is also the legal advisor to the House of Assembly and as such the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Leader of the Opposition should also have input in regards to the appointment of the AG.

Your Excellency, therefore, your recent indication of your intent to re-appoint Huw Shepheard as AG reflects disrespect and lack of regard for the opinions, views and wishes of the Government, the Opposition and the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, all of whom have publically stated their dissatisfaction with Mr. Shepheard and your plans to re-appoint him.

In previous discussions held with you, I have outlined the many reasons for my stance against the reappointment of Mr. Huw Shepheard. As Premier and Leader of Government Business, I am not comfortable with Mr. Huw Shepheard as the Principal legal Advisor to my Government as I am not confident in his ability based on historical events:

• He ill-advised political parties and candidates standing for General Elections that they had to renounce their citizenships of countries in which they were born in order to qualify to stand as a candidate for election. The recent decision by the Caymanian Courts stating that acquisition of citizenship by birth does not equate to a pledge of allegiance is fundamental and the AG should have been able to give good legal guidance on. Instead, he advised that such persons should renounce their citizenships and caused the spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars in court cases based on the same premise.

• The AG has either engaged in and/or instigated the prosecution of several superfluous cases and “fishing exercises” that are not in the best interest of the people and the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands and continues ill advisedly, to appeal cases that are indefensible.

These actions that were taken without the instructions, advice, guidance or input of the elected Government have resulted in expenditures in millions of dollars that the Government and the people cannot afford to pay through taxes. Furthermore, in virtually all of these cases, the predicted and actual legal expense exceeded not only the likelihood of success but also any value recovered.

• The continued employment of The Civil Recovery Team/Edwards Wildman at his discretion and instructions to engage in an all encompassing, ill defined, muddled and expensive investigation of countless historic real estate transactions, all legitimate, without any value for money to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, whilst refusing to continue a legitimate action, brought by the Deputy AG, to answer the critical question of the constitutional duty of elected members to disclose a subsisting Crown charge on freehold title or otherwise.

• There is an obvious conflict of interest between the AG with his new responsibility for Crown Land and his position as AG defending the Government on Crown Land matters and conducting trials as part of civil recovery team. I am of the view that such responsibilities should not be combined.

As a result of these and many other matters, I am satisfied that the AG can no longer command respect for the competency, efficacy and impartiality of the office he holds, and that these Islands would be much better served by a fresh appointment.

Your Excellency, these are just a few of the reasons why I am of the conviction that Mr. Shepheard should not be re-appointed to the position of AG and instead should be encouraged to take his early retirement of the profession. Governor, you are quite aware that the AG was on sick leave for several months and being paid by TCIG. We cannot afford again in this critical time of my Administration to have our AG on such extended sick leave. Therefore, it is only logical that if the opportunity presented itself to not renew his contract that opportunity should have been taken.

Your Excellency, your last Cabinet meeting as Governor of these Islands is on Wednesday September 4, 2013. I would like for you to come to Cabinet rescinding your decision to renew the contract of the AG.

The AG is currently on leave, and I must state from now that I am not prepared to work with the AG upon his return to the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated previously, I am also of the view that the appointment of the new AG should be left to the incoming Governor upon the advice of the Premier and Cabinet.

I am aware that this communication will be discussed with the Secretary of State, assuming that you are taking instructions from the Hon. Secretary of State. So for the purpose of expediting his notification, I wish to indicate that I will be forwarding him a copy to read as if I was addressing him directly.