25 November 2013

Turks & Caicos Islander reveals selective British prosecution on basis of race

The case against the FCO's SIPT
and its institutional racism

Letter by J. Forbes to TCI News Now!

"No matter whatever happens now to try and rehabilitate what are self evidently racist prosecutions, a very large segment of the community will now never accept any convictions of the (British) SIPT (Special Investigation and Prosecution Team), particularly in a judge alone trial, as being the reflection of a fair or reasonable judicial process."


While TCI (Turks and Caicos Islands) residents now realize that British technocrats have plundered millions from the treasury, the truly unforgivable sin is the lost opportunities in having the country in stasis for four years, along with the human toll of having an all-white and racist European prosecuting team selecting who to prosecute, in a predominantly Afro-Caribbean society, under the thumb of Helen Garlick’s SIPT. This latter travesty, which has ensnared a generation of successful Belongers, has been the subject of infrequent public comment, although negative sentiment is widespread.

On 24 January 2013, Professor Trevor Munroe, the executive director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action (NIA) group, wrote to then TCI Governor Todd about shortcomings in the rule of law in the TCI, and what his group said was the “uneven application of the law”. His concern was the deals that were hatched with white developers and businessmen while others were being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Munroe’s letter was answered, but his concerns were given scant attention. 

Almost six months after Munroe’s letter, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ministerial fact finding mission to the TCI, headed by eminent members of that important regional body, published its findings on 11 July 2013. 

The group found widespread sentiments that: (1) the SIPT’s investigation and prosecutions have created a climate of fear, that they have the country on pause, that the prosecutions have destroyed reputations, and that (2) no regional persons are on the SIPT, giving the impression that it is intended to treat Belongers as crooks and target only Islanders for prosecution, that (3) justice is for sale to foreigners while locals face criminal charges and jail time, that (4) there is a complete disconnect between the TCI and British narratives and perspectives, that (5) the UK should say what its level of culpability is for the events that are the subject of the SIPT’s prosecutions, given its oversight responsibility, and (6) that there are widespread concerns over the manipulation of the criminal justice system, including removal of the right to trial by jury, changes to the laws on the collection and admissibility of evidence, etc.

There has been no public response by the UK government to that important regional body’s report but, even more alarming, there has been no movement on any of the recommendations in the report. 

(OTR Note: The British representative to the United Nations Fourth Committee last October stated in a session on the decolonisation of the non self-governing territories under UK administration that the British were unaware of the existence of the CARICOM report on the Turks and Caicos Islands - even as it is stated in the Report that the document was sent to the British government).

As for the merits of the CARICOM delegation’s findings, with twelve out of thirteen of the SIPT’s defendants being Belongers, the charge that the SIPT’s prosecutions have yielded unnaturally skewed results is unanswerable. Even on the SIPT’s account the crimes they are prosecuting involve white expatriates paying bribes to black government ministers for favours, with roughly even numbers of persons paying and receiving bribes. 

With only one exception their prosecutions involve only blacks being strung, drawn, and quartered, and in case after case the person paying the bribes are conspicuously missing, in most cases as a result of having cut a deal, in some instances there is simply no good explanation for the missing developer, and in at least one case the SIPT seems to be making every effort to avoid the particular businessman. 

In addition, in legal transactions they say were corrupt, the consistent conclusions they have drawn is that white professionals representing expatriates were not knowingly a party to the corruption, but long standing and successful Belonger professionals, with much to lose and nothing to gain, they say were mired in the corrupt deals.

The fact that this prosecution has yielded such obviously racist results in its decisions to prosecute is hardly surprising when you consider that the SIPT’s membership is lily-white and all-European, which is not a travesty in itself, even though its members inevitably bring to their jobs preconceived notions about the region and its mostly Afro-Caribbean subjects, with no one in their midst to disabuse them of those prejudices. 

A close look at the composition of the SIPT, however, shows that its predilection for bias goes beyond the colour and culture of its membership. The majority of the team are retired veterans, with thirty-plus years experience, many of whom are former members of London’s Metropolitan Police Service (the Met), which puts them at the heart of one of the most racist police forces in the world. If that seems an unwarranted claim the Met has a record of stopping and searching blacks more than three times the frequency of whites in 2000, and more than six times in 2009-2010. 

The Macpherson Report on London’s Met, published in 1999, found that it was “institutionally racist” (which is defined by unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping among its membership), and came up with a long list of recommendations to tackle its racism, a very important component of which is that its staffing should reflect the cultural and ethnic makeup of the communities it serves. 

Despite significant changes the Met is still considered institutionally racist, with cries that decades later it still does not reflect the markup of the communities it serves. If that is a yardstick to avoid ‘institutional racism’, Garlick’s SIPT clearly fails miserably on that score, being all-white and all-European, and its defendant lineup and prosecutions speak for itself. 

TCI’s mainstream press has been too fearful to state the obvious, and it has therefore been quiet about the travesty of this injustice. A few local blogs have been braver, beating around the central point, and marveling at how by far the largest allegations of corruption have gone completely untouched by the SIPT because of who is at the center of the allegations, but even those ‘anonymous’’ blogs, that have been most vocal, have been intimidated and shut down. 

No matter whatever happens now to try and rehabilitate what are self evidently racist prosecutions, a very large segment of the community will now never accept any convictions of the SIPT, particularly in a judge alone trial, as being the reflection of a fair or reasonable judicial process. These trials will bring the TCI’s criminal justice system completely into disrepute.

British justice does not stink... it reeks, and the FCO United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office) should be absolutely ashamed of its part in this travesty parading as a criminal justice system.