Order for direct rule laid; CARICOM to appeal to Britain

NASSAU, Bahamas, March 26, 2009 – As Britain stepped closer to imposing direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) yesterday,  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member countries were planning to appeal to the British government to reconsider the takeover.

The TCI Constitution Interim Amendment Order was laid in the British parliament yesterday and will go into force following the receipt of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the government. But Governor Gordon Wetherell could order earlier implementation if the need arises.
The order which will result in the suspension of Cabinet and the House of Assembly will take effect for two years, with a change in that time allowed, again, at the discretion of the Governor.

CARICOM described the move as a threat to democracy in the British Overseas Territory and suggested that the direct rule, which was announced on the heels of an interim report of a Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the government, might actually make things worse in the TCI.

Bahamas’ Prime Minister Ingraham told his country’s parliament yesterday that members of the 15-nation grouping would be going a step further than simply condemning the action, a move that had been requested by the recently resigned TCI Premier, Michael Misick.

“We are proposing that each of us, each country, will make separate representation to the British government provided we can get the two political parties in the Turks and Caicos to agree upon a set of things,” Ingraham said.

“In my discussions with both sides I gathered that they could agree upon some items. Whether they can agree upon all I do not know, but whatever they can agree upon are the things that we will undertake on their behalf and seek to persuade as best we can, if we can, the British government to give some consideration to not proceeding for certainly not the length of time, and in some cases not undertaking some of the measures being proposed.”

Commissioner Sir Robin Auld had said in his report that there was evidence of corruption and mismanagement which placed the finances of the territory in dire straits.

He recommended the suspension of the entire Constitution to replace the democratic process presently provided by direct rule from Britain, acting through the Governor, with consultation with an Advisory Executive Council.

That Council will be made up of up to 12 members – including the attorney general, deputy governor and the permanent secretary for finance – and will assist Governor Wetherell in exercising his functions and formulating policy. However, he would not be obligated to accept their advice.

Essentially, therefore, the Governor will perform the role now carried out by the Premier and his Cabinet.

A Consultative Forum which will be set up will take over parliament’s role and make recommendations to the Governor on legislation and policy.