Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Voice of Africa Broadcast: Britain Imposes Direct Rule of the Turks and Caicos Isles

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This Weeks Show:

Wednesday 26th August 2009

Is Britain Trying to Re-colonise the Caribbean?

On Wednesday August 12, 2009, the Court of Appeal in London, England, delivered a judgment of grave constitutional significance for the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The Court refused the application of Hon. Michael Misick, former Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, for permission to appeal against the decision to refuse permission to claim for Judicial Review of the legality of The Turks and Caicos Islands’ Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order 2009. The British Court of Appeal three-member panel dismissed arguments by Misick that the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order - that allows for suspending the constitution - contravenes European Union laws. The panel also ruled that there was little evidence to support the case going any further.

The British Order in Council was brought into force on August 14, 2009. Bringing to an end the self-rule that the Turks and Caicos Islands have enjoyed for 33 years. Its effect has been to include, for a period of up to two years (and possibly longer), suspension of parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution of 2006.

With "immediate effect, Ministerial Government, the House of Assembly and the constitutional right to trial by jury was suspended. The move by London followed an interim report by a Commission of Inquiry headed by Sir Robin Auld, a former British judge into alleged legislative corruption in the British colony which is reported to have found a “high probability of systemic corruption” in the country’s government. At the centre of these allegations is former premier the Hon. Michael Misick, the, who is alleged to have built up a multi-million-dollar fortune since he was elected in 2003.

However, Misick, has described the move as "modern-day colonialism and has previously stated "[T]his step by the British cannot be right, morally or otherwise…It is wrong in the 21st century to have an entire population re-colonised in this fashion, with the executive, legislative, judicial and all other powers lying in the hands of the colonial masters, but vested in one person (the governor), who himself, in this case, is not a citizen…They still view us all as a corrupt people, unfit to govern ourselves," he added. "We cannot and should not take this lying down”.

Similarly, the outgoing head of government Galmo Williams, (who took over the government in March), referred to this as a "coup" by London. In May this year, Williams addressed the United Nations Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism conference in St. Kitts and urged London to allow his people to determine their future in a referendum. He noted also that the U.N. Declaration of 1960 states that all peoples have the right to self-determination and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are also opposed to the recent suspension of the Turks and Caicos Islands constitution by London. At their recent summit in Guyana they declared that they "were deeply disturbed by the adverse findings of the Turks and Caicos Commission of Inquiry into possible corruption or other dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the Legislature". Clearly a matter of déjà vu, this recent decision by the British Government is reminiscent of a previous decision to suspend the Guyanese constitution in 1953.

According to legal scholar Colin Bobb-Semple, this clearly demonstrates the power of Queen Elizabeth II in British Overseas Territories, and could have profound and far-reaching implications.In fact, the official website of the British Monarchy states that Queen Elizabeth II ‘continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles’ in independent states in the CARICOM region including Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These states have constitutional monarchies ( Their constitutions specifically provide that the executive authority of the state is vested in Her Majesty, and that subject to the provisions of the constitution, authority may be exercised on her behalf by the Governor-General, directly or through subordinate officers.

Our guests are:

Colin Bobb-Semple a Senior Law Lecturer who has taught Bar students in London for the last 20 years - he also teaches on the Master of Laws Criminal Litigation programme - prior to that, practised as a solicitor in London for 15 years - he has also been Called to the Bars of Guyana and St Kitts-Nevis.

Paul Edwards, legal adviser to the Hon. Michael Misick, former premier of the Turks & Caicos Islands for the Commission of Inquiry and his application for Judicial Review of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order 2009.

Since this is a dialogue in the African world programme, we are keen to hear your views on any of the following:


What are the other British colonies in the Caribbean?

Should Britain have suspended the constitution of the Turks & Caicos Islands?

How best can the people of Turks and Caicos resist British misrule?

What should be the role of CARICOM?

Does the African Union have a role in advocating for the sovereignty of Caribbean nations?

Do you have any questions for Colin Bobb-Semple or Paul Edwards?


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Britain imposes direct rule of Turks and Caicos isles

Britain says it has suspended the government of the Turks and Caicos
Move follows allegations of systemic corruption and "serious dishonesty"
Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory of eight major islands

(CNN) -- Britain says it has suspended the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands and imposed direct rule after allegations of systemic corruption and "serious dishonesty".

British Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said he instructed the British governor of the island territory to suspend the ministerial government and the House of Assembly for as long as two years.

Bryant said his order also suspends the constitutional right to trial by jury in the Turks and Caicos.

"This is a serious constitutional step which the UK government has not taken lightly, but these measures are essential in order to restore good governance and sound financial management," Bryant said in a statement.

"It remains our intentions that elections should be held by July 2011, if not sooner. It is also important that the people of Turks and Caicos Islands continue to have a voice in the interim and the order puts in place an advisory council and consultative forum to make sure this happens."

The move follows allegations of corruption in the Turks and Caicos, a British Overseas Territory of eight major islands and numerous uninhabited keys, 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Miami, Florida.

The British government set up a commission of inquiry in July 2008 to look into possible corruption or other serious dishonesty in recent years of past and present elected members of the legislature.

The commission's report, delivered May 31, found "information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption and/or serious dishonesty" in the Turks and Caicos, the Foreign Office said.

"This, together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of general administrative incompetence, demonstrated a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms," the Foreign Office said.

The report also recommends criminal investigations into former Premier Michael Misick and four of his former Cabinet ministers.

"This is not a 'British takeover,'" said Gordon Wetherell, governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. "Public services will continue to be run by people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, as indeed they should be. But I hope we can now begin to run them better."

Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of the British territory, and the governor is her official representative.

The governor is responsible for defense; external affairs; internal security, including the islands' police force; and the appointment of some public officials, but he is normally required to act on the advice of the Cabinet.

The islands' ministerial system includes the premier and six other ministers who must act according to Cabinet policies.

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