Political Fights in Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos deputy governor responds to attacks by premier
Published on January 17, 2013

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — The deputy governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anya Williams, has written personally to the premier, Dr Rufus Ewing, in response to comments he made in public meetings and reported in the media this week.

Williams began her letter sent on Tuesday by reminding the premier of his role in collective Cabinet responsibility for decision making, which she pointed out was the correct forum for raising issues and resolving problems.

The spat has arisen following Ewing’s claim that the Deputy Governor’s Office is attempting to retain control of government funds and was using such control in turn to control ministers.

However, Williams, denied that her office has any interest in retaining control of government funds, or was using them to control ministers

She reminded the premier that she and the TCI public sector has sought to support him and ministers at all times.

Her letter made clear that the TCI government is free to determine government structures, and to put in place arrangements to have a function moved to another ministerial portfolio, bearing in mind the structures and responsibilities that have been set out in the constitution.

Williams’ letter also reminded the premier of the pre-election briefings given to all would be Assembly members and political parties where they were informed how government would work, regardless of who came to office, and that no candidate or party expressed any concerns at that time.

Similarly, all candidates were informed that the priority for any incoming government two thirds of the way through the financial year (November) should be on the estimating and approval process for financial year 2013/14, which would already be significantly delayed from its original timetable of October, due to the need to consult newly elected ministers on the development of a new fiscal and strategic policy statement and on new budget priorities going forward.

Her letter further reminded the premier that Cabinet agreed to this. She explained that if ministers wished to change the existing 2012/13 budget they are at liberty to do so but this must be done by proper legal process via the House of Assembly and that this had to be done in addition to the complex drafting and approval process for the new financial year.

In relation to Assembly members’ and ministers’ pay and conditions, Williams’ letter also reminded the premier that it is the Integrity Commission Code of Conduct and Report on Remuneration that sets out ministers’ entitlements to pay, travel and all other arrangements, not the Office of the Deputy Governor, which is charged with abiding by them.

If the premier or ministers are unhappy with the levels of pay or arrangements for allowances or the class of ministerial travel provisions set out in the Integrity Commission Report, and with the government’s current travel policy, this also should be taken up in Cabinet and set out to the House of Assembly and the Integrity Commission, Williams said.

With regard to re-establishing and staffing the Office of the Premier, the deputy governor said she has had several discussions with the premier in this regard and awaits a submission from his office. Similarly, the premier’s desire to set up a press office has not been budgeted and will require a business case and supplementary funding this year or be dealt with in the new budget for 2013/14. Any such arrangement must also be consistent with legislation and the Integrity Commission Code of Conduct.

“My letter sought to reassure the Honourable Premier that my office and I stand ready to assist wherever necessary in helping fulfil the Government’s mandate,” said Williams. “Although it is not my preferred way of doing business as there are serious other issues of national importance that are at hand, such has been the breadth and depth of the unmerited and inaccurate comments circulated this week, that I feel compelled me to respond.”