New Minister is Mark Simmonds


By Caribbean News Now contributor

LONDON, England — Member of Parliament Mark Simmonds has been appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for Britain’s Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle.

According to an announcement by the Foreign Office, Simmonds’ responsibilities will include:

• Africa 
• Overseas Territories (not Falklands, Sovereign Base Areas or Gibraltar) 
• Conflict Issues 
• Climate Change 
• International Energy 
• Consular 
• Protocol 
• Ministerial Oversight for FCO Services 
• The Caribbean (not including Dominican Republic, Haiti or Cuba) 

Simmonds had been a member of the shadow health team when the Conservative Party was in opposition but missed out on a role in the coalition government after the 2010 General Election.

Simmonds replaces Henry Bellingham who held the job since 2010.


Minister Bellingham is leaving his post.


Published on September 6, 2012  

In a surprise move as part of an ongoing reshuffle of his Cabinet by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister with responsibility for the Turks and Caicos Islands and Britain’s other overseas territories, Henry Bellingham, is leaving his post.

No replacement has yet been announced.

Henry Bellingham

Bellingham declined to say whether he had been offered an alternative ministerial position, but did say he hoped it was not the end of his career in government.

He was first appointed to the Foreign Office in 2010 and has been a Conservative frontbencher for the past 10 years.

“I’ve had ten years as a front bencher and I’m really happy that I got to do the Foreign Office job for more than two years and travelled across 61 countries in that time,” Bellingham said.

One of the more troublesome issues Bellingham had to deal with during his term of office has been the return to elected ministerial self-government in the TCI following the partial suspension of the constitution and imposition of direct rule by Britain in 2009. Parliamentary elections are now set to resume here on November 9.


Independence Is Up To The People of Turks and Caicos

Mr Henry Bellingham
INDEPENDENCE for the Turks and Caicos Islands is up to the people, according to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Mr Henry Bellingham.

There has been much talk about an independent TCI by local politicians and Progressive National Party (PNP) leader, Dr Rufus Ewing, last week confirmed that independence will be a part of his platform going forward.

An independent TCI is appealing for many TC Islanders who are disgruntled with the Brits after three years of interim administration rule.

Bellingham, in an interview with the Weekly News, acknowledged the people’s sense of dissatisfaction, but noted that the decisions made by the interim administration were in the interests of a better TCI in the long-term.

“We have had to make some tough decision so I can understand the interim administration was somewhat unpopular,” he said.

The Under Secretary noted that these decisions are what will allow the new TCI Government to take over a very strong position, with a reformed public service, a budget surplus and a new constitution.

He said the new constitution sets out clearly what needs to be done if the TCI people decide they want to be an independent nation.

“There is a well-established framework in the constitution for the TCI people to have self-determination,” Bellingham said.

However, he stressed the need for decision makers to be realistic.

He said, “It will have to be a transition to have home rule, we have elections coming up and that is one step toward what is looking to be a bright future for the TCI.”

The Under Secretary added that the United Kingdom government in their White Paper, which will be published shortly, shows commitment to its territories.

Bellingham said, “We will invest in our territories to make our partnership a true reality.

“We want to give the territories a bankable proposition, for example, so that when they go into the capital markets they have all the support, partnership and protection they need.

“We believe that the Overseas Territories benefit a great deal from the UK, it is a mutually beneficial partnership.

“But we also make it clear in the White Paper that the future of the people is in their own hands and so we believe in self-determination, we are not neutral on this.”

According to him, once there is a majority vote in Parliament, a referendum will follow and independence will be granted to the TCI because it is the wish of the people.

He said, “It is very simple, the people of the TCI, if they want independence it is up to them, self-determination means exactly that.”

Until then, Bellingham maintained that there will be some checks and balances in place to support good governance and accountability, for example with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) ordinance.

Having a CFO appointed by the UK was one of the conditions set by the UK government in the provision of the $260m loan guarantee, which was agreed on in 2010.

Without the guarantee, it would not have been possible for TCIG to access the funding it needed to function and to provide public services.

The agreement allows for the CFO to be retained for as long as any UK loan guarantee is in force – currently up to 2016.

The Under Secretary said once the loan is repaid and the guarantee is no longer needed a UK appointed CFO will no longer be a condition, a fact corroborated by the current CFO, Mr Hugh McGarel-Groves.

Bellingham said, “Working together we can achieve a great deal…the future is very bright for the TCI.”

Asked if the UK wanted to retain control of not only the TCI, but also the five other British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, he reiterated that the UK supports self-determination.

Along with the TCI, the other Overseas Territories include Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Montserrat.

Bellingham stressed that the future of the people is in their own hands.

Retired politician and former PNP Leader, Mr Daniel Malcolm, maintained that this is a future that the TCI is not ready for.

“Self-determination is where the government and the people of TCI, and other territories like us, make advances toward greater political, social and cultural determination or say within the framework of their own situation,” he said.

Malcolm contended that the Turks and Caicos Islands is much too young for independence, but noted that achieving a measure of self-determination is a move in the right direction.

He said, “We are at least 10 years away from being ready for independence…we must develop our country and our people so that when we move to independence we will do so from a position of strength.”

According to him, the ultimate goal of decolonisation is independence, but there are other options that can be looked at on that road, such route taken by Bermuda.

Bermuda is a self-governing British overseas territory in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

The original system of government was created under the Virginia Company, which colonised Bermuda, accidentally in 1609, and deliberately from 1612.

The country’s 1968 Constitution provided the island with formal responsibility for internal self-government, while the British Government retained responsibility for external affairs, defence, and security.

The Bermudian Government is always consulted on any international negotiations affecting the territory.

Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament.

Currently, most of the Overseas Territories have a House of Assembly, Legislative Assembly (Cayman Islands), or Legislative Council (Montserrat) with political parties.

The Executive Council is usually called a cabinet and is led by a Premier or a Chief Minister (in Anguilla), who is the leader of the majority party in parliament.

The Governor exercises less power over local affairs and deals mostly with foreign affairs and economic issues, while the elected government controls most ‘domestic’ concerns.

Malcolm maintained that the road ahead will be a long one, but with the right expertise and strategic moves, the TCI will be in a position of strength when the time comes for it to take its place as a nation independent of the UK.(Vanessa Narine)

published in Turks and Caicos Weekly News


British Minister Bellingham Pays surprise Visit To Turks and Caicos


PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — Britain’s minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, arrived in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Monday, on a previously unannounced visit, accompanying Governor Ric Todd on his return from a five-day trip to the UK to consult on the progress towards the “milestones” previously set down by Bellingham.

These milestones must be completed or clearly on the road to completion before Britain will agree to elections being resumed in the TCI to return a democratically chosen government to replace the current interim administration by Britain following the imposition of direct rule in 2009.

Hopes are high locally that the purpose of the surprise visit by Bellingham will address this issue of elections.

One of the issues relating to the election is voter registration, which is moving much more slowly than expected. 

In the last election of February 2007, almost 7,000 people turned out to cast their votes. As of this week, only approximately half of this number has registered, with a registration deadline at the end of June.

In addition to the 7,000, it is estimated that approximately 2,000 more TC Islanders have come of age and are therefore qualified to vote. It is, however, not known how many of the past voters may now be excluded under the new registration qualifications. 

Another problem being reported is the slowness in the issue of the required birth certificates. The presentation of an original birth certificate must accompany each voter registration.

One Providenciales resident, who is a former candidate for public office, has made several visits to the government offices in Provo attempting to expedite his birth certificate, which he applied for six weeks ago. While the interim government has since reduced the cost of the certificates from $40 to $20, this prospective voter had already paid his $40. 

Another factor affecting the election is the current status of the political parties. The Progressive National Party (PNP) has had its senior executive gutted as a result of criminal charges brought against its former leader, five former ministers and one backbench member, who are scheduled in court next month to answer various allegations of bribery, corruption, money laundering and related charges. 

However, the PNP now appears to be ahead of the other main party, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), in setting up its new executive in anticipation of resumed elections.

While former chief minister Derek Taylor was elected to lead the PDM in November last year, it now appears he may not survive a strong challenge by another former chief minister, Oswald Skippings. Sources within the party, most media commentators and other local observers believe that, due to Taylor’s recent inactivity, he must be replaced. It also appears that, if Skippings is successful, this could signal a change in other elected and appointed party executives.

 published in Caribbean News Now on 12th of June.


Much Still to Be Done before ELECTIONS ,says British Minister

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — In a wide-ranging series of parliamentary questions and answers in the House of Commons last week, Britain’s minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, said that, although good progress has been made towards achieving the required milestones before elections can take place in the Turks and Caicos Islands, there is still much to be done.

Foreign Office minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham

Responding to questions from Andrew Rosindell MP, Bellingham said that new ordinances on the electoral process and the regulation of political parties are being prepared.

Rosindell also asked what future funding from the public purse will be provided to the Turks and Caicos Islands Special Investigation Prosecution Team. 

“The British government will consider carefully any requests for further assistance,” Bellingham responded.

When asked about the total spending to date, Bellingham said that, in financial year 2010-11, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) made a discretionary grant of £6.6 million (US$10.7 million) to reimburse the Turks and Caicos Islands government for some of the exceptional costs of the criminal investigation, including the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team, and related civil recovery and police work.

“In financial year 2011-12 the Turks and Caicos Islands government report that expenditure for the Special Investigation and Prosecution team was US$7.6 million. This represents over 4% of expenditure and a significant funding challenge for the Turks and Caicos Islands government. The Turks and Caicos Islands government has introduced a range of new taxes and cut overall expenditure significantly in order to address its structural deficit and put it on course for a sustainable fiscal surplus in financial year 2012-13,” he continued.

As separately reported, Britain has now agreed to make a further grant of £3.8 million (US$6.1 million) in financial year 2011-12 to reimburse the Turks and Caicos Islands government for a proportion of the costs associated with the continuing criminal investigation and associated prosecutions. 

“The Secretary of State also approved an additional £745,000 (US$1.2 million) contribution to the cost of setting up a suitable courtroom for the trials which will be held as a result of the investigation,” Bellingham disclosed.

In addition to these grants, the British government spent approximately £86,000 (US$139,000) on costs in the UK relating to the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team in financial year 2011-12, he added.

Rosindell went on to ask if the FCO will publish a list of assets reclaimed by the Turks and Caicos Islands special investigation and prosecution team to date. 

“Confiscation of the proceeds of crime can only occur post conviction. The special investigation and prosecution team carefully considers the need to restrain assets where there is evidence of a risk of dissipation. To date this has only been deemed necessary in the case of the former Premier, Michael Misick.

“It is also possible in appropriate circumstances to settle an investigation into suspected criminal conduct by agreeing a civil recovery order. This has been done with one suspect, who has paid the sum of US$1.25 million,” Bellingham responded.

In addition, Bellingham said, the separate civil recovery team has made in excess of 40 separate recoveries of money and/or land. The monetary element is more than $12 million including payments already made, judgments obtained and still to be collected and agreements to pay. More than 900 acres of land have also so far been returned to the Crown as a result of the civil recovery team’s work. The value of the land recovered so far is many tens of millions of dollars. Many other cases are underway and, by the end of the programme, the team expects to have recovered land worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the people of the TCI as well as significant further amounts of cash or other assets.

 published in Caribbean News Now on 01st May 2012