Dr. Hon. Rufus Washington Ewing
March 20, 2013
As Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands I, on February 10, 2012, wrote to the Rt. Hon. William Hague, First Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, requesting without prejudice, the recall of the Chief Financial Officer, His Excellency the Governor and the Attorney General. In my letter to Rt. Hon. Hague I outlined the concerns of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and cited reasons why those persons named should be recalled. My dissertation on the past and current state of the affairs of the Turks and Caicos Islands that was presented to CARICOM, also articulated my concerns and those of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands indicating the need for intervention and assistance from our regional neighbours.
As Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands and as someone who was elected to represent the people of these islands, I am disappointed but not surprised, that I am being chastised by the Foreign Minister for exposing the facts and representing my people. I take exception to this and at the same time, stand by my position on both of the matters in question.
In my address to CARICOM I stated that the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands acknowledged that the allegations of corruption and maladministration of the previous administration necessitated investigation. The Commission of Inquiry was presided over by a single Judge, Sir Robin Auld. After hearing evidence in those proceedings, Sir Auld concluded that there was a “High probability of systemic corruption amongst the Ministers, members if the legislature and public officials in the TCI” as a result of these conclusions our constitution was suspended. What was indeed unfortunate, but an indisputable fact, was that this conclusion was drawn without including the then Governor Richard Tauwhare, the TCI Head of State who was at the time entrusted with the responsibility for good governance and who was responsible for presiding over and signing most, if not all of the transactions that were cited in the commission of inquiry report as being corrupt.
The professional integrity and dignity of many hard working and dedicated Turks and Caicos Islanders, including our first Premier and Ministers, are now under question, because of the conclusions of Sir Auld. Furthermore, the fate of all accused persons now rest in the custody of a system designed to entrap and secure conviction of some whilst, at the same time, others walk free in exchange for money and information. It is also obvious that the accusations made against former members of government have moved from an alleged “high probability of corruption” by Sir Auld to what amounts to a verdict of “corruption” by the Secretary of State and the Governor. In these circumstances, I cannot state with any degree of confidence that the system of justice as it relates to the accusations of malfeasance is fair, as all of the actions thus far by those entrusted with investigations and administration of those accused, seem to be directed more at securing convictions at all cost and by all means, especially of persons of a particular political affiliation, rather than the pure pursuit of justice. I support the laws of this land being upheld, and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” must be adhered to and the system of justice must be fair and balanced irrespective of who the accused is, from where he hails and what political party he or she is associated with.
I have no need to misrepresent the facts about the past or present as the facts are there for all to see.
I speak directly to my people of the Turks and Caicos Islands to say that The Progressive National Party (PNP), of which I am Leader is an institution of the people, by the people and for the people. The label of corruption may justly or unjustly be placed upon individuals within any institution or organization, the clear distinction needs to be however made that the institutions or organizations themselves should not bear this label. I therefore resent the attempts by the Governor’s Office and the Foreign Office to repeatedly tarnish the name of any political party or group, by labeling it as being corrupt as it influences the minds of voters and prejudices the image of new officers of such parties.
It is my belief that the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands was partially suspended, to exclude representative democracy in the legislative and executive arms of government so as to avoid interference by the local populous whilst the Interim Administration went about the many reforms that they desired to have implemented. It is well known that the Turks and Caicos Islands has been responsible for its own financial upkeep for decades without assistance from the United Kingdom, save for DFID grants in the past and EU grants as of recent. I cannot say that our lives have been made easier with the UK guarantee of a 260 million dollar loan that Turks and Caicos Islanders are now required to repay in a very short period or that we necessarily agree with the decisions made as to how that money is being spent. If the Interim regime had focused on expanding our economy in addition to employing less drastic cost cutting measures, then we would be in a much better financial position than we are now. The fact that our national debt is more than 3 times what it was in 2009 highlights this situation! In a nutshell, had better financial strategies been implemented there would have been no need for a loan guarantee nor would there have been a need for the yet to be repealed VAT initiative. Though we are grateful for the Secretary of State’s decision not to enact the VAT bill on April 1, 2013, the cries of our people through a resounding vote for repeal by a democratically elected House of Assembly are still being denied and democracy is still yet to be served.
During the reign of the Interim Administration a slew of legislations were drafted and enacted, including the 2011 Constitution. These pieces of legislation sought to achieve, among others, the following objectives:
1. Empowering the Governor with greater power and influence over the executive and legislative arms of government.
2. Total control and influence over financial matters
3. Enhancing good governance and greater accountability for persons in public life
4. Improving the chances of conviction of those accused of malfeasance by enactment of Trial without Jury and Hearsay laws to be used retroactively
5. Dismantling of the system of political patronage
It was stated clearly by the Secretary of State that he has full confidence in the Governor despite our overwhelming lack of confidence in the leadership of the present Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is also widely known that the Attorney General has been absent from duty for several months now and the many public failures of his office in the past several weeks have brought question to his level of competence and leadership. I therefore stand by my request for the recall of the Governor and the Attorney General and also the summonsing of Governor Tauwhare to the Turks and Caicos Islands to speak to the allegations against ministers for which he was a possible co-conspirator.
As Premier of this country, my responsibility is to ensure good governance whilst creating a higher quality of life for my people, and to make representation in their best interest. Given the many governance challenges being experienced by the UK and the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of UK appointed officials to the TCI, I will also not hasten to use the UK Government as a yard stick upon which to measure good governance. I proudly say that I was born and raised here in the Turks and Caicos Islands and that I share the dreams and aspirations of my people.
The future of the Turks and Caicos Islands is bright, but there are many challenges that we have to overcome as we govern in the best interest of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. My responsibility as Premier of this country is to represent the interest of the electorate, like the Secretary of State does for his electorate which I am sure takes precedence over ours. I will continue to respect his office but will also continue to represent, to speak, to act without fear or favour, in the interest of my people.
In regards to our position of independence, it is without a doubt independence is indeed our destiny. It may or may not come under my leadership, but whenever it comes, it will be by an act of the determined will of Turks and Caicos Islanders. When the timing is appropriate the question on independence will be asked through a referendum and I am confident that the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands will be given the same opportunity as those in the Falkland Islands to answer the question as to whether it is their wish remain a UK Dependent territory.
I call on all Turks and Caicos Islanders to stand for what is right and what is just for all Turks and Caicos Islanders. I call on all Turks and Caicos Islanders to be vigilant, be honest and dedicated to the future of a brighter, prosperous nation that we can continue to proudly call our own.
Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
N.J.S. Francis Building, Pond St, Cockburn Town, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands
Tel: (649) 946-2801 ext 40101 – Fax: (649) 946-1803 – email: [email protected] – Twitter: @premier_tci