Friday, November 14, 2008 at 9:16 AM
[Author’s note: No doubt many of you are aware of my ongoing efforts to help my compatriots in the Turks and Caicos Islands get rid of our corrupt and incompetent government.
And even though I am pleased to report that a UK Commission of Inquiry is currently investigating all allegations in this respect, I feel obliged to publish this special commentary to give the British Government a clear sense of what most informed TCIslanders believe the Commission’s report must recommend. This commentary was also published today at The TCI Journal and Caribbean Net News.]
Nobody can deny that members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) have given us probable cause to suspect that self-enrichment has been their governing principle for the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) over the past five years.
Therefore, nobody should be surprised in February when the Commission of Inquiry reports that governent officials have fostered such a thriving and infectious culture of “corruption and serious dishonesty” (which has infected members of the Opposition too) that it would offend all notions of good governance for the PNP to be allowed to continue to govern.
This alone makes it imperative for the British to begin planning now to install an Interim Government as soon after publication of the Commission’s pending report as practicable … if not sooner!
Meanwhile, that our government is convulsing in the last throes of incompetence only adds insult to the endemic nature of this corruption. Indeed, even die-hard PNP supporters are expressing contempt for the disorganization, dysfunction and disarray that now characterize governance in the TCI.
This is why all TCIslanders, including the Premier – ironically enough, are incredulous that the British – who have a constitutional responsibility to ensure good governance in our country – have allowed corrupt practices and mismanagement to flourish in this UK Overseas Territory for so long.
(Recall that when the British FAC questioned him about alleged corruption, Premier Hon Dr Michael Misick responded indignantly by claiming that there was no corruption in the TCI because the British governor signed off on everything.)
Nevertheless, since I am mindful that some will accuse me of having a partisan motive, I hereby offer the findings of the British Red Cross as independent evidence to support my contention that our government is not only terminally corrupt but also hopelessly incompetent.
Specifically, in a recent report on the “Relief & Recovery Needs Assessment” in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the British Red Cross highlighted our government’s inability to provide emergency relief (to say nothing its inability to rebuild the devastated areas) by making the following points:
A considerable degree of relief needs have been identified as re-emerging one month after the hurricane event.
Hastily rebuilt shacks are not watertight, prone to flooding after minor rainstorms (with people now sleeping on the ground in some cases), and in some instances, more than one family or multiple individuals are sharing one room.
There are reports of the continued inability of some families to purchase food, water, essential hygiene products (10%) and to replace clothing (particularly babies and younger children 30%).
Increasing incidence of flies, rats and crawling insects as well as the two forms of mosquito vector for regionally occurring Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue fever are reported, though as yet, other communicable diseases have not been reported by the health authorities. This is in a situation of a regionally moderately mobile population.
Teachers have however reported increased incidence of overtiredness of pupils as well as a number arriving in a less clean condition than is advisable to prevent spread of disease.
There is an increased risk to health from inadequate access to clean water and sanitation.
As the wetter and colder weather approaches, and as the health and sanitation situation continues to deteriorate, the following continued relief needs have been identified in priority order: Tarpaulins… Beds for the elderly and pregnant women… Sanitation facilities… Food and clean drinking water… Blankets… Cooking equipment….
(Note: I am reliably informed that our government’s impudent and summary refusal of further assistance by the British Navy and the Bermuda Regiment in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ike is largely responsible for these dire and worsening conditions. Not to mention that this report ended its “Continued Relief Needs” assessment rather ominously by warning “It is anticipated that by October 20th the Red Cross will not have any further relief supplies…”.)
All the same, my case for this Interim Government is based primarily on Britain’s legal responsibility – not only to prosecute our corrupt government officials but also to reform our civil service. And, in this respect, I feel obliged to cite an article entitled “Britain has a legal (or ‘superior’) responsibility to fix the TCI” that was published on 19 June 2008 in The TCI Journal and the Caribbean Net News, in which I advised that:
The British must accept contingent liability for all of the foreseeable losses (in tourism receipts and foreign investments) that stem from their failure to ensure good governance in the TCI.
But I also offered that:
…in case anyone doubts my counsel in this respect, Hon. Ian Davidson MP, member of the British House of Commons Committee on Public Accounts, highlighted this point when he asked the following during an Oral Evidence Session on Monday, 10 December 2007:
‘Can I just ask about this question of weak regulation and the impact upon the United Kingdom’s reputation and financial liability if the regulators were not adequate in … Turks and Caicos, and we were then sued in some way?’
And, when the answer to this question only exacerbated his concern, Mr. Davidson issued the following warning:
‘The standards of supervision in [the TCI is] presently inadequate and you are allowing that to continue, leaving the United Kingdom at risk, not only of reputational damage but also of financial liabilities.’
Indeed, my consternation over this salutary neglect was such that, in an earlier article (published on 31 March 2008) entitled Commission of Inquiry on corruption looms for the Turks and Caicos Islands, I felt constrained to raise the following untenable spectacle:
[J]ust imagine the irony of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe having just cause to tell Prime Minister Gordon Brown to clean up corruption in his own territory before lecturing him about good governance.
Therefore, it clearly behooves the British to do whatever is necessary to clean up the political and financial mess they’ve allowed to fester in the TCI, if not for our sake, then for their own. After all, they are facing mounting and untenable contingent liabilities estimated now in excess of $1 billion, which includes debts arising out of payments in lieu of untaken leave, arrears to suppliers, claims by ghost workers, unsecured loans and unfunded pension liabilities – just to name a few.
Contrast this with the fact that, just five years ago, the TCI was effectively debt free. Yet today we have direct debts of between $100 – $200 million, with another $135 – $235 million of debt in the queue for two money-pit hospitals. Then of course there is the legacy of hundreds of millions of dollars of Crown Land that have been sold or contracted away under questionable terms.
(It might interest our British guarantors to know that, on a per capita basis, a debt of $250 million for twelve thousand TCI citizens is equivalent to one of $1.25 trillion for sixty million British citizens.)
Clearly, the need to act now to correct the current trajectory of the TCI is urgent and self evident; not least because the British also have a moral duty to prevent this government from engaging in activities that will only worsen the state of our public finances.
Over the last year, The iPINIONS Journal, The TCI Journal and Caribbean Net New have published hundreds of articles chronicling the corrupt and incompetent state of governance in this UK Overseas Territory. More to the point, my fellow editors and I at The TCI Journal have repeatedly called for an Interim Government as the only means of redressing the pathological corruption and mismanagement TCIslanders have been subjected to.
For example, on 4 July 2008, we published an editorial entitled “Daily Financing of Government”, which ended as follows:
Our recommendation and prayers are that the British Government will not only call a Commission of Inquiry, but will hopefully take over the operations of the Government for a period of 12 to 18 months, as they have done during periods in the past, in an effort to get the country’s finances back in order.
We feel a time period such as this would also allow our country’s political system, media and institutions a time to examine and restructure themselves, allowing for a healthier re-emergence of self rule. We feel that a return to self rule should occur only after the finances are back in order and only when one or both of the political parties can show themselves as competent, with executive abilities, and committed to democratic principles.
Unfortunately, in the five months since the publication of that editorial, the need for an Interim Government has only become more acute.
Finally, let me hasten to note that there are many intelligent and competent TCIslanders who are willing and able to assist the British in restoring good governance.
But I urge the British to ignore local politicians (no doubt those with most to fear from the truth and consequences of the Commission’s report) who are protesting that the installation of an Interim Government would smack of neo-colonialism. After all, such patently absurd and self-serving protestations should not obstruct the emergency steps that must be taken to save the TCI from utter ruin.
Accordingly, I submit that an Interim Government is long overdue. However, I shall leave details about its composition and tenure for others to decide….