TCI officially under British rule

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands: The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is officially under British direct rule, after Governor Gordon Wetherell signed a proclamation suspending sections of the nation’s constitution for the next two years.

“I have today signed a proclamation, published in the Gazette, which brings into force the Order in Council suspending parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands constitution,” Wetherell said in a statement.

Ministerial government and the House of Assembly have also been suspended, meaning that Cabinet no longer exists and the House of Assembly has been dissolved and MPs’ seats are vacated.

“The constitutional right to trial by jury is also suspended with immediate effect. In accordance with the Order in Council, this will be for a period of two years, subject to extension or abbreviation as necessary,” said Wetherell, who will be responsible for the government for the two-year period.

“After a long and frustrating period of waiting and delay, we can finally move ahead together towards a fresh start for the Islands. Our goal is to make a clean break from the mistakes of the past by establishing a durable path towards good governance, sound financial management and sustainable development.

“This is not a British takeover. Although, as I said in my statement of July 2, I have appointed experts to work in areas of concern highlighted in the final report of the Commission of Inquiry, the TCI public service will continue to exercise their normal functions. 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,” Wetherell said.

In addition, Wetherell said the British government was committed to working towards holding free and fair elections by July 2011.

He promised that the guiding principles of the new administration would be “transparency, accountability and responsibility” and said most people in the TCI welcomed the changes, which come from the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of corruption. That probe had found systematic corruption in the former government of former premier, Michael Misick.

However, Premier Galmo Williams condemned the move.

“Today our country is being invaded and re-colonized by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one-man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance,” said Williams.

Williams said he strongly objected to “the recommendation of trial by judge alone rather than a trial by a jury…the removal of the House of Assembly, thereby leaving the people of these Islands voiceless and without representation”.

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