New governor defends takeover of Turks and Caicos

GEORGE TOWN: The incoming governor of the Cayman Islands, Duncan Taylor, says Britain’s move to partially suspend the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and assume full administrative control is not a step backwards.

Taylor will assume his position as governor of the Cayman Islands in January 2010. Until recently, he was the British High Commissioner for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Taylor rejected the notion that the decision to set aside the elected government in the TCI amounts to modern day colonialism.

“I don’t think it is necessarily a backward step,” he said. “I think the circumstances which had developed in the Turks and Caicos were truly exceptional, and once the Turks and Caicos remains a British Overseas Territory, in extreme circumstances, the power of the British government to take control still exists.”

Local government in the TCI was suspended by Britain in August following a long-running row over alleged corruption.

A probe was launched in July 2008 into allegations of corruption in land sales, distribution of government contracts and development deals, the granting of voting rights and misuse of public funds.

In March, TCI Prime Minister Michael Misick resigned after an investigation pointed to a “high probability of systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty” among the ruling elite.

Chris Bryant, Foreign Office Minister Responsible for the Overseas Territories, said suspending local government in the TCI was only decided upon after all other options failed.

Taylor expressed doubt that a similar situation could emerge in the Cayman Islands, as he prepares for his new posting.

“I hope it won’t come to that in the Cayman Islands and I would be very surprised if it did but the nature of the relationship with the British Overseas Territories is that they are still British overseas territories and that is the constitutional position,” said Taylor.

Taylor also responded to critics of the British government who claim it has no moral authority to tell others how to operate, given recent scandals that have emerged within its own ranks such as the recent expenses scandal.

“I think we are dealing very vigorously with the expenses scandal. There has been some pretty tough action taken already against a small number actually of the worst miscreants in the expenses scandal and a major review of the way parliamentary expenses are operated in Westminster.

“I think that the leaders of all the parties in the parliament of Westminster have committed themselves to very tough action to ensure that a system is put in place that is more transparent and accountable and to ensure that some of the difficulties which arose and which were made public over this summer don’t recur,” Taylor said.

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