#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Tuesday July 10, 2018 – In nine days from today, the Rt. Hon. Sir Robin Auld, a 60-year attorney, a former Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal for England and Wales, a Queen’s Council, a man knighted 30 years ago and the leading man in a decade’s old debacle in Turks and Caicos will celebrate his 81st birthday; that however is not what this flashback piece is about…
This Magnetic Media article is a reflective report and a rousing reminder of the 10 year anniversary of the genesis of the controversial announcement that the Turks and Caicos Islands would be subject to a Commission of Inquiry or COI (as we have labelled it).
That inquiry – unravelling scandalously at a makeshift courtroom at the Palms Resort in 2009 – was led by Sir Robin Auld, QC.
The revelation that the COI was unavoidable following a Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report was made six months earlier in the meeting room of the Sands Resort on July 10, 2008 and it came from then Governor, Richard Tauwhare. Mr. Tauwhare also issued a National Address about the coming of the probe into government malfeasance.
“In exercise of my powers as Governor under the Commissions of Inquiry ordinance, I have today, Thursday 10th July 2008 appointed a commission of inquiry to inquire into whether there is information that corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the House of Assembly, previously known as the Legislative Council may have taken place in recent years.”
Ten days later, Richard Tauwhare, his wife and two children were gone, bid farewell in a dazzling show at the Providenciales International Airport. The three-year governor was transported out of the islands which were about to undergo a metamorphosis many say retarded the country’s progress on the way to greater self-determination.
Tauwhare in that National Address, where he was clearly and even nervously reading from a teleprompter, acknowledged the seriousness of his decision.
“The appointing of a Commission of Inquiry is an extremely serious step. I have taken this decision only after the most careful and detailed deliberation. I did so after following an instruction from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to consider in accordance with the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance whether a commission should be appointed.”
While the statement assured that there was no wish by the United Kingdom to interfere with the democratic process in the Turks and Caicos Islands, testimonies and conclusions given during the captivating COI led to a complete overhaul of the democracy.
Announced by new Governor, H.E. Gordon Wethell was a constitutional suspension on August 14, 2009 which ushered in British-direct rule; there was an interim administration appointed by the UK for three years; there was a new constitution created for the territory which allowed for trial without jury and the powers of the elected administration were reduced and in some cases retracted.
On the flip side, the UK maintained its posture that the move to conduct the Commission of Inquiry would unearth evidence which proved that they were right to intervene and shut down the scandalous administrative style of the Mike Misick regime.
The just over four weeks of the COI spawned some of the Caribbean’s most awe-striking headlines and jaw dropping moments. Even cronies and supporters of the Progressive National Party government were reduced to grunts and groans as the bundles and bundles of evidence were painstakingly extracted and exposed.
The curious and intrigued remained glued to the proceedings where reports emerged of lavish purchases including a specially designed jet, journeys of government and celebrity friends to remote and exotic corners of the globe, suspect under-the-table payouts and overrides of policies for would-be developers, cheap sales of luxury lands, weighty price tags attached to anything from cars, to clothing, to parties, residences, spousal allowances and even a reported $7,000 spent on coffee and pastries – all allegations of systemic weaknesses and serious government dishonesty which unfolded like a Hollywood drama, to a packed house.
The monumental costs were pinned to the Public Purse or abuse of public office; Michael Misick claimed he had a serious debt problem due to the extravagant life led by his extravagant wife. Monies allegedly forked over to the embattled ex-premier – who eventually resigned – were called loans, and nothing more.
In his career highlights at Squire Law Library, last on the list is the 2008-2009 Commission of Inquiry into governmental corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands. However, up to 2014, Sir Robin Auld remained busy as consultant, adviser and representative for the UK where his mission was to Kyiv, Ukraine.
The 2008-2009 Commission of Inquiry Report was published in December 2013; the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team trial which was a progeny of the COI report began exactly one year later.
Amazingly, expensively, that saga continues.