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TCIG – Premier`s Ministerial Statement at the 8th Sitting of House of Assembly

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Dr.RufusEwingMr. Speaker, members of this Honorable House, my fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, a pleasant good morning. I would like to thank my almighty God for his goodness and mercies and the strength to carry on, for he is my light and my salvation.
I wish to take this opportunity to extend birthday wishes to both the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I woke up this morning with a heart burdened with questions as to whether or not I should carry on. Mr. Speaker, as per the usual, I asked my Lord for strength, guidance, wisdom and determination, and because of those I am here standing before you in this honorable House this morning.

Mr. Speaker, the past few weeks of duty in the Office of Premier of this country have been a reality check. You see Mr. Speaker, I was taught all my life to be honest, to be law abiding, to play by the rules as these are the best of policies to which one should adhere to safely see oneself through life. Mr. Speaker, to some extent these guiding principles are true, but in the current socioeconomic and political context of our beloved Turks and Caicos Islands, these qualities do indeed at times appear to be pointless and are the constant root causes of frustration as the rules are not in our favor. Mr. Speaker the rules that I am referring to are the constitutional rules of this country which give the Governor the uncensored power to do whatsoever he pleases. Mr. Speaker, if these powers were consistently used in the interest of Turks and Caicos Islanders to better their lives we may not have a problem. The difficulty, Mr. Speaker, is if government plays by these current rules, it would be to our detriment as we would not be serving the best interest of our people. What is unfair is, if Turks and Caicos Islanders attempted to challenge the status quo, it would also be to their detriment, so essentially we can`t win for losing. However Mr. Speaker I am a fighter. I am a leader and if I am going to die I would prefer to die trying and challenging the status quo.

Mr. Speaker, we came to government, elected by the people to improve their lives and well-being, not just economically and socially but also, more importantly, to improve their lives democratically. Mr. Speaker, the people of these islands elected us to make decisions in their best interest, to represent them, but the government of the people is having some of the most difficult times, being bound by chains and whipped when we try to break free in the interest of the people.

Mr. Speaker, the economy of the Turks and Caicos Islands has shown many positive signs of growth, as evidenced by our GDP which has grown by 3.4%, there are also major investments such as the Shore Club and the West Caicos development that were stalled and are now well on their way towards initiating activity. Very soon other developments like Dellis and Ambergris Cay will come along, and with new interested investors engaged, I am very optimistic that this economy will rebound completely. However, Mr. Speaker this growth must be to the betterment of the lives of our people who must be able to capitalize on the opportunities that would be presented to them. Mr. Speaker, the only way we can guarantee this in an environment of unfair competition is by strengthening our Belonger preference policies as we grow and diversify our economy and as we streamline and make more efficient, our business and labour policies.

Mr. Speaker, we are about leveling the playing field not making it uneven. Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my Turks and Caicos Islanders that we are mandated to empower them through protection of reserved categories of business and capital and investment facilitation and that we shall do. I can let the EU know now, that if the EDF grant of 15 million which is intended to improve and streamline business practices, has as its goal the
removal of Belonger reserve categories as a trade off, then they can keep their money as this will not happen under my watch at this time in our current economic state.

Mr. Speaker, Tourism is our main industry and it has served us and continues to serve us well even during to downturn in the economy. However, we are vulnerable to economic shocks and unless we diversify our economy we would always remain vulnerable and at high risk of not being able to withstand economic downturns. Mr. Speaker that is why we have begun the process of facilitating other industries, such a manufacturing and processing, and identifying trading partners for the importation of raw materials to serve these industries.

Mr. Speaker our neighbours of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas and other Caricom countries in close proximity may serve well as trading partners and allies, so too do other first world countries like the US and Canada. Mr. Speaker the diversification of our economies into the manufacturing and processing industry will, in addition to boosting the economy, create jobs and promote Turks and Caicos internationally with goods labeled ” Made in the Turks and Caicos”, these results all having an overall impact of lowering the cost of goods and cost of living.

Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to venture internationally to promote these islands to investors in an effort to encourage more new investments and major infrastructural developments. Mr. Speaker on September 22nd, I will be one of the key note speakers at the KPMG Miami Infrastructure conference where I will be presenting three key major infrastructure investment opportunities, namely the Phase 2 Providenciales Airport expansion with new international arrival and departure areas, the East Caicos Mega Port and Resort Facility and the Caicos Causeway. These projects we see as life changing projects for these islands that will bring economic prosperity and sustainability and diversify our bread basket.

Mr. Speaker, as a government, in addition to expanding this economy and providing jobs, a task that we are feverishly doing, we are also obligated to providing educational opportunities and adequate an educational environment for our people. Therefore Mr. Speaker, I would love to take this opportunity to welcome all of the school children back to school and congratulate them on their achievements that brought them to this level in their educational endeavours. Likewise, I would like to congratulate and thank those deserving parents, and teachers, for their hard work and support of all of those students whose academic achievements were outstanding. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank the Ministry of Education and the Education Department for the provision of scholarships and educational opportunities for our students. Mr. Speaker, there were also a number of organizations such and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, The Baptist Union, The Rock of Jesus Ministries and others who made provisions for school supplies, scholarships and financial support, I thank these organizations and individuals and encourage them to continue to give back to their community as we raise this nation.

Mr. Speaker, the return to school in terms of readiness has been challenging and we as a government stepped up to the plate to address those challenges and for this I thank my Minister of Education and her team, however, there were challenges that we were unable to solve but not for lack of trying. Mr. Speaker, the matter of the over-crowding of the Clement Howell High School is still of grave concern for our government. We have tried to secure both capital and recurrent expenditure funding so as to split the Clement Howell High School as a short term measure to relieve the over-crowding, whilst we prepare for the building of a new high school facility in the medium to long term. But Mr. Speaker this did not come to fruition.

Mr. Speaker the British Government`s focus is on using our surplus to pay down loans whilst our people suffer and are deprived of educational opportunities. Mr. Speaker, as a Government we are motivated to find solutions to our financial challenges to meet the basic needs of our people. But whilst we are forced to raise taxes to meet loan obligations and provide educational and social services for our people, the British government continues to drain our purse with unchecked expenditure being incurred by the Civil Recovery Team and SIPT. Mr. Speaker, this situation is unbearable and just unacceptable. Mr. Speaker, I am hereby holding the AG and the Governor accountable for these actions and am calling on them to give account and justification for funds that we could be using on our children, sending them to school in proper and healthy environment. And Mr. Speaker whilst on the topic of health, likewise the hospitals which are another possible source of concealed internal hemorrhage, will be put in check, also providing funds that can be used more effectively either in healthcare or elsewhere. Mr. Speaker, our Cabinet yesterday had a presentation of the Interim Hospital Audit and an action plan has been devised to address the issues being highlighted in the interim audit. This healthcare situation will be fixed.

Mr. Speaker, I have made public my dissatisfaction with the recent actions by the outgoing Governor to make a strategic re-appointment of the Attorney General despite the objection of myself, my government, the Leader of the Opposition and the People of the Turks and Caicos Islands. I have taken the liberty of outlining my reasons for my stance on this issue and I am asking all Members of the House of Assembly to join together with one voice on this issue.

Mr. Speaker and Members of this Honorable House, may God continue to bless you and bless these Turks and Caicos Islands. I thank you.

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50th Independence Logo & Theme Competition September 27th 2022

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#TheBahamas, September 29, 2022 – With plans already in the works to mark the country’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, officials at the 50th Independence Secretariat are working to create an extraordinary and inclusive celebration for all Bahamians. Over the next several days, talented Bahamian artists will have the opportunity to participate in the country’s historic Golden Jubilee through the launch of the National Logo and Theme Concept Competition, designed to showcase the work of creative graphic designers and artists. The challenge: to create the logo and develop a theme that will be used across all 50th Independence celebrations and win cash prizes.

“We want Bahamians to not only enjoy the 50th Independence as spectators and citizens, but we thought it equally important for Bahamians especially those in the creative field to have the chance to be a part of that history as well” explained Leslia Miller-Brice, Chairman of the Independence Secretariat.

To participate, design hopefuls must complete the online entry, and release forms using the QR Codes provided on the Celebrate Bahamas social media pages. There, they will also be able to upload mockups of their various concepts. The nationwide search will allow each participant to enter as many ideas as they’d like into the respective competitions. Those submissions will then be narrowed down to ten.

“We’ve commissioned a talented panel of graphic designers and communications specialists to help us choose the best of the best,” Miller-Brice noted.

Once selected, the public will be given the chance to vote for their favorite concepts via the secretariat’s Celebrate Bahamas social media pages with the top three logo concepts fetching a prize of $1000, $500, and $250 respectively and the top three theme concepts with a prize of $500, $250, $100 . The competitions are now officially open and will close on October 10th 2022 at 11:59 pm.

“We are very excited to see our people really showcase their interpretations of what the 50th Anniversary of Independence means to them. We are looking for interesting use of symbolism and creativity in the overall concept” Miller-Brice said.

About Logo & Theme Competitions

  • Open to all Bahamian citizens
  • More than one submission is allowed
  • Open to all ages

○    If under 18, Legal Guardian must complete the release form

COPYRIGHT RELEASE FORM FOR LOGO DESIGN-2

 

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Premier’s National Address: National Security Statement – Monday, 26 September

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HONOURABLE CHARLES WASHINGTON MISICK

 

NATIONAL SECURITY STATEMENT

as delivered by the Premier Honourable Charles W. Misick

 

(Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Monday, 26 September 2022) My fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, this evening, I wish to speak with you on the upsurge in violence over the last month and the steps the Turks and Caicos Islands Government is taking to address criminality and keep our people safe.

However, before I address that urgent matter, I want to place on record my gratitude to the Almighty who spared us from the devastation seen by other countries from Hurricane Fiona.

We were spared not only by the grace of God but because we were prepared and are a more hurricane resilient TCI.

My fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders, I speak to you this evening with a heavy and a sad emotion.

God spared us from the worst of Hurricane Fiona, but the criminals did not even give our country time to breathe, they have struck again with impunity and have given rise to terror never before seen in our territory.

This evening, we collectively mourn the brutal and wanton murder of four young men – cut down in the prime of their lives.

My heart bleeds for the families whose lives have been shattered by evil and hate.

I wish to convey sincere condolences on behalf of the government to all families that have lost loved ones due to acts of violent crime. We continue to pray for your healing and comfort.

We have had 11 murders in this month alone. The total number of murders for this year is 22.

My fellow Islanders, like you, I am angry at those who continue to terrorise our communities and spray our land with blood.

The violence which has flared up in recent weeks will not be tolerated by this government and must not be accepted nor tolerated by decent law-abiding citizens of these Turks and Caicos Islands.

September has seen organised crime gangs, including gangs with international and external affiliations, fighting for control of drugs, money and territory in these Islands.  We are now subject to crime not just generated from within our borders, but also from without.

We are mobilizing resources from the United Kingdom and the region, to help find those who continue to disrupt and plague our communities.

We will find them whether they are here or elsewhere and we will bring them to justice. The safety and security of our people is our first priority; always.

The government has spent significant sums on upgrading the human, physical, technical, and investigative capacity of the Royal TCI Police Force. We will spare no reasonable cost to keep our people safe and our borders secure.

To stem the upsurge in violence will take looking at immediate and longer-term action.

We will implement the following immediately and over the next several weeks:

  1. We are putting more officers on frontline duties especially in the worst impacted communities. Administrative functions – and support to the Maritime Branch – of the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Force will be supplemented by members of the TCI Regiment.
  2. A letter was sent to the Foreign Secretary and copied to Prime Minister Truss, the OT Minister Jesse Norman, and the Ministers for Defence in the UK Home office following a strong call requesting military and police assistance. A reply with specific deliverables is anticipated soon.
  3. In consultation with the Governor, I have reached out to heads in the Bahamian, Jamaican, and Barbadian governments for police reinforcement. These are being considered by those countries and should result in more boots on the ground in Turks and Caicos Islands.
  4. We have requested from the US Department of Homeland Security the deployment of a surveillance aircraft to assist with policing the passage between TCI and Haiti to stop illegal entry into our territorial waters.
  5. Three British officers travelled with me from London last Thursday. They will be performing an on-the-ground assessment of crime and will help to create a more effective crime fighting plan for the TCI.
  6. The UK will be sending shortly, a Chief Superintendent and an Inspector who will set up our anti-gang unit. Twenty-three (23) officers to staff the unit will arrive in the TCI within the coming months.
  7. The procurement process has started in the UK for the purchase of our own surveillance aircraft and this should be completed soon.
  8. We are contracting interim air support to assist law enforcement and better map their movements within communities.
  9. Purchased armoured vehicles should arrive within the TCI in 3 months.
  10. Persons without the correct vehicle plates will have their vehicles impounded and will be fined.
  11. Illegal vehicle tints will not be tolerated and persons who keep them will be arrested and charged.

These immediate solutions are intended to stem the bloodshed, but we are also focused on a longer-term and more strategic approach.

While in the UK last week, the Governor and I met with Secretary Jeremy Quinn in the Home Office and Secretary Jesse Norman in the Foreign Office.

They are two UK Ministers whose cooperation is critical to security of the TCI.

We have asked them to do much more.

They understand the unprecedented and seriousness of the threats we face.

We discussed in detail the significant challenges the TCI is facing including:

  • The strategic connection between serious crime and irregular migration from Haiti
  • The brutality of recent gang-related violence
  • The heart-breaking and destructive nature of the crimes on the families that are impacted; and
  • The availability of powerful firearms in these Islands

We explained the vulnerability of our strong economy and how crime, in particular brutal gang violence, could put our tourism industry at serious risk.

We outlined the significant investments we are making in our border and internal security, not just financially but through new legislation, building new national security structures as well as professionalising and expanding our local security forces.

We said that in the latest budget, $67.3 million has been allocated for public order and safety including our police services.

Let me assure every Islander that there is no cap on investing in your safety.

Several strategic initiatives are well underway.

The first is providing the Islands with a highly technical capability to conduct lawful intercept operations against gang members, particularly those involved in violence and  people smuggling.

The appropriate legislation is being drafted and we expect that it will be passed in the House of Assembly next month as October has been designated as a month for Criminal Justice Reform in TCI.

  1. Eleven (11) criminal justice bills designed to break the back of the kind of unprecedented criminal activities we have been experiencing in the Islands will be enacted. These bills will stiffen penalties further, strengthen police investigative powers, powers to stop and search and detain, to break up gang activities and to protect those whose job it is to push back on crime on the front lines. These bills will include:
  2. The Firearms (Amendment) Bill would introduce higher penalties for possession of unlicensed firearm or possession of a prohibited weapon or ammunition. The mandatory minimum sentence for possession of such weapons would be raised.
  3. The Police Force (Amendment) Bill would provide for stop and search and the erection of road barriers in areas of high crime and to stop and search a person or vehicle if the officer thinks the person is linked to criminal activity. The officer must have “reasonable grounds” to conduct the search.
  4. The Firearms Related Offences Bill would extend the period of detention for murder and firearms offences.
  5. The Anti-Gang Bill would make it an offence for a person to be or become a member of a gang. This offence would carry a penalty of ten years’ imprisonment for a first conviction and a penalty of twenty years’ imprisonment for any subsequent conviction. The Bill would also provide that a gang leader would be liable to imprisonment for twenty-five years on conviction on indictment. It would also make it an offence to wound or shoot at persons involved in law enforcement or intelligence and would carry a penalty of thirty years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

Other provisions would –

  1. make it an offence for a person to coerce, encourage, entice, aid or abet another person to be a gang member and would carry a penalty of twenty-five years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.
  2. make it an offence for persons to take retaliatory action against another person or any of that person’s relatives, friends, associates or property, where inter alia, the other person refuses to comply with an order of a gang leader or gang member.
  3. make it an offence to knowingly counsel, instruct, guide, finance or provide any type of support to a gang leader, gang member or gang.
  4. make it an offence for a person to harbor or conceal a gang leader or gang member or tip them off of an investigation or proposed investigation.

Other provisions would empower the police to –

  1. arrest, without a warrant, a person who he has reasonable cause to believe is a gang leader, gang member or has committed an offence under the Ordinance, and to enter and search a dwelling house, with a warrant, or to enter any other place or premises, without a warrant, where he has reasonable cause to believe that a gang member may be found.
  2. detain a person who he reasonably suspects of having committed certain offences

The Bill would also empower the Court to order that the property of a person convicted of certain offenses may be forfeited in certain circumstances.

  1. The Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill, Magistrates Court (Amendment) Bill, Defence (Amendment) Bill, the Integrity Commission (Amendment) Bill would to introduce higher penalties for obstructing, assaulting or threatening an investigative officer (including Immigration Officers, the Regiment, Customs Officers and Police Officers), an officer of the Court or a Judicial officer in exercise of his or her duty.
  2. The Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill would enable the making of regulations so that its mandatory that every new sim card purchased must be registered to the buyer requiring them to present valid identification at the time of purchase.
  3. The Interception of Communications Bill would to provide a single legal framework for the use by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of investigatory powers to obtain communications and communications data. These powers would cover the interception of communications, the retention and acquisition of communications data, and equipment interference for obtaining communications and other data. It would not be lawful to exercise such powers other than as provided for by this legislation once enacted.

We requested more support, partnership, and serious strategic investments to turn the tide. This will require extensive and sustained UK support.

Additionally, we need further strengthening of our defences against maritime threats.

We requested that a formal ministerial agreement is implemented to build a “Gun, Gangs and Drugs Squad”. This Squad would be made up of officers with some of the best detective, intelligence and analytical skills in the UK.

The Squad would work within our own police force making an immediate impact but also building our local capacity and capability.

While building capacity and capability in the Police is urgent and important, we need an across-the-board approach to crime and justice.

We have an excellent Chief Justice who is keen on reform, and we will support capacity building across the justice system.

I want to thank our TCI “Tactical Firearms Unit” and other members of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force who have shown great physical prowess, courage and skill over recent weeks.

They provide us with a very strong local foundation that we can build on.

My fellow Islanders, the government will leave no stone unturned in making our communities and people safe.

You should feel free and safe to go about your business without worrying about the next move of criminals, gangs and drug dealers.

We can’t do it alone.

The police can’t do it alone.

Let us turn our anger into action.

If we come together, we will defeat those who bring violence and harm to our communities.

You must help us.

You have to be vigilant.

Report criminal activities in your communities.

Work with the police.

Together we can and we will defeat the criminals who want to destroy our beloved TCI.

In closing, I declare the National Youth Day as a ‘National Day of Prayer, Fasting and

Repentance’ beginning at 9am until 3pm. We will gather at the Gustavus Lightbourne Gymnasium in Providenciales and locations in the other Islands. Details will follow soon.

May God bless you and keep our Islands and people safe from harm.

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The Turks and Caicos Islands Has Much To Celebrate on World Tourism Day!

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PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS (September 27, 2022) – The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ exclusive tourism authority, is ecstatic to celebrate World Tourism Day and its 2022 theme of “Rethinking Tourism” while appreciating the country’s ability to recover strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “As we often say, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, tourism is everybody’s business. This is because it is the most significant component of our national economy.  Consequently, on World Tourism Day, we are excited to reflect on the many successes we have achieved in what can be described as our bounce-back year after the height of the pandemic”, said Acting Director of the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board, Mary Lightbourne.  “Based on our short-term projections and long-term vision, the future of tourism in the Turks and Caicos Islands is very promising!”, Lightbourne added.

 Over 2022, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ ability to rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarkable. Preliminary data from January 2022 – March 2022 indicates that the Turks and Caicos Islands welcomed 98.5% of the stayover visitors that it did from January 2019 – March 2019, which was one of the most successful tourism quarters in the history of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 This year, the Turks and Caicos Islands was named the World’s Hottest Travel Destination for Fall 2022 by Tripadvisor, and won “Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination” as well as “Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination” at the World Travel Awards.  Through a strategic partnership with J. Wade Public Relations, an international public relations firm, the Turks and Caicos Islands has achieved unprecedented results in media coverage.  From January 2022 to September 2022, this partnership has obtained 113 placements and 2.39 billion total gross impressions with a total media value of $238.5 million. In this 9-month span, this partnership has exceeded all of its public relations results for 2021 – and it has already secured more press trips for the rest of the year, which will continue to elevate these results.

 “The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s 2022 World Tourism Day’s theme of ‘Rethinking Tourism’ fits the Turks and Caicos Islands perfectly.  With the collective efforts of tourism stakeholders across the country, we have been able to rapidly rebound and repeat the results of one of our most successful pre-pandemic quarters”, said Minister of Tourism, Hon. Josephine Connolly.

“Now, we are looking at taking tourism in the Turks and Caicos Islands to even greater heights by transitioning our Tourist Board to a Destination Management Organization and Tourism Regulatory Authority. These entities will standardize and strengthen the world-class experiences that the Turks and Caicos Islands is known for across all entities in our tourism economy and facilitate the development of an even more sustainable and resilient tourism product”, added Hon. Connolly.

 For more information on the Turks and Caicos Islands, call 1 (800) 241-0824 or visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com.

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