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Speech By the Hon. Attorney General on the Opening of the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands for the 2015 Session

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My Lady Chief Justice, Judges of the Supreme Court, distinguished guests, President of the Bar Council and Colleagues at the Bar, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am pleased to rise to move a motion for the opening of the Supreme Court for the 2015 session after a long abeyance in this practice. On this ceremonial occasion, it is perhaps timely to recall the origins of this event in the Middle Ages in the United Kingdom. For the legal fraternity, this traditional gathering commemorates the principles of defending access to justice and the rule of law. I commend My Lady Chief Justice for reintroducing the practice as such events “… reminds all of those actively involved within the legal system of the need to uphold these principles internationally, as well as at home, for the benefit of society.”
With your Ladyship’s leave I propose in moving the motion, to make a few observations by way of a brief retrospective on 2014 as well as a look at some of the work before us.
2014 can only be described as another daunting year for the legal profession in the Turks and Caicos Islands. A year in which there was more than the usual share of challenges. Fortunately we were more than able to rise to each challenge and to dispassionately and calmly meet matters head on.
My Ladies, 2014 was characterized by continued good work, co-operation and endeavour in a number of areas by stakeholders in the legal arena and significant further progress towards systemic improvements.
Access to Law – Work is almost completed on the current Law Revision which has a revision date of 31st December 2014 and is intended to be issued before the end of the first quarter of 2015. In this regard, the question of greater access to the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands is being explored to provide a solution that would allow more ready access through the use of modern technology whilst at the same time maintain the integrity of the authorized versions of the Law which would be used in the Court room setting.
Legislation – I am pleased to report in a bid to give effect to the Government’s Legislative Agenda, that the Legislative Drafting division had another very active year and with the cooperation and involvement of members of the legal profession, associations and the general public a number of important pieces of legislation were progressed. We are grateful for the assistance of all those who participated in the consultation process with respect to the very many pieces of legislation which were considered throughout the year, including legislation dealing with the better regulation of Not For Profit organizations.
The hardworking staff of the Legislative Drafting division consists of three drafters and one legislative systems administrator with a vacancy in one of the drafting positions. That small team produced 24 Ordinances and some 50 pieces of subsidiary legislation.
Of note:
1. The Abolition of Bearer Shares which was done by a December 2013 Ordinance which took effect in the first half of 2014.
2. Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance 2014 which provides for the implementation of the United Nations Convention respecting the suppression of the financing of terrorism and the United Nations Security Council resolution on terrorism and generally to make provision for preventing and combating terrorism. The Ordinance is modelled after the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and the Terrorism (Jersey) Law 2002.
3. Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance 2014 – provides for the rehabilitation of offenders who have not been reconvicted within the specified rehabilitation period. This is to ensure that people do not have lifelong blots on their records because of relatively minor offences in their past, which may impact negatively in such persons acquiring employment or other services. The intention of the Ordinance is to exclude any prejudice which may occur because of disclosures of person’s relatively minor past convictions or offences; and to aid the reintegration and resettlement of ex-offenders into employment by not requiring them or any other person to disclose or answer questions regarding their spent convictions.

4. Financial Intelligence Agency Ordinance 2014 – established an independent agency to assist in the detection, prevention and control of financial crimes; by receiving reports of suspicious transactions from financial institutions and other persons; analysing that information and disseminating it to law enforcement authorities and relevant bodies.

5. Invest Turks and Caicos Islands Agency 2014 – established the Invest Turks and Caicos Agency as a corporate body with legal personality to assist the Government in encouraging business and commercial development in the Islands.

6. Dormant Accounts Ordinance 2014 – makes provision for financial institutions to report dormant accounts to the Permanent Secretary, Finance and to transfer monies in accounts that have not been used for more than 7 years, called “dormant accounts” to the Government, subject to claims for repayment by the owners of the dormant accounts. Prior to the enactment of that Ordinance, all inactive accounts were managed by banks. The Ordinance was based largely on the Cayman Islands Dormant Accounts Law 2010 but consideration was also given to the BVI Dormant Accounts Act 2011 and the Republic of Ireland Dormant Accounts Act 2001.
Additionally, a heavy legislative drafting programme is being prepared for the year 2015 in order to give effect to the Government’s Legislative Agenda.
Some of the proposals to be implemented by legislative measures include-
1. New Domestic Insurance provisions
2. Trust law reform
3. Immigration law reform
4. Important criminal law and procedure reforms
5. An Employment Bill to repeal and replace the current law with substantial reforms
6. Small Medium Enterprise proposals to encourage local business
7. An Attorney General’s Reference Bill to enable questions to be referred to the court
8. New and substantial anti Domestic Violence provisions
9. More elaborate provision to provide for the Maintenance of Children
10. Detailed Family Guardianship Custody and Access to Children provisions
11. Better provision for Child (Care and Adoption)
12. New provisions relating to Child and Juvenile Justice
As well as the completion of work on the long consulted new Legal Profession provisions to reform the law in this area to provide for better accountability and effectiveness in areas such as the training of local attorneys and continuous education generally, handling client accounts, requirements relating to good practice for insurance coverage, solvency and discipline.
International obligations – As for international obligations, during 2014 the Turks and Caicos Islands completed negotiations and signed a FATCA agreement with the United States of America, was a member of the early adopters group along with all of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies following recent developments in the new international Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters. We saw the beginning of the National Risk Assessment of our financial services industry using the World Bank tool, which is a self-assessment ahead of the next round of peer assessments by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. I wish to personally thank the members of the Bar and the private sector generally for their participation and ongoing commitment.
Crime – On the crime front, we note the continued extensive work of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police in meeting the many challenging situations over the past year. In so doing I take this opportunity to thank the outgoing DPP JoAnn Meloche who has served the Islands with energy and determination during her tenure and has seen the progressive development of the Office of the DPP which may be her enduring legacy. Additionally, I wish to offer our sincere gratitude to the outgoing Commissioner of Police Colin Farquhar who has led the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force through the numerous challenges faced by them and the Islands during his tenure. At the same time, I welcome the incoming Commissioner James Smith to the post and extend to him our good wishes for a smooth transition.
I also take this opportunity to commend the DPP and the Commissioner and their respective teams of Officers for their strenuous efforts in fighting crime and overseeing law and order.
Administration of Justice – Turning now to the administration of justice, our gratitude goes out to the former Chief Justice Edwin Goldsbrough for his competent service to the Islands as head of the Judiciary. With the appointment of My Lady Chief Justice we have already begun to see the fruits of some of the energy referred to by His Excellency Governor Beckingham in his speech at the swearing in. Noting that a new Judge of the Supreme is shortly to arrive and other efforts at reforming the administration of the judiciary are already underway with plans to promote important law reforms, many of which coincide with areas of law reform already being considered. Other areas of welcome reform which are being considered include the publication of statistics and better financial management.

On the issue of facilities, we saw the opening of an additional and much needed courtroom on Providenciales, however, it is noted that the increasing reliance on video-conference or remote testimony, in both domestic as well as mutual assistance in criminal matters cases, would be greatly hampered if these facilities were not of an acceptable standard or were not well maintained. My Lady, the Government is committed to ensuring the proper resourcing of the courts and it is hoped that improvements in this area will shortly be realized.

The volume of civil and commercial litigation has markedly increased and important work on establishing an accessible repository of judicial decisions which would be greatly assist civil and commercial litigators needs the support of the bar to succeed. All levels of the Courts have been incredibly busy and notwithstanding some challenges, it is obvious that the judiciary has worked assiduously during 2014 and has accomplished much.
Personnel side – My Ladies, I am pleased to say that two additional civil/commercial attorneys and one additional drafter are due to be hired within my Chambers in the first quarter of 2015. I am equally pleased to announce that Mrs. Wynante Adrien-Roberts has today taken up her position as Deputy Attorney General following the February 2014 vacancy. Mrs. Adrien-Roberts is a thoroughly qualified and experienced attorney having been solicitor general in Dominica for many years before moving to the private bar. Mrs. Adrien-Roberts will focus on training and development within my Chambers and will undoubtedly be an asset to my already stellar team.
We recognize that while change is underway in some areas, there are still steps which need to be taken towards full implementation of others in 2015. The challenges of dispensing justice are numerous and supporting each other is our strength. Together we ought to stand up in our various roles as the judiciary, the legal service and the private bar and make a difference.

My Ladies there remains only for me to reiterate the continued commitment of the Government in ensuring the required resources for the smooth administration of Justice, and of my Chambers to providing quality service and our assistance in whatever way we can to facilitate the efficient conduct of the business of these Courts, valuing the independence of the Judiciary as a corner stone to the rule of law and in moving the motion for the opening of the Supreme Court 2015 to wish for your Ladyships, Magistrates, Court Staff, and all here present, a prosperous and productive New Year.
I now formally move the motion for the opening of the Turks and Caicos Islands Supreme Court for the year 2015. May it so please you my Ladies.
Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, OBE
Hon. Attorney General
5th January 2015

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Bahamas News

Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance.  The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections.  However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.

68,000 STAYED AWAY

While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.

However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.

PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER

This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.

Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

It could also be voter apathy.

BEST IN SHOW

Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.

North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.

VERY LOW SHOW

The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and   Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).

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COVID Works programme launched by Ministry of Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development

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#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – The Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development, the Honourable Akierra Mary Deanne Missick and the Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development team are pleased to announce the launch of the COVID WORKS Programme, that went live on September 1, 2021.

The Programme seeks to support many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, while providing labour intensive work for economic exchange opportunities for persons to be engaged.

Works are set out in three (3) levels and comprise a variety of categories example, cleaning, road works, demolition and general construction to name a few.

Level 1 – value $1,500 – $9,999

Level 2 – value $10,000 – $39,999

Level 3 – value $40,000 – $70,000

Turks and Caicos Islanders with valid business licenses are also being encouraged to submit proposals to the Public Works Department for consideration for works throughout the islands. 

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Hon. Missick said, “We are very much mindful of the impact that restrictions introduced by Government in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, has had on the islands, many continue to experience financial hardship. Whilst, the hospitality and construction sectors in Providenciales have rebounded well, as an Administration, we cannot rest knowing that other industries are still limping along.

As a result, during the remainder of this financial year, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government has now launched the COVID Works Programme to provide an opportunity for Petty and Small Contractors to assist the Government in the enhancement of our communities, through programmed works, to the benefit of all of us as residents”.

The Minister went on to note, “This Programme is set to the tune of US$5,000,000.00, and works will be rolled out across the Islands in batches, as we have to ensure that we do not go beyond the allotted expenditure and that financial oversight and transparency are maintained.”

The initial batch of works for South Caicos, which comprised the following, was returned and evaluated on Monday, September 13, 2021 and included:

South Caicos 

Demolition- Queen’s Shed

Demolition- Distribution Concrete Tank

Demolition- Old Clinic Building

Demolition- DECR Building

Demolition- Library Building

Repair of Water Cistern

Works for Grand Turk included:

Grand Turk 

Demolition- Blood Bank Building

Demolition- Geriatric Ward Building

Demolition- Kitchen Building

Demolition- X-ray Building

All returning bids must be sent to the COVID Works email at tcigworks@gov.tc

Kindly note that as of Monday, September 20, 2021, the following works are planned to be released:

Grand Turk: 

Beach Cleaning (Eastern portion of Grand Turk)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

Providenciales:

Beach cleaning (Areas of Shore Club and Five Cays)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

A number of other works for Middle & North Caicos, as well as Salt Cay will be released shortly. This is a six month program that will spread throughout the TCI and we encourage persons to continue to register via tcigworks@gov.tc or the local Public Works Department and District Commissioners’ offices, to be eligible for this opportunity.

These works will continue on a monthly basis and the programme will come to an end in March 2022.

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Bahamas News

BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.

The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.

“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”

Among the new Ministers sworn-in on Monday were:

  • Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
  • Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
  • Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
  • Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
  • Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
  • Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
  • Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
  • Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
  • Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.

“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.

Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.

“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are here to meet them head on.”

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