Turks and Caicos, June 26, 2017 – Providenciales – The past few days in the TCI has seen us casted in a negative light in major US media houses. This day was feared by many, but we believe with the response we see especially among the people of this country, that this can be a turning point in addressing crimes among our residents and visitors.
I speak of the recent shooting incident involving a tourist. My Government’s thoughts and prayers are with Mr Newman and his family. We continue through our Tourist Board to maintain contact with Mrs Newman and receive updates on his care. Under the NHIP Policy my Government was able to offer coverage of the medical transport to a receiving facility. However we understand that those arrangements were made through private arrangements.
As Premier, I acknowledge my Government’s initial response contained in a Release issued by the Minister of Tourism who responded on behalf the Government and over the past two days we have met with the Police and amongst ourselves to see how best we can support the Police at this time and to devise a way forward on repairing the obvious fall out in reputation through positive messaging that is us TCI.
After taking into account all efforts through all Agencies, I address you today.
We wish to at the outset thank the medical staff at Interhealth Canada’s facility in Providenciales for their response and critical care administered to the Mr Newman.
This is no time for more speeches but for our people to know that we continue to support the Police in their efforts to ebb the stem of gun related offences and do so with a record that we can already begin to feel proud of. I wish to recount for the benefit of us all how we have supported the Police over the past six months and I outline them as follows:
Making a request to the UK for assistance and the resultant UK Security Assessment as early as February this year during my first visit to London;
The purchasing of a building to house the highly anticipated CCTV Program and other new crime fighting initiatives;
The approval of funding for additional Police Officers including managers of the CCTV Project in the recently passed Budget;
The approval of $1.2m in the purchase of new cars in the recently passed budget;
The agreement in the National Security Council to devise a national security strategy;
The inclusion of modern crime fighting initiatives and other legislative support for the Police in our legislative calendar;
The beginning works jointly between the Police and Immigration to seek out and to repatriate undocumented persons to the tone of over 500 in the last six months (these numbers are not those repatriated through entry on illegal sloops); And we can expect to see greater efforts in this area after the recruitment of additional Police and Immigration Officers already provided for in the recently passed Budget;
The presentation, as Premier, to Cabinet of a Paper on the rehabilitation of offenders in an effort to reduce the rate of repeat offenders,
The initial dialogue with the TCHTA and to having received their agreement to employ those at risk under the Government’s Change for Change Program to be led by the Ministry of Home Affairs; and
Holding meetings with Pastors to assist in creating Programs that will address our youth.
Crime fighting is everyone’s business and while in Opposition we continued to lead on this dialogue. We acknowledge that many of these measures are not yet in place and can look forward with great anticipation. However we acknowledge the awakened consciousness of our people for the immediate here and now which is critical. In what is now a challenging period, we see a readied people ready to assist and play its role and commend those who have stepped forward to play a more active role as a citizen.
As Premier, I must say that I am pleased with the efforts of the Police who are working hard in the aftermath to bring these culprits to justice and I am in particular pleased that the Acting Commissioner on the evening after visited the majority of Resorts and interacted with guests until the wee hours of the morning.
What is left for me to say as Premier following our Government’s initial response and the Acting Commissioner’s multiple updates is that there are four things I wish for us to know:
My Government remains firm in its stance for stiff penalties for gun crimes and crimes against visitors to our shores which are already in law and we are keen to support stiffer penalties where needs be;
The Police has our full support in diverting even more resources into the Grace Bay area and certainly not at a loss to local communities;
I am excited that our people are keen to be greater participants in this fight against crime and I call on us all to remain interested and to know that the best help that can come forward from you now is information. You may think what you saw or hear is insignificant but we are appealing to you to contact law enforcement who is prepared to investigate any and all tips for this recent incident and all instances.
I encourage residents and visitors alike to be vigilant and to not take any unnecessary risks by making yourselves an easy victim.
The response of our people shows that this level of crime, though comparatively very low, will not be tolerated and as Premier, I am confident that serious crime strategies already in train together with tougher penalties and a plan to save our youth are the keys to lowering crimes.
My Government over the next few days, weeks and months (and led jointly by the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Tourism together with key stakeholders and residents living at home and abroad who have already offered to assist in ensuring that the positive message about Turks and Caicos Islands remains out there) will embark on an aggressive positive campaign. We remain a safe destination and we are certain of this. We do not and will not downplay the recent incident in any way and will continue to support the Police in every way. This time however requires that all hands are and remain on deck.
May God bless these Turks and Caicos Islands.