#TurksandCaicos – February 19, 2018 – Members of Parliament are honourable because they have the outstanding privilege of representing a district or constituency of people in the House of Representatives. It is something that, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is decided about every four years but is a democratic tradition of practicality more than anything else; at least that is how I understand it.
Since there are some 1,159 (2017) voters in Cheshire Hall and thousands more people who are actually resident in what is the largest voting constituency in these islands; it is practical for the electorate to send one man or woman to take up the seat in parliament to represent their views in the House of Assembly.
One thousand, one hundred and fifty-nine people simply cannot fit inside the halls of parliament and so we send one to be the representative.
Although North and Middle Caicos are one of the smallest voting districts in the Turks and Caicos with 532 (2017) registered voters, still, all of those men and women – if they could even get to Grand Turk for a House of Assembly meeting – would not be able to squeeze into the one seat the TCI legislature provides to reflect that constituency.
So yes, it is physically impossible for everyone to be represented individually in a parliament anywhere in the world. It can also be argued that it is likely too expensive, cannot be accommodated by air, sea or ground transportation operators and an unreliable expectation when you are trying to get country business done, as some of us just won’t turn up anyway.
The reality is that 7,970 (2017) voters cannot all fit onto the plane or boat or in taxis and travel to the House of Assembly each time a convening takes place. The reality also is that if we all managed to get to Grand Turk, only 30 of us could fit in the seating on ‘the Floor’ where debate on bills and the like takes place and even the guest galley would be maxed out at around 120 people.
The same is true of South Caicos, which the 2017 Voter Register reveals there are 358 on the elector’s list.
So, Doug and Ralph and Ruth – for example – are expected to show up every time there is a meeting at the House of Assembly, unless there is a good reason for an absence. Doug and Ralph and Ruth – again for example – are also expected to take their role seriously and humbly carry the responsibility or else voters could decide to find someone else to do the job in four years. And Doug and Ralph and Ruth – as again an example – ought to know what their constituents think and feel and want on any given policy proposal or issue and represent that when and as opportunities present themselves.
In case you did not know it, the Member of Parliament or District Representative has allegiance first to the voter because that is who hired him or her; not the political party.
Also interesting to note about the role of a Member of Parliament is that in the House of Assembly, these honourable people are never, ever, ever supposed to be referred to by their own names. The reason is quite profound and I think, ingenious.
Doug and Ralph and Ruth – for instance – are important as human beings, undoubtedly; however who they are individually is irrelevant in a House of Assembly. These three individuals and the other 20 people who make up the Turks and Caicos Parliament are there not because of who they are individually, but because of who or what they represent.
Doug is called the Member for Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill – that is his name in the House.
Ralph is called the Minister of Tourism and the Member of Parliament for North and Middle Caicos – that is his name in the House.
Ruth is called the Member for South Caicos because that is her name in the House.
They are the people, because we cannot all fit.
The representatives, even those with the huge job of being All Island Members are there because they represent PEOPLE. It is the people who entrusted them with the popular vote and put them there. It is the people who will be impacted by the policies being debated. It is the people who must be represented because they have given these former candidates, now elected representatives the honour to do so.
The MP is proxy for the Voters.
I reiterate, because, we cannot all fit – Doug and Ralph and Ruth and others are sent you to honour our wishes by vocalising them as we build this nation.
In understanding that the House of Assembly is therefore the forum for all citizens’ perspectives to show up or be spoken out loud on any matter, the looming question always is – are we absent or are we present?
Maybe it is time to begin talking more to Doug or Ralph or Ruth – for example, to make sure it is your constituency and not them showing up when the House is in session.
Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge
By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Over 5000 COVID cases on Cruises, CDC investigations launched
By Dana Malcolm
#January 15, 2022 – Cruises have continued across the Americas despite the US Centers for Disease Control dire warning that even vaccinated individuals should be wary of them. Now the CDC informs that Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.
According to the CDC, all 92 ships with passengers have met the threshold for investigation by the public health agency. In every case, the CDC has either started an investigation or has investigated.
The CDC warned travellers including those who are vaccinated to avoid cruising in December, following the announcement videos surfaced of jam-packed cruise ships with unmasked passengers ringing in the New Year.
Meanwhile, Grand Turk is still welcoming cruise ships. Eleven cruise ships are scheduled to dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center throughout January, according to the port schedule.
Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health has confirmed that ships have been allowed to dock in Grand Turk with positive COVID cases on board.
He said. “Now in each ship there are stations or places for isolation on board…Just because a vessel has people with Covid-19 on it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t allow them to disembark.”
The minister explained the number of positive cases recorded on cruise ships that had arrived in Grand Turk was .001 per cent of all guests and they were not allowed to disembark.
So far, Turks and Caicos has turned away at least one cruise liner due to fears of COVID exposure in the capital, which has gone from a handful of active cases to now 111, as of January 14.
The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases on cruise ships have increased to 30 times what they were in mid-December.
New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”
By Shanieka Smith
#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.
Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week. Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.
New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers. The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.
Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27. However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.
New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.
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