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TCI: Comments on Service Charge Ordinance

#Providenciales, December 7, 2018 – Turk – Christmas is coming – Just Render to the People!

Months after the People’s Government lead by the “man for the job” passed a bill in the House of Assembly the much-touted Service Charge Bill has fallen flat on its face.  Now “the man” has fled the territory but left the shadow Minister of Labour and the shadow Acting Premier to pick up the pieces and bear the brunt of the public disappointment.

So imagine on November 30th 2018, at 11.01pm, whilst many of us were deep in slumber, and most hotel workers were tucked nicely in their beds thinking of December 1st, 2018, not as the end of the hurricane season, or even World AIDS day, but the day that any last minute bookings at their resorts would provide them with 100% of the Service Charge charged to those guests.  Oh!, the idea of a good Christmas with the possibility of some extra money for gift giving made many of them excited about a new day and a new month.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Board Control and Employment’s release of the 11th hour literally dashed many of those hopes and dreams of a bountiful and “bluetiful” Christmas as there would be a delay of the implementation of the Service Charge (Hotel & Restaurant) Ordinance 2018.

Over the last few days as I read release after release justifying the delay in the implementation of the collection and distribution of the 100% service charge, I gave pause to consider my own view of the Government’s actions and what my response would contain.  I have considered that it would be inappropriate for me to say “I told you so” in a response to the Government’s failure to prepare themselves for the implementation of their own Ordinance and major political promise, as I said to myself that would be petty but, why can’t they just render to Caesar?

The colossal diabolical failure on the part of the Cartwright-Robinson administration represents a huge missed opportunity of the Government, to use consensus and bipartisan support to create and implement legislation that affects all of us in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Let us closely examine the Service Charge Ordinance, during the debate and especially during the Committee Stage (the stage where clause by clause of any bill is reviewed, and discussion is had to confirm the policy position and that the actual clause would work in the practical world) this bill was put through its paces.  As the member of Leeward and Long Bay and a believer in perfecting legislation that can actually work, I raised genuine practical concerns about various clauses and how they would be enforced and or interpreted.

I serve with the commitment that it is my obligation as a parliamentarian to try and perfect legislation.  So with that said, I was surprised when I read the second release from the Deputy Premier citing that the Opposition made no amendments on the floor of the House, except those that the Government provided. To call his statement misleading would be an understatement.

The minutes of the House and the replay of that session will confirm that various concerns were raised and even motions were made by me as the Member for Leeward and Long Bay, Opposition Appointed Member Hon. Royal Robinson, as well as the Governor’s Appointed Member 1 Hon John Phillips.

At each stage, Hon Phillips, Hon Robinson and I challenge the practical working of this piece of legislation. We gave examples of how it would not capture an entire tourism product; how it was unreasonable in parts and at each stage we were drowned out by no’s or no responses from PDM Ministers.

It truly was like beating our heads against a brick wall for the whole session. Every concern except one (the Transitional Clause) was rejected clause by clause by the Ministers and their backbenchers.  But alas, the implementation is delayed because clauses are unclear.  I can understand that the Deputy Premier may not remember all that happened as while the Bill was sailing through the House, “the man” as championing it but now at the first sign of a flop she has taken off and gone to pay her service charge at hotels and restaurants in the UK.

Further, the Deputy Premier has also misled the people in his release by citing the PNP wanted to exclude expat workers from the benefit of the Ordinance.  That was and is not the case.  When I contributed to the debate, I made it abundantly clear that the proposition that TC Islanders benefit solely from the 100% service charge was provided to me by my constituents, and I read out their comments in the Chamber as I promised my constituents I consulted within the industry that I would, so that they knew I spoke on their behalf verbatim.

Mr. Deputy Premier, whilst your second release not only conflicts with your first release which said the following “to enable further public education and readiness for the new regime as well as to make any required legislative clarifications by way of amendments to avoid ambiguity and ensure proper understanding of and compliance with the Ordinance”.  Your second release is filled with unwarranted and unsubstantiated claims of PNP operatives delaying the implementation of your Government’s policy and legislation.  Mr. Deputy Premier, how is that possible?  Are you really saying that the “Our People” in your release are the technical persons in the Ministry of Border Control and Employment are encouraging companies not to register?  Further, are you also saying that members of the Opposition can influence the Business Community to not follow the laws of the Country?

Mr. Deputy Premier, may I remind you that your Ministry has some of the longest serving and highly decorated senior civil servants in executive management; persons whose character have never been questioned by successive governments as being nothing more than politically neutral at all times.  May I remind you that your Labour Commissioner who is tasked with the oversight of this Ordinance, by virtue of his parental lineage could never be considered a PNP operative.

Way to go Mr. Deputy Premier, throwing your staff under the proverbial bus, because you were too busy celebrating a political promise, but failed to see that it would be implemented in the 3 months since its creation.  It is sad, however, that you and your Government led by “the man” are unable to allow the experts in the Civil Service to shine for fear of victimization and retribution.  In one breath you seek to legislate better treatment of hotel workers but government workers have not heard a single word from you or “the man” about better pay or better working conditions.  Is she still telling you all when to turn your cell phones off and on?

Not only was your second release pure political spin, but you also had it distributed by the TCIG Press Office which is the official press for the Turks & Caicos Islands Government including civil servants and not just Ministers.  So you have now placed civil servants in a political discourse that you had no right to do.  This release clearly is politically motivated and the TCIG Press Office should not be used as some pawn to release political diatribe as the second release purports to do.  Save that for your Party’s spin machine and noisemakers.

Whilst, I read the release from the Acting Premier on Monday, I’ve decided not to touch that with a 10-foot pole, save to advise the Acting Premier and Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Communication, and Transportation to be cautious about what you put your name to.  I am sure that the same way “the man” sent that email to you she could have sent it out under her own name.

The vitriol that was expressed in that release and the public shaming of a Member of the House was petty on every single level and left no doubt as to who was the writer.  The enervated attempt to come off as a caring Government was completely a lost cause, because if this Government was a caring government, the last 90 days leading to December 1st, 2018, you would have moved every mountain, clear every ambiguity, and educate us all on the Service Charge (Hotel & Restaurant) Ordinance 2018.  Instead the Government waited until 59 mins before the Ordinance would come into effect to realize they were not in a position to implement their own Ordinance and Policy.

It wasn’t as if this Government didn’t already know their Ordinance was unworkable, they were told that several times before the Bill was sent to the HOA, during its review in the HOA, and once again after the Ordinance passed that it just could not work in its current form.  There are many Government specialists in the Civil Service that can help but “the man” oh “the man” does not seem to be the type that takes advice, especially from well-educated women.

Well, I must now await with bated breath the proposed amendments to the Ordinance in the next few sessions of the HOA, so I can review them against the suggestions and concerns raised during the original debate and the committee stage of the bill, as I have a gut feeling they’ll mirror the concerns raised in September 2018.  Why can’t we just render to the People the things that are the People’s?

I end as I started, Christmas is coming and I take this opportunity to wish all those in the Turks and Caicos Islands a Happy Christmas and I want to encourage us all to celebrate the reason for the season of Love, Joy, and Peace. May God continue to bless and keep us in these Islands.


Yours in the Turks & Caicos Islands,

Akierra M D Missick

MP Leeward and Long Bay

Turks and Caicos

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