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TCI: PNP’s Response to FAC’s Recommendations – April 2019

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#Providenciales, April 20, 2019 – Turks and CaicosGlobal Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship – The Progressive National Party’s Position – Global Britain – is the term coined to capture the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy. The fact that a review of its relationship with its’ territories in the  Caribbean  is being considered within the context of its foreign policy is indicative of its historic thinking regarding the Caribbean Overseas Territories: they have always been used as pawns in the UK geopolitical chess game. This latest recommendation  is no different and is driven by the UK post Brexit  strategy regarding its future on the world stage.

In the case of the Turks and Caicos Islands the UK has always played constitutional “fast and loose” while in many cases refusing to take responsibility for its reserved powers beyond the imposition of  sanctions. These include the suspension of the Country’s constitution on two occasions. The results in each case has always pivoted away from the best interest of the people of these Islands. The most recent resulting in the resetting of the economic hegemony in favour of foreign interest; and an ongoing legal price tag that is significantly disproportionate to the GDP of the islands thereby impacting its’ ability to adequately fund much needed social programs.

Given the history of the relationship between the UK and her Caribbean Overseas Territories; and the current preoccupation by British Politicians with Brexit and its consequences, the  FAC report and most of its recommendations appear to have as its intention  the appeasement of Caribbean Overseas Territory Governments as a pretext   to persuade them to legalise same sex marriage and expand the franchise in the various territories. This view is supported by the myriad of other issues raised in the report requiring institutional and other fundamental changes in the relationship before any of them could be attained, assuming the UK were inclined to oblige. In contrast, the same sex marriage and expansion of the franchise issues merely require their passage into law by the House of Assembly, or imposition by order in council by the UK Parliament. However, on these two issues the Progressive National Party is resolute in its opposition. We reproduce these two recommendations verbatim and set out below our reasons for our objections.

Recommendation 13

The Government should set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage. If that deadline is not met, the Government should intervene through legislation or an Order in Council.

A review of the FAC report leads one to conclude that UK politicians are engaged in a strategy of attrition to neutralise the authority of elected politicians and marginalise the voice of the indigenous people of the Caribbean Overseas Territories instead of resetting their thinking to accommodate and recognise the cultural diversity of places and people for whom they have responsibility in the international community.

It is insensitive and imperialistic to threaten through whatever means the imposition of  standardise cultural values of the UK and Europe on UK Caribbean Overseas Territories by persons unelected by them, and who cannot identify with their  past or understand their aspiration.   After all, one of the main arguments of the Brexiteers are that the UK membership in the EU undermines British Sovereignty because of Europe’s ability to legislate and make policy decisions binding on the UK. The view by the FAC for the Caribbean Overseas Territories is in direct contrast to  what Britain wants for itself.

The recommendations of the FAC to legalise same sex marriage in the Caribbean Overseas Territories is also hypocritical   and is inconsistent with what obtains in the UK. This is demonstrated by  way of two examples. Chris Bryant a member of the committee and an openly gay member of the commons left the ordained ministry because his conscience dictated that a gay lifestyle was incompatible with the priesthood. The people of the Overseas Territories also have the God given right to exercise their collective conscience to choose for themselves on which side of this issue they should stand.  The hyperbolic metaphor of Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” is also appropriate here given the continuing ban on same-sex marriage in the British Territory of  Northern Ireland. 

Duplicitous standards is now common practice by the UK Parliament in how Caribbean Overseas Territories are treated compared with for example European Crown Dependencies as evidenced in the push for Public Registries of Interest in the Caribbean Overseas Territories.

Same sex relationship has been decriminalised in the TCI since 2001, and no one had been charged with a related offences decade before that.  What people do in the privacy of their own space should be of no concern to anyone else.  But to require a country to legislate behaviour contrary to their belief system is a violation of their rights and must be resisted to its fullest. Many of us have family members and friends with same sex preferences.  This does not interfere with our empathy or love for them but when same sex marriage is regarded by the majority of Turks and Caicos Islanders as being anathema to the direct admonition of God to whom we believe we owe our greatest loyalty, any attempt to force it into law is contrary to the will of the people and will be resisted by the PNP. Turks and Caicos Islands must now take a stand even if it means ending the relationship as we now know it.

Recommendation 14

The UK Government should initiate a consultation with the elected governments of the OTs and work with them to agree a plan to ensure that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office in territory. In its response to this report the FCO should lay out a timetable for this consultation process and set a deadline for phasing out discriminatory elements of belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents.

The FAC recommendations that the franchise be expanded to include UK citizen and BOTC citizens resident in the islands again betrays the hypocrisy of their intent. The the premise on which it is based is a non-sequitur and in direct contrast to Britain’s xenophobic vote to leave the European Union. The difference is that Britain’s population is somewhere north of 67 million people compared with 35 thousand in the Turks and Caicos of which an estimated 55% are non-Turks and Caicos Islanders. This gap will widen as the economy of the islands grow and the demand for labour grows with it. Organic growth in the number of persons qualifying for  status will mean that the franchise will automatically be broaden. Turks and Caicos Islanders with heritage rights will therefore become a very minor fraction of the population in the future. The Progressive National Party will not accede to the  FAC agenda of political and cultural marginalisation by accelerating the dilution of the franchise.

Gender neutral policies and legislation favouring individuals belonging to vulnerable groups are evident everywhere including the many affirmative action laws in the US in favour of African Americans and Native Americans. Legislation and policies in Canada favour First Nation People.  This practice is referred to as positive discrimination and is important for social and economic justice. This right is preserved in the Constitution of the Turks & Caicos Islands and must not be tampered with.

The TCI have several pathways to citizenship including through investment, marriage, and residency. – attainment of citizenship status in some cases is as short as  five years. Relaxing the rules on who may vote and hold office in the Turks and Caicos Islands is a recipe for wholesale takeover of the Islands and the relegation of the indigenous people to the margins of society – especially given the current lack of access to capital and other resources for positive growth within the Territory.

As part of resetting the relationship between its Caribbean Overseas Territories UK politicians need to reset their own thinking and Global Britain should respect the rights of Caribbean Overseas Territories to disagree on fundamental questions of value pathway to citizenship, and population policy. The benefit derived by the Turks and Caicos through its relationship with the UK after Brexit is mostly intangible. Failure to respect the rights of the Turks and Caicos people is therefore an invitation to self-determination; one that the Progressive National Party takes seriously and on which it will act with the support of the people.

Press Statement from the Leader of the Opposition

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Caribbean News

RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.

Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.

The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.

Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe.  In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm.  I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

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Education

Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – Since the official announcement of the Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association’s High School Mentorship Program, ten mentees have been selected for the inaugural group and will begin their journey on the road to embracing the fundamentals of the real estate field this month.

TCREA Ambassador and Director of the mentorship program, Mr. Trevor Musgrove, shared how pleased the committee was to have received thirty applications for the program, “We extended the opportunity to high schoolers and young college students aged 13-17.  Initially, the invitation for applications was shared only with Providenciales students because of the logistical challenge to accommodate in-person sessions with sister island students, as all our committee members are based in Providenciales.

Luckily, once the Ministry of Education came on board and endorsed the program, Honourable Rachel Taylor immediately encouraged us to extend the mentorship opportunity to all islands, pledging her Ministry’s commitment to handling the necessary authorizations and cost to ensure successful applicants outside of Provo would be able travel here as needed,” said Musgrove.

 The successful applicants and their respective schools are as follows:

·     Clement Howell High – Dashawn Brooks, Alyssa Callum

·      Raymond Gardiner High – Olique Stubbs, Lewis Walkin, Jr.

·      Precious Treasures – Aniyah Bovie

·      Maranatha Academy – Shamya Missick

·      British West Indies Collegiate – Pavla Lalakova, Andino Parker

·      Louise Garland Thomas High – Abnise Noel, Antoine Gedeon

Musgrove said they were pleased to have had applicants from North Caicos and were hopeful to have students from Grand Turk and South Caicos among the group, however no applications were received from those islands.

On Tuesday, May 10th the final group came together for a virtual meet-up and briefing, where they were formally introduced to the program’s mentors and were given an overview of what to expect in the coming months.

The teens will receive a monthly educational module over the next six months and will be provided 1-2 weeks to internalize the information. They will then enjoy a monthly in-person session with their mentors where they will put their real estate acumen to the test in interactive sessions, field trips, and more.

Program mentor Manfred Smith of Sotheby’s Turks & Caicos shared his elation for the program’s momentum thus far, “We are excited about providing this opportunity to introduce high school students to the real estate industry.  From the initial feedback, the students are also very keen to learn, which makes it rewarding for all as we contribute to the development of tomorrow’s professionals.”

Smith says the program also demonstrates TCREA’s continued commitment as good corporate citizens in the rapidly growing country.  The committee hopes that the mentees would grasp all that they can as they continue their educational pursuits.

The program’s Facebook page, @tcreamentors, is live and will document the group’s journey as they move through the program’s phases.  Along with Musgrove and Smith, the community can get to know more about the other committee members: Blair MacPherson of REMAX; Nina Siegenthaler of Sotheby’s; Vernica Delancy and Dedra Gray of Keller Williams; and Sean O’neill, of The Agency through the social media page as well.

At the end of the program, the students will sit a mock real estate license exam and will enjoy a retreat for a fun and memorable close-out. 

It is TCREA’s hope that this initiative will garner an interest and appreciation for the industry among high-schoolers and will act as springboard to the development of the next generation of local real estate professionals in these islands.

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News

DECR Launches Important Tropical Plant Areas & Species in TCI Project

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#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2022 – The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) along with visiting scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) will launch the DarwinPlus 114 Project Tropical Important Plant Areas and Important Plant Species in TCI. The project was originally to begin in May 2020, but with Covid-19-related travel restrictions, along with restructuring at DECR and RBG Kew, two years of deferments were necessary. The project has begun and will be officially launched this week in a workshop on Thursday 12 May 2022 beginning at 9:00 AM in the National Environmental Centre.

In reference to the project, DECR Director Lormeka Williams stated, “With the recent completion of the National Physical Development Plan, the signing of the Climate Change Charter, and the review of the National Parks Ordinance, we are poised and ready to utilise new information on land use and impacts to our Protected Areas and green spaces. We are newly energised to commit to the discovery and description of our most sensitive and significant plant diversity hotspots. We’re inspired by our colleagues in the British Virgin Islands having completed the pilot of this project. We are also ready and excited to find out what these plants are that evade identification and may prove to be something unknown to science.”

The project is focused on identifying Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Turks and Caicos Islands. TIPAs are a network of the key sites for wild plants and threatened habitats identified using scientifically robust data. They are not legal designations, but a means to identify the most important sites for wild plant diversity and to inform the protection and management of sites. Identifying TIPAs will help prevent the global loss of plant diversity, whilst safeguarding the role of plants as primary producers and providers of ecosystem infrastructure, products, and services.

TIPAs also provides a framework for Governments to implement target 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Strategy for Plant Conservation – to ensure the protection of at least 75% of the most important areas for plant diversity of each ecological region by 2020 with effective management in place for conserving plants and their genetic diversity. TIPAs also contribute to implementing the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 – by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained. Criteria for identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas were developed, and the first nationwide project was completed by RBG Kew and the Virgin Islands National Parks Trust in the British Virgin Islands in 2019. Assistant Director of Research and Development B Naqqi Manco participated in the April 2019 BVI TIPAs Workshop, and discussed the potential to replicate the project with long-established partners at RBG Kew in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Following the TCI TIPAs Launch Workshop, the DECR and RBG Kew team will trial the criteria over several sites of high plant diversity in Providenciales, North Caicos, and Middle Caicos. Over the next three years, the teams will cover other islands as well. Of particular importance will be the Turks and Caicos Islands eight known endemic plant species – those found nowhere else on earth. A secondary component of the project focuses on investigating some unique populations of rare plants in TCI, which may constitute new varieties or even species. RBG Kew will use DNA analysis to explore the relationship of these species to their closest relatives. Importantly, the rare and endemic species will be targeted for IUCN Red Data Listing as well, to assess their wild population status and trends.

 

Release: DECR

Photo: This beautiful Encyclia orchid is one of the unique groups of plants that will be studied by the project.

 

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