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TCI: Seats needed in Parliament to reflect the will of the people; and to address economic issues, crime, family islands exodus & illegals

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#Providenciales, August 15, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – Turks and Caicos unique geographical make up requires sustained economic activity on each island to ensure that our people can cultivate a life and thrive on the island they chose to live. Regrettably, the lack of focus, policy and investment resulting in limited economic activity on the family islands of North, Middle and South Caicos is causing the population to flee these islands for a better more prosperous way of life. Grand Turk has been fortunate not to experience the depopulation at the rate of the family islands largely because of the Government employment and in a surprisingly limited way, the cruise port; however, the Capital population numbers are dwindling fast and if action is not taken soon, Grand Turk too will begin to experience a brain drain. 

There are many policy tools to stem the flow of brain drain, but for now, I will focus on one: representation!  The first and most important undertaking to hear the concerns of our island nation is to change representation in parliament; especially where one member is a minister. Long standing issues in Grand Turk and simple ones – like its beautification, and shutting down of Expressions Radio Talk show – cannot be left to the whims of the party in power. Grand Turk & Salt Cay needs to be represented by another Electoral Seat.

As a people, we cannot go on, pretending day by day, that somehow change will soon be here. Eyes have not seen nor ears have not heard of a plan nor public policy to attract economic activity for anywhere other than Providenciales; and even that is not driven by any policy: the investor shows up and decides where to invest. There are no policies applied to incentivize the current employers on the family islands to grow the economic activities. Let’s look at the leading source of economic activities on each of the family islands and examine what is being done by Elected Members of Parliament to ensure our people can sustain themselves on these islands.

South Caicos – the main economic activity is fishing. though there are two fishing plants there. Neither can boast of government incentives to help spur on their expansion and growth. Their incremental growth is because of their own doing. Three hotels – the only all local hotel in South Caicos, East Bay Resort and Sailrock Resort – their growth are hamstrung because of the lack of Airport upgrades; The lack of which have in a number of cases agreement with Government that are subject of court proceedings for failure to honour development agreements. South Caicos needs to be represented by another Electoral Seat.

Middle & North Caicos – Sandy Point channel and the Bellfield landing Port is the gateway to spurring or blocking economic activities for North & Middle Caicos. We see that boats have to travel at high speed and do karate like manoeuvres just to get passengers into North Caicos daily. There are numerous proposals on the table to rectify this by dredging the Sandy Point Port and completion of Bellfield landing into a modern-day port. None of this has been acted upon by either Governments. These big islands need to be represented by another Electoral Seat to ensure at the minimum, there are competing visions being aired in their favour!

As a preliminary conclusion, one can begin to see how the lack of action to remedy the short list of major economic blockers for these islands is because of inadequate political representation. Parliament needs enlarging and just maybe at the expense of the Governor’s appointed members. These islands need their own representatives who will be held accountable for economic growth or the lack thereof. Its alarming and concerning to see the mass exodus of locals taking place from these islands whilst the PFA, some illegals are putting down a solid footing in these islands. In order words, as we flee, they flock!

Finally, Providenciales is not without its share of problems. The largest electoral districts are ridden with its share of problems which is increasingly urgent but manifested as a different dynamic; that of crime, smoking dump, illegals and the rapid construction of non-belonger buildings together with the shocking expansion of shanty towns. 

Let’s look at Five Cays – its being taken over by illegal Shanty Towns. Look at Chalk Sound – Residents are being smoked out nightly by toxic dump fumes. Cheshire Hall – the area is predominantly known for the illegal shanties of Dook yard and the likes. Wheeland is plagued with the smoking dumps and becoming crime infested where a man can be gunned down in his own home at three am, together with a host of crimes that are not reported because of loss of faith in the police establishment. 

In my view, the lack of action to adequately address these District’s and constituency problems is because these constituencies are so big, that the MP quickly points to other areas of the constituencies that are apparently flourishing – from mostly non-Belonger activity, since they can’t get funding – whilst turning a blind eye to these troubled areas; as if they don’t exist!  We can attribute these factors to the lack of adequate political representation for these oversized districts, which means their issues are not presented in the frequency and detail that is necessary. 

In order to avoid Providenciales – which some seem to think should be renamed to Turks and Caicos Islands – so it does not suffer from these family-island-like-problems, I call for the Electoral Boundaries Commission 2019 to create six seats for new areas in Parliament: Split Middle & North Caicos into North Caicos East & Middle Caicos for its own Seat. Create a new seat named North Caicos West and Parrot Cay. Split Five Cays and Chalk Sound into two seats to be named – Five Cays Electoral District and Chalk Sound Electoral District. Split Cheshire Hall & Richmond Hill into Two Seats to be called – Cheshire Hall Electoral District and Kew Town Electoral District. Finally, split Wheeland into Two Seats – Wheeland East and Wheeland West Electoral Districts. Add another Seat in the Nations Capital & another one in South Caicos.

This solution will compel those who are elected for these areas to keep the pressure on the powers that be to address these bread and butter issues, which are quickly becoming matters of life and death in our beloved Turks and Caicos Islands. We don’t skimp on the taxation, therefore let’s not limit representation.

Mark A Fulford

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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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