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Abandoned! 27 residents denied return to TCI, including babies; the Minister speaks out

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – July 2, 2020 – Safe accommodations and a rescue flight to return for stranded Turks and Caicos residents were among the plans on the table tonight after a Covid-19 repatriation exercise today went disturbingly wrong. 

Twenty-seven individuals were left behind in disbelief at the Sheltair private airport in Ft Lauderdale, South Florida as they watched their interCaribbean Airways chartered plane take off with no passengers on board. 

Entry for everyone, including new born babies and their mothers was denied by Turks and Caicos Health officials without explanation and at the last minute.

Once news of this shocking abandonment of Turks and Caicos people hit mainstream and social media; comments revealed widespread outrage and bewilderment about the Government’s handling of the return home of citizens and expatriate workers.

Though many have pointed their fingers at the government administration, we are told tonight that if it were the final decision of the Minister and PDM Administration, all 27 individuals would be back on Turks and Caicos soil.

“We are very much disappointed; especially with our people being out there in Florida where you have so many more cases (of Covid-19); they are at a higher risk being out there. So any flights coming with seats on it, we want to have our people to fill it as much as we can, to bring our people home,” said the Minister of Health, Edwin Astwood.

Edwin Astwood, TCI Minister of Health, file photo

In an interview this evening, the Minister confirmed to Magnetic Media that he was made aware of the denial of entry to 27 residents and citizens late Wednesday night.  The individuals, had either bought their own tickets or had airfare paid for by the National Health Insurance Plan, which arranged seats for returning patients. 

The response to the outcry for help was an immediate review the passenger list, after which he issued this recommendation:

“In reviewing the list of persons scheduled on the flight, the majority are NHIP patients and the remainder is in possession of a recent Covid-19 negative test result.  Also included are three mothers with newborn babies.  In addition, most stated that they would be able to quarantine at home (being in possession of their recent negative Covid-19 test).

I am recommending that the flight be granted leave to enter the TCI tomorrow afternoon, bringing the returning residents.”

With the Minister of Health on their side, the residents who had been previously informed their re-entry was denied were confident the repatriation flight would now take place.  However, those hopes were crushed and instead the terminal was an emotional mix of tears, frustration, anger and bitter disappointment for the passengers, their families and the interCaribbean Airways crew.

The Minister confirmed that his Wednesday night communication was dispatched, via email, to the Chief Medical Officer, who is Dr. Nadia Astwood and the Director of Environmental Health, who is Kenrick Neely, among others.

“Maybe the Health officials thought they were working in the best interest of the general public because of the capacity and our recent outbreak (of coronavirus).  That is what I am thinking that maybe they were thinking that they were acting in the public’s best interest by saying ‘no’ to this flight,” shared Minister Astwood.   

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The recommendation from the Minister, who is also a health professional, was rejected without notification, explanation or discussion.

“I thought persons would have taken the recommendation and go ahead with the flight, because I put myself on the line saying yes, that I would recommend that they do this flight.  The relevant health officers, whom the (Public and Environmental Health) Ordinance empowers to make the final decision didn’t agree with the flight coming in,” explained Edwin Astwood.

Minister Astwood confirmed that up to the time of our interview, he had still not been offered a reason for the denial of the flight by the CMO and EHD Director. 

The Minister did say that both officers have since been informed the situation their denial of re-entry has created will now cost the Government more money and has attracted considerable public backlash.

“We have the money that we can get a quarantine place. Now it will cost us the government much more in money and time, and funds are tight but it will cost us much more.”

It was also explained that knowing the details of this flight manifest in advance would have given the government administration more time to lobby for approvals and could have provided the opportunity to remove stumbling blocks.

“I have gotten other ministers involved; the Minister of Tourism, Immigration and the Premier are involved and we are seeing how we best we can sort out this problem and we have to do an investigation into what went wrong, why this happened at the ninth hour and why we were informed so late, yesterday evening.”

As for what happens tonight and when the residents can be brought home, Magnetic Media is informed that the National Health Insurance Board has been asked to offer assistance to residents until a rescue flight is arranged.

All stranded passengers are confirmed to have safe lodgings for the evening.

InterCaribbean Airways is ready to re-try the repatriation flight; requiring time to organize the mission and financial support from the Government to return for the individuals who remain stuck in Florida.

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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North Caicos man beheaded in what could be TCIs most bizarre murder case yet

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#TurksandCaicos, September 18, 2021 – Explosive talk show host Courtney Misick lost his brother last weekend in a bizarre killing which raised alarm and left residents flabbergasted at the extreme violence, which pointed to a heinous killer being at large in North Caicos.

While police have now made two arrests; giving one suspect bail and holding another on suspicion in the gruesome killing, the pastor, farmer and former election candidate publically questioned the time it took for investigators to arrive at the scene.

He said, in a string of Facebook posts, that it was some six hours before police got there.

Royal TCI Police confirmed the body of the male found in a home in Kew North Caicos; that they got the call at 5:45pm.

“The Police can confirm that the body of a man was found inside a house in Kew, North Caicos and that the body was decapitated. Although formal identification procedures have not yet taken place, the body is believed to be that of 57-year-old old Isaac Missick. The Police are in contact with the next of kin at this difficult time,” informed a Thursday press release.

Rev Misick, at 11:30pm on Saturday posted that investigators from Provo had finally arrived; another team got in on Sunday morning.

Family was disappointed with North Caicos police manpower “wasting hours guarding the crime scene” instead of “looking for Mack-B’s killer.”

Isaac “Mack-B” Missick was beheaded and worst of all, his head could not be found at the scene of the crime.  People were dumbfounded by the monstrous nature of the killing and the family was activated to mount their own hunt for the body part.

There was no success, however, for the family and friends of Mack-B.  Relatives spent the day on Wednesday in Kew battling heat, the blazing sun and swarming mosquitoes in an effort to find the head.

Mack-B’s sister, niece, cousins and eldest son travelled to North from Providenciales determined to give it a try, said Orville Selver, a cousin of the deceased who also described the scope of the search: West of the victim’s house, in the bush from Hall town, to Henfield town, near the house of Mack Bs mother, who died in May this year; on Forbes road and near all the old wells.

The search party which began at 9am fanned out in two groups;” some went on the north side and others went the south side into the deep woods,” he said.

Meanwhile police were questioning two suspects in the case, now ruled a murder.  It is the TCI’s sixth homicide for 2021.

“Today, the Police made an application to the court to seek an extension to the time Officers can keep the arrested man in custody. The court case was adjourned until September 23rd, 2021, during which time the man will be held in police custody. The man arrested on Suspicion of Murder on Sunday, September 12th, 2021, has been released on police bail pending further investigation.”

It will most likely go down as the most gruesome killing in Turks and Caicos history; the beheading of this beloved North Caicos construction worker on Friday or Saturday at his home in Kew.

Our interview of his brother, Rev Missick, unearthed that Mack-B said he had to go home, he did so but never returned to work on Friday September 10.  Upon being missed by some relatives, his cousin set out to check on him and the discovery was gut-wrenching.

Said to be a gory scene as the man, lay on the ground with no head.  While relatives believed the head was at the scene, they later learned that it was missing.

From Police: “This is a very distressing and complex murder that will take time to investigate. However, many specialist Officers are involved in this case, and they are doing everything possible to fully understand the events leading up to this horrific attack. North Caicos is a very close community, and the Police seek their assistance in providing vital information to progress the investigation.”

Isaac Missick, leaves behind a wife and two sons.

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PNP Government not prepared for this work!

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#TurksandCaicos, September 16, 2021 – This is exactly what the PDM was warning the new PNP Administration about, hoping that this did not occur; COVID-19 being spread in our schools amongst our babies. My fears are from the positions of a Parent, a citizen, a Member of Parliament, a former Minister of Health, and a Scientist.

In my press release from a week ago I stated “And we know how critical it is to get our children back to school. It is especially critical for their mental health and their development. In achieving this, the Government must ensure that schools can open with confidence, both in capacity and in the broader public health indicators that exist. Safety of our children and our families should be driving the decisions of the Government every step of the way.”

I then went on to say “Our first job must be to care for our children, and provide a safe learning environment. However, the PNP Administration’s readiness for the reopening of Schools this week was frightening to observe. All occurrences showed that this PNP Administration was not adequately prepared, and did not provide the schools, through the Department of Education, the much-needed budgetary support in human resources, adequate safety materials, supplies and early provision of book-list. In addition, they did not provide the schools with any enhanced and improved health and safety guidelines.  They should not put your child and your family at risk.”

And now our worse fears are coming through. This new Government should immediately adjust protocols, execute their contingency plans, if any, and take all mitigating actions to prevent further spread. Immediate action is needed.

I had also stated that; “The Government had every opportunity to be more than ready to mitigate against all the known challenges that the Pandemic presents. It would have been in everyone’s best interest if the Government had budgeted for the hiring of more teachers, and more staff for the schools, which would enable decreasing class sizes, hence providing our students and teachers with a safer environment.”

It is not a bad thing to admit that you got something wrong, and then immediately correct the mistakes, especially when the lives at risk are our children.  It is bad when no immediate action or adjustments are made to correct the mistakes.  The Government has fell down in many areas while executing the re-opening of schools under a covid-19 environment.

The new PNP administration must take urgent actions, and after, immediately address the issues of overcrowding, class sizes, number of teachers, Cohort groups/school hours, and school health and surveillance systems.

Do not fail our children, our future, our parents, our families, and our country.

 

Hon. Edwin A. Astwood

Leader of the Opposition

 

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PDM’s Robert Been speaks out, calls Premier to forefront

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#TurksandCaicos, September 13, 2021 – The people are not getting what they voted for. The momentum initially shown by the Progressive National Party’s administration is slowing down day by day – and we are only seven months from February 2021 elections. In general, the PNP party is accused of being arrogant, inaccessible, untrustworthy, unresponsive and displaying clear favoritism to their party supporters first, and I am encouraging the PNP to stick to the promises made to the TCI people that you will not continue in this way. Elections are over.

The voters gave you another chance to prove that you can do what you promised – to serve the entire Turks and Caicos Islands, but sadly, I don’t see enough of the work going on like it was promised.

Education

While it is clear some work has gone into seeing better in our school system, Turks and Caicos Islands children are still being shared out of the spaces in their own country. We don’t want any child left behind, and definitely not our own children in their own land.

Why is this happening? With new schools, the Education Minister said these problems would be addressed, but the narrative continues. On behalf of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, I am calling for there to be an investigation into why our children cannot get into schools the government builds and staffs. We need real answers, progressive action, so that we understand what is going wrong and make it right… and this includes our special needs children.

Minister, you say you want the people to feel that you really do love them, well I call on you to immediately investigate every avenue to determine why many TCI families are still at the short end of the stick when it comes to securing sound education for all of our children – special needs or not, and enact productive plans that see a final end to these concerns.

Tourism

A major policy change came into force since September 1st 2021, which impacted our tourism industry and investors – domestic and foreign. The Minister of Health is leading on this, but we also need the Minister of Tourism to step out and thoroughly review all aspects of this decision to thoroughly address the valid concerns being expressed by our citizens. Ego should have no room in managing our economy in a way that is best for our economy.

There is integrity in reconsidering the negative effects of a decision, and moving forward with a better plan. Only God is perfect. Let us look around the world and learn from their mistakes, as well as glean from their wise decisions. There are other ways to achieve a desired goal – Minister of Health and Minister of Tourism, I appeal to you, before things get worse, work together and please explore this in other ways as well.

As a stakeholder, and someone whom you both are familiar with, I am happy to make myself available to put forth my ideas if it means the better of our nation. Finally about tourism, it has been since March 2020 that Grand Turk and Salt Cay have lost their tourism slice.

Plans to revive this industry always seem to get pushed back with no updates since June 2021. Millions of dollars sit in the joint infrastructure fund and even though they had a meeting with Carnival Cruise Line in June, we have not heard anything about projects, incentives, the new dock or the new cruise line company. Meanwhile Grand Turk people are leaving the island and businesses have to shut down, which makes job opportunities even harder to find there.

Providenciales is our pearl, but other islands exist in our Beautiful By Nature island chain. I am challenging you to speak to us about the future of our industry and any changes you are planning for our brand. What are you doing to soften the blow of this pandemic so it does not sink our tourism ship and what actual plans are in place to strengthen our tourism product?

Health

This is my final point. We cannot find spaces for our severely ill people at facilities in nearby countries due to the effect of surges of Covid-19 cases and the ongoing pandemic. We feel it for our regional health partners and are grateful for the open doors the NHIB was able to find.

However, if we are flown to the DR or Colombia, where we can find medical care and we die of the coronavirus – then the remains of our loved ones are cremated. This is a circumstance we cannot change and a heart-wrenching pill to swallow. I heard the Minister of Health say that it is out of his hands. And while that might be case, where is the plan to get Turks and Caicos out of this position? Let’s put our heads together to find a way around this.

No one wants the return of dear loved ones in a jar. We need a hospital which can cater to trauma emergencies. We need a hospital with a fully-functioning ICU. If it takes borrowing, if it takes strategy in finally developing medical tourism – let’s get the plan for it. Let’s get the public informed of that plan and with an agreed approach, let us finally fix healthcare in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Conclusion To the Hon Premier, your experience has earned you this prestigious title.

Your party’s theme was “We come for this wo’k”, and “this work” requires you to be occupied at the helm. Return to the forefront so your people do not feel abandoned in the midst of important health care concerns, the Covid-19 surge, cost of doing business, inflation and this recent mandate which lacked proper consultation by all levels of businesses in tourism and finance.

Your past experience, which you boasted has assisted in our country’s economic development and its thriving, is actively needed now. You have said many times, and I was happy to hear, that this is not about party politics, but about all of us as a people.

My call to you is the same. Turks and Caicos is a topclass destination and we demand top-class delivery on the Contract you wrote.

Just a reminder that the three (3) month stimulus plan is incomplete. The impact of the recent entry requirement is costing so many in hard-earned income – it’s time to deliver in full on this promise.

You wanted the work, you got the work, now do the work – for all of us!

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