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NIB unemployment pay approved in TCI parliament; for those terminated and laid off

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#Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 18, 2020 — Members of the House of Assembly have approved a temporary unemployment benefit to the tune of $4.2 million through the National Insurance Board and while it helps over 2,000 contributors it could hurt the NIB’s pension fund.

NIB Unemployment Benefit passed in TCI House of Assembly on October 13. Premier issued statement about the Covid-19 stimulus measure

The welcomed stop-gap measure will financially bolster the households of 2,200 contributors who continue to struggle to make ends meet after the coronavirus pandemic crashed travel and tourism; which is the Turks and Caicos Islands’ leading industry.

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“In response to the significant increase in unemployment due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, the National Insurance Board was engaged by the Premier and Minister of Finance, Investment and Trade to provide a resolve. The outcome of those discussions was a proposal to Cabinet, to establish and fund a temporary unemployment assistance benefit in the sum of $4.2 million. The National Insurance Board has approved $4.2 million for payout in unemployment benefits this year,” said Hon Sharlene Robinson, TCI Premier and Finance Minister in a statement on the historic vote at parliament.

But the concern is whether or not the NIB can afford this whopping, unexpected expense, though temporary.

In the 2018 National Audit Office (NAO) report for the Turks and Caicos Islands, it explained – long before COVID-19 – the National Insurance Board needed to significantly increase earnings now in order to fully finance the NIB’s pension scheme in future. 

“How is $362 million in unfunded pension liability going to be financed? This is a significant financial burden for the TCIG. In order to fund this liability, an additional $18 million per annum would have to be set aside at least for the next 20 years and possibly more in order to fund this unfunded portion. The other alternative would be some aspect of pension reform which has been recommended in the 8th Actuarial Report for NIB.” – Excerpt from the Executive Summary of the Audit Year Ended March 2018 report produced by the NAO.

The 8th Actuarial Report of the NIB recommended that pension reform was mandatory as the workforce contributor base is forecast to shrink by 15 per cent while pensioners will increase eight fold, from four percent to 24 per cent of the population.

The Minister of Finance explained this COVID-19 provision has been researched and will not terribly offset NIB’s solvency.

Rhesa Cartwright, New Director of TCI National Insurance Board

“The Turks and Caicos Islands Government requested its actuary to produce a feasibility paper on the introduction of an unemployment insurance provision to the Turks and Caicos Islands National Insurance System to which the Actuary concluded that an unemployment insurance programme seems feasible. It is the Actuary’s belief that adding the programme to the current TCI National Insurance System would have no significant impact on the financial sustainability of the system as it currently exists.”

Only those who have been terminated or laid-off are qualified for the financial help.  The beneficiaries would have made at least 250 contributions or five years of payments to NIB and will get 50 per cent of their previous weekly insurable wage.

It is projected the payments will last for eight weeks or until the fund runs out of cash.

The Premier commenting on the Bill stated, “The National Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2020 is a remarkable and important initiative that my Government is proud to have delivered to the people of these islands. We believe that there is no better time to roll out this programme than now – when our people are in urgent need of further support amidst this COVID-19 pandemic. The implementation of a permanent unemployment benefit has also been agreed for April 2022. I wish to thank the Ministry of Finance and the National Insurance Board who has worked hard to ensure that this programme is progressed to completion.”

At this time, the NIB Unemployment Benefit will not support contributors who are still employed but receiving only a percentage of pay, nor will it pay out to the self-employed category of contributor.

No date was given on the start of the unemployment payment plan by the NIB, which was approved in the House of Assembly on Tuesday October 13, 2020.

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US CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2024 – The Governor’s Office can confirm that Her Excellency the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and the Honourable Premier Charles Washington Misick will this morning receive a US Congressional delegation, who have requested a meeting to discuss the recent arrests of US nationals for possession of ammunition offences.

The US delegation, which arrived yesterday evening, was met by Protocol officials and is due to depart this afternoon.

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Eleven Senators, Three Governors make appeals for Leniency; Five Americans now face 12 Years in Prison

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Deandrea Hamilton                                                                                                                              

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2024 – US law makers are going to bat bigtime for their citizens detained in the Turks and Caicos for breach of the firearms ordinance, a congressional delegation arrived on Sunday for talks on an amicable  conclusion in the controversial court matters.

Here for a meeting set to take place today,   the congressional delegation is led by Senator Markwayne Mullin.

Five tourists are facing the 12 year minimum for possession of bullets, they say were inadvertently left in their checked baggage, but they can get a lesser sentence if the judge rules that it is warranted under the ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ clause in the Firearms Ordinance, newly amended and stiffened in 2022.

Eleven U.S. Senators and three State Governors have addressed letters to the TCI government beckoning for leniency in the cases of American citizens charged and detained for breach of Turks and Caicos gun laws which strictly prohibit the possession of unregistered firearms or ammunition; an infraction which carries with it a penalty of 12 years imprisonment.

It became known that at least one governor was communicating with Daleeni Daniel- Selveratnam, Turks and Caicos Governor about the unsettling situation.

J Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma appeared on television vocalizing his thoughts, calling the mandatory 12 year sentence “absurd.”  His letter for leniency was endorsed by Josh Shapiro, Governor of Pennsylvania and Glenn Youngkin, the Governor of Virginia.

“We humbly ask that your government – in its wisdom – temper justice with mercy and recognize that these made mistakes but had no apparent malicious intent,” states the May 14th letter signed by all three governors.

Twelve days before, Senators had already expressed their dire concern in correspondence dated May 2nd.

Magnetic Media obtained that letter which 11 senators have supported; their dispatch issued to the Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos, Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, KC.

Senators Markwayne Mullin, Oklahoma; Robert P. Casey Jr, Pennsylvania; Mark Warner, Virginia; Tim Kaine, Virginia; James Lankford, Oklahoma; Michael Cloud, Texas; John Fetterman, Pennsylvania; Bob Good, Virginia; Guy Reschenthaler, Pennsylvania; Josh Brecheen, Oklahoma and former presidential contender, Ted Cruz of Texas boldly signed the document, with strong words for the TCIG.

“We do not discount the fact that the authorities in Turks and Caicos take the presence of unspent ammunition cartridges seriously to prioritize the safety of its civilians. However, based on our relationships and understanding of the circumstances of these American citizens, we strongly urge you to exercise leniency when reviewing their cases.”

Both letters point to the current good relationship between the Turks and Caicos and the United States as the reason to have the cases of Michael Lee Evans, 72 of Texas; Bryan Hagerich, Pennsylvania; Tyler Wenrich, 31 of Virginia and Ryan Watson, 40 of Oklahoma come to a reasonable conclusion.

Since Monday May 13, added to the four men and despite the media attention and US State Department warnings, Sharitta Grier, 45 of Orlando, Florida was arrested, sentenced and is now out on bail on near identical charges.

She is the fifth American held in recent months for the discovery of ammunition upon departure of the islands.

Grier, was on Thursday May 16 arraigned for allegedly having two bullets in her baggage; detected as she was exiting the Turks and Caicos following a Mother’s Day getaway with her daughter.  By Friday, bail had been granted to the woman who is still expressing shock at the gravity of the consequences; a dozen years in a Grand Turk prison.

A week earlier, a Thursday May 8, media release by the Turks and Caicos National Security Council informed of the Attorney General’s report to the group, which included the Premier, Minister of Tourism and Governor on the nuances of the legislation, according to a recent Court of Appeal decision.

“The Attorney-General, in respect of the law applicable to the cases against US Nationals on charges relating to the possession of ammunition, confirmed that an Attorney General’s Reference to the Court of Appeal certified that where a court finds there are exceptional circumstances, the sentencing judge has discretion under the law, to impose a custodial sentence and a fine that are fair and just in the circumstances of each case rather than impose the mandatory minimum. The Chief Justice is advancing sentencing guidelines in this respect.”

On Sunday, Senator Mullin of Oklahoma landed in Provo, with him:  “Rep. Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania; Rep. Good of Virginia; Rep. Brecheen of Oklahoma and Rep. Cloud of Texas.  They have a few staff members and an escort of four marines.  They will be in meetings all day. We are hoping for an agreeable resolution today,” explained a source close to the senate.

We’ve also learned that the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis may climb aboard this train in the name of reasonable justice after Floridian, Sharitta Shiniee Grier was last week charged.

On social media, Grier has opened up about her arrest.

“Once the police cuffed my leg to a chair and left me in a room by myself I started crying out to the Good Lord, saying I know you are real but I need you to move for me, right now!  I need you to show me a sign that I’m going to be alright.”

Grier explains that before she could wipe away tears, “Mrs. Susan and her husband My Pop Pop” turned up, came to check on her while in police custody and are now lending her moral support.

Court correspondent Wilkie Arthur informed that during Grier’s arraignment, the courtroom was filled with some of the other Americans accused and their families; in her post, she called Ryan (Hagerich) and Bryan (Watson), both men who share a vacation villa as they await verdicts in their bullet possession matters, her ‘brothers.’

“I know it was God who placed them in my life.  They have a heart of gold, just like me and I love them. We are family forever.”

It is this kind of solidarity that the defendants hope will work in their favour as their Representatives have reportedly taken advocacy to a new level; landing at the private airport in Providenciales on Sunday to – in person – make appeals on behalf of the five Americans with the hope of seeing them avoid the lengthy prison term mandated by TCI law.

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Subject identified

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SERVICE WITH PRIDE AND INTEGRITY

 

***MEDIA RELEASE***

May 18th, 2024.

Following a police shooting incident on May 14th, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF) is now able to name the deceased male subject, with the permission of the family.

The Serious Crime Unit contacted the relatives of the deceased, and formal identification has taken place, with the subject being identified as 14-year-old Antorens Dorcely, also known locally as ‘Toto’.

During this challenging time, the RTCIPF also expressed its deepest condolences to the deceased’s family, and the force will continue to offer support through our Family Liaison Officer.

In light of this incident, the RTCIPF is urging the public to show respect and sensitivity towards the grieving family by refraining from sharing any footage of the deceased on social media.

Sharing such material can cause additional distress and harm. We emphasize the importance of empathy and respect for the family’s privacy as they navigate their grief. The death of any young person is a loss to the TCI.

The RTCIPF is committed and dedicated to conducting a thorough investigation and ensuring that all aspects of the incident are carefully examined and the findings are communicated transparently to the public.

A request has been made to an external police force to conduct a review of the incident. This is a routine procedure and intended to ensure an independent and objective review of the facts. The community’s cooperation and respect during this time are essential. The RTCIPF assures the public that we remain dedicated to upholding justice and accountability.

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