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Family or not? UK loses junior Foreign Minister over OTs budget cut

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Turks & Caicos – December 10, 2020 – As the Turks and Caicos and other British Overseas Territories (OTs) were layered with messages of commitment from as high up as Prince Charles and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, there came a bombshell decision which caused the UK Minister for the OTs to quit and slam the Foreign Office for abandoning its fiscal promise to countries like TCI.

Baroness Sugg resigned from her junior ministerial role when she learned funding would be cut to .05 percent of gross national income from .07 percent, according to media reports about the explosive development.

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Foreign Office Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has since come under fire.  The chancellor however defends that Covid-19 forced the streamlining of funds, saying “spending .07 percent of our national income overseas is difficult to justify to the British people.”

Sunak said there is a commitment to return to the .07 percent once the pandemic loosens its grip on the UK; but his statement raises that age-old argument of how the overseas territories are truly viewed in times of trouble. 

Ping-ponging from being a part of the British family to being considered foreigners who benefit from benevolent as opposed to entitled support; the explanation seemed to undermine the message from Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister who on Tuesday spoke to the JMC live from #10 Downing Street, London.

“In spite of everything, of the difficulties we are going through, we remember that we are united by deep ties of kinship and friendship and history and values. We in the UK government are going to make sure we continue to intensify that partnership,” said Johnson who reflected on the impact of climate change and now the public and economic crises of Covid-19.

“Do not forget that the UK is absolutely committed to you, to your futures and to our partnership. As we go forward and recover from this pandemic, we want to make sure that we build back greener and that we look after island economies that are so vulnerable to climate change.”

Prince Charles had a similar communication ahead of talks on the environment, telling OTs of their huge contribution to “our” biodiversity.

With one month to Brexit, a media report explained the UK Government recommitted to JMC member states they will continue to be considered by the European Union for funding of development projects, which is an area of particular concern in the TCI.

A report from the Office of the Premier informs that other areas of concern over the four days of virtual meetings, from November 23-26 were:  Constitutional Relationships; Trade; Economic Resilience; Border Security; Prisons and Environmental Protection and Funding.

“During day one of the meetings, Premier Robinson gave a presentation on Border Security, highlighting TCI’s management of illegal migration and human trafficking through its National Security Strategy and multi-sector partnerships including the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police, United States (US) Coast Guard and Bahamas Defence Force.  Following the Premier’s presentation, a roundtable discussion ensued to outline further border security challenges experienced around the region and a full outline of the UK funded Border Security Programme.”

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Before her abrupt departure, Baroness Sugg invited Premier Robinson to speak – on day two – to the impact of COVID-19 on the Turks and Caicos Islands Economy and TCI’s short, medium and long term plans in response to the pandemic.

The Premier’s Office informed:  “During day three of the meeting, the Premier made a third presentation on Her Majesty’s Prison highlighting the TCI Government’s investment in the redevelopment, management and hiring and training of staff at the facility. The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force and the UK Government has lent their support in physical manpower and funding, in partnership with the TCI Government which has in the National Budget allocated funding to fulfill much needed upgrades to the facility.

Leaders heard from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as the Minister for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Baroness Sugg.”

The Premier was joined by His Excellency Nigel Dakin, TCI Governor; Ronlee James, Executive Director for the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs and Tracy Knight and Kimo Tynes, UK Representatives for the TCI Government London Office.

Turks and Caicos Government Ministers joined during sessions which discussed matters pertaining to their respective Ministries.

The Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) is usually held in London, however on account of the pandemic, the meetings were held virtually.

Originally published in the Magnate; our brand new E-newspaper. Want it every morning? Contact Deandrea Hamilton: 649-231-9261. We are the News Leader.

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Health

Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.

 

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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.

Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.

“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”

Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.

Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.

She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.

There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.

Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.

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