#TurksandCaicos, February 26, 2021 – There has already been speculation regarding my choice of appointed members. Tracking social media I know passions run high on this and some good decent people have reached out to me expressing worries and concerns.
The last 48 hours have, as a result, only reinforced in my mind a truth that whatever ones position is on who a ‘Turks and Caicos Islander’ is – and who therefore should have a voice in the Legislature – there is a need for a national conversation on this issue. It stars to go the heart of the Islands present and future identity and it would seem to me that for so long as there is confusion about this then a properly unified nation, at ease with itself, is rather difficult to achieve.
That belief is reinforced because in every conversation I have, I do not know of a senior politician or informed private citizen, who has given this thought, who does not recognise that the question around unity or disunity, inclusion or exclusion, is a pressing issue here in TCI.
People might not agree on how it should be settled, but they do believe it does need to start to be settled. It is though very hard for an elected politician to talk in these terms publicly because of the strength of feeling it generates from those who elect them. So I hope I can play some part in catalysing and sustaining that debate over the course of this Parliament through those I appoint.
Whatever the solution is, that comes out of that conversation, it will need to be designed and managed by the Turks and Caicos Islanders– whereby – TCI can build an inclusive society particularly for those who were born here, who have yet to properly integrate, but who clearly are part of these Islands future.
I stress from the outset I offer no preferred solution, or indeed any solution. I am quite clear the issue is one for Turks and Caicos Islanders alone to resolve but what I do hope to do is generate a conversation that moves beyond short bursts of anger or frustration on social media – or quiet resentment in many communities – into a set of reflections and interventions on the floor of the House of Assembly which is where mature serious debate, on matters of national importance, should occur.
I have said in the past how important the Constitution is and that whatever I do I am bounded by the law. With regard to guiding me, as to who I should appoint to the House of Assembly, Section 48 (which brings in Section 46(c)) compels me to appoint only Turks and Caicos Islanders. I cannot appoint a foreigner. If the persons I am about to appoint are considered by you to be ‘foreigners’ then you are at odds with the foundational legal document that all others on the Islands are built from. That alone is worth a proper conversation.
Linked to that it is worth saying that there is nothing, anywhere, in the Constitution that differentiates between different types of Turks and Caicos Islanders. In law a Turks and Caicos Islander is a Turks and Caicos Islander. To me that seems to be a fundamental foundation of any democratic society going back as far as ancient Greece. So within the Constitution, and under the law, every Turks and Caicos Islander has equal status. Some may not like that, but that is the legal position.
The second section of the Constitution that guides me on my selection is Section 47. That directs that my selection should be: ‘so far as possible from among persons representing shades of opinion which would not otherwise be represented in the House
Should the Governor’s Members Be Part of the Opposition:
This takes me to my first point. A number of people have suggested – from both sides of the political divide (although none of them past or present elected politicians because they have a good understanding of this point) that there is an expectation on me to appoint members who can provide an active opposition to the Government and they justify this because the Opposition benches have been depleted down to two.
I can see the ‘in the moment’ argument for this, but I see nothing in the Constitution that suggests, in any sense, that the Governor’s appointees should provide an ‘opposition’ to the ‘will as expressed by the people’. This seems to me a dangerous assertion. It is the people who have decided the relative ratios of the two opposing Benches and I certainly do not want to set a precedent that the Governor today, or in the future, seeks to make appointments to oppose the Government.
Once appointed by me the two Members of the House will take no direction from me – they will vote with their conscience as Turks and Caicos Islanders – but in appointing them I make an assumption that if the Government are seeking to pass legislation that was in their manifesto, which the people voted for, there should be some presumption of support unless the legislation is poorly considered or badly drafted.
What I do expect the members who I appoint to do is to ‘constructively challenge’, to scrutinise legislation line-by-line, and spending, and have the skill to do that. I also expect them to be able to bring real diversity of view – to help the House think through first and second order consequences that they may not have considered. I do not expect the Governor’s appointed members to be deliberately contrary, or grand-stand, but instead to be sober, wise and considered.
Respecting all Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Now to my second point. It would, I’m told via some on social media, be hugely disrespectful for me to not appoint ‘indigenous Turks and Caicos Islanders’. Of course one of the past appointed members – who has retired – was just such an appointment, non-indigenous, and I think most agree, he added great value to the work of the House.
But sticking with the broader point, for those who know me, you will I hope find it hard to find an example of where I have shown disrespect to anyone – in person or in social media – including my harshest critic – let alone an entire group of people, a group of people I have come not just to respect, but to genuinely admire. And in terms of appointing Turks and Caicos Islanders I quickly appointed a Deputy Commissioner, appointed for the first time a Judge (albeit temporarily because no long-term vacancy existed) and appointed the first Turks and Caicos Islands Resident Magistrate. The latter two are ground breaking appointments and show no disrespect. And in forming the Regiment I’ve ensured the Regular Officers of that Regiment, are all Turks and Caicos Islanders and invested in them.
There are unquestionably many ‘indigenous’ Islanders who I could appoint on merit, I’d go so far as to say there are some who are quite brilliant and some know exactly who they are because I’ve had conversations with them on this issue as I started to make my choices. But the key point for me is, because many are young, and many are brilliant, and many have big ideas for these Islands, I’d prefer they stood before the electorate than were brought into the House by me.
A Governor’s appointed member has limits placed on them that an individual with a big and expansive vision, and dream for the Islands, would be constrained from delivering. To effect this sort of change you need to be on the Government bench. I am confident that any indigenous Turks and Caicos Islander, of the quality I would want to appoint, the electorate of TCI would want to appoint, as well. So I encourage the very best of our Turks and Caicos Islanders to stand before the electorate.
Set against this I am much less confident that those of the same quality, who are not indigenous Islanders, particularly if they come from ethnic or national backgrounds that appear here to carry stigma, would presently be selected as candidates, let alone elected. I don’t criticise this in anyway, there are reasons for it that I understand. But I think the Constitution both calls on me, and enables me, to help such people still serve at the highest levels of government.
In terms of selection criteria – I had four. First I wanted to choose those who could cover as many matters as possible that I hold Constitutional responsibility for (Policing, national security and financial services are examples). Second, an interest in issues I described in my inauguration speech (wealth creation, tourism, the vulnerable, child welfare); third, that they could contribute to good governance (so could scrutinise legislation line-by-line, or understood finances and budgets and had understanding of countering corruption, money laundering and human rights) and finally; d) had the gravitas and wisdom to hold and sustain an independent position in the House witout being overly influenced.
As a result, I have chosen to appoint Harold Charles and Willin Belliard as the Governor’s appointed members. I wish to also say that the one other name I have seen in social media – that apparently was my choice – was wrong, was fake news, never considered and never approached. Some of the venom directed at that individual requires, I’d have thought, an apology.
So to Harold and to Willin. Both are passionate Turks and Caicos Islanders. If you’ve met either you will know this. They have completely committed to TCI. Harold was of course born in Haiti, speaks Creole, and is well connected to the Haitian Community but he is also embedded in the Turks and Caicos Island community and there are few people I’ve heard speak as passionately and optimistically about TCI as Harold. He is the Islands adopted son – from the poorest of beginnings – and grateful for it.
Willin was born in the Dominican Republic, speaks Spanish, and is well connected to the Dominican community. But likewise, Willin’s home and his family’s future are embedded here in TCI and, as an ex-Police Officer, demonstrated he was prepared to put his life on the line, for the people of TCI, and committed to run towards danger rather than away from it for many years.
I said in my Inauguration speech that I would respect those who created wealth, and by implication created employment on the Islands. Harold has, though-out his career, certainly done that. For some time he was the second largest employer on the Islands, directly and indirectly.
I also said, in that speech that I had great respect for those who put themselves before the electorate and Harold did this in 2012, not successfully, but he provided an alternative Political Party offering something different. I hope Harold, through his actions, encourages others to stand knowing that there is a route into the House – if not immediately – by showing early courage and commitment to the democratic process. I’d certainly suggest my successor considers in the future some who stood in this year’s election – as Independents – who were unsuccessful but were of genuine quality.
Harold also clearly has an eye for finance, so in matters relating to budget I hope he can bring his financial rigour into the House. Tourism remains our overwhelming industry and aviation is its backbone. This is the main artery of the Territory’s financial life support – and as we recover our Tourist industry from the pandemic I hope Harold’s deep knowledge of this industry, particularly at a time when our international airport requires renewal, will be of help to his colleagues.
And Harold brings into the House real knowledge of our neighbouring country – Haiti – who frustrates and undermines us with our greatest national security problems. I hope he can use his influence in his community, and whatever influence he has in Haiti, to help us defend our borders and drive home the message that while legal controlled migration here is welcomed, at the pace or not the elected government dictates, illegal immigration undermines and stigmatises the Haitian community here and generates tensions that should not be present. The message he can deliver is simple. Come here legally you are very welcome. Come here illegally, you are not.
Beyond that Harold’s life experience is frankly inspirational. It’s well known in the Islands as a genuine rags to riches story generated through hard work and entrepreneurial flair. He is, I hope, a role model to all young people here in TCI, whatever their background, that it’s possible to rise from the most humble of beginnings to a position where you receive international recognition and you can serve the Territory in its Legislature. In 2014 Harold was presented with TCI’s National Honour for twenty years of outstanding and exemplary public service.
And so to Willin. He is a former Police Officer, with commendations from a past Chief Justice and the UK House for Commons for a successful investigation into a major $200 million fraud. A highlight of his policing career is the law enforcement work, as a founding member of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the RTCIPF, to bring to justice the ringleader of a major Ponzi scheme, resulting in the only such conviction in the islands’ history and protecting the islands reputation in the financial services sector. As a result he brings the interests of front line law enforcement into the House. I hope there will now be a Representative in the House who can talk intelligently about the challenge and future of Policing and I hope the Leadership of the Police Force can keep him well briefed in this regard so he is current.
He is also an Attorney. Policing on its own cannot solve the problem of crime in TCI. It also needs an excellent, modern, efficient Justice system. The Chief Justice is leading on this and I hope Willin will help support her agenda, along with other Attorney’s, in the Legislature.
Having trained at the London Bar – Willin should also bring an Attorney’s eye to the line-by-line scrutiny of legislation. I hope all in the House commit to careful scrutiny of legislation that a Government, with a very powerful majority, will bring to the House. As an Attorney he has also worked on issues here relating to Human Rights, holding the Government to account, and I see Human Rights as an invaluable safety catch in terms of good governance as well as the protection of the individual.
Willin has, until recently, been a member of the Board of the Financial Intelligence Agency, a position he will now need to relinquish as it is a body subject to oversight by the House of Assembly. I know both political parties wish to diversify the economy and I hope the knowledge Willin brings to the House is helpful.
Finally, Willin has spent the past months consulting on a significant anti-corruption investigation in another jurisdiction. The insight he gained from that will, I hope, help inform his thinking when it comes to issues relating to procurement and capital projects.
Children and Education:
There are certain things that both Harold and Willin have in common. Both had to work very hard to get to where they got to. Neither started with great privilege in life. As a result both have a fierce understanding of the gift of education and the curse if it is denied; both I believe will fight passionately for children’s rights and be very supportive of a Government who are focussed on our children – both their education and their welfare.
I hope both Harold and Willin will also be role models demonstrating how legal (and I do stress the word ‘legal’) immigrants to these Islands – or people born of immigrants to these Islands – can enrich the Islands future and aspire to serve.
Just Two Among Fifteen
Beyond their skill and character, beyond their status as a citizen of these Islands, any who worry that there are now members in the House of Assembly who can explicitly bring into the House the views of the legal, lawful, immigrant community, be they first or second generation, need only reflect that these are just two members amongst 15, and the Government has such a strong majority that their ‘will’ simply cannot be frustrated so long as they act within the law.
I do hope both benches welcome Harold and Willin not only as colleagues but as fellow Turks and Caicos Islanders; I do hope debate in the House can be enriched by their presence; I do hope the skills they bring are valued, and; I do hope it helps further build a society where division is increasingly replaced by a process of managed integration, and increasing inclusion.
Helping generate what I think is an important conversation that needs to be had throughout the term of this Parliament, is the end of my public contribution on this matter. If I am criticised for starting a debate, and putting forward Turks and Caicos Islanders who can contribute to that debate, seems a rather modest contribution to make. The really hard work is of course for Turks and Caicos Islanders to take the conversation wherever they wish, and work out the long term future of how a population that was just 7,000 in 1980, and which is on track to grow to 70,000 by 2040, can increasingly be at ease on matters relating to identity and inclusion.
Only One Term:
Finally I have made it clear to both my appointees that my recommendation to any successor will be that they should not be reappointed after one term. That is because I believe the maximum number of people should be cycled through these roles bringing the maximum amount of opportunity and diversity to the Chamber. But also because, as Governor, I do not wish to impose on the public purse by having members of the House of Assembly that I appoint profit from the generous pension provision, following two terms of office, without having had to stand before the electorate.
To conclude, I have been very consistent that this issue has to be decided and concluded by Turks and Caicos’ Islanders. But my responsibilities as the Governor of all these Islands brings with is a responsibility to every person who lives here, under the law. It is therefore incumbent on me – if I see a chronic problem – that is not being tackled – to highlight it. The stalling of the long awaited ‘Islander Commission’ last year – the one route to gain Islander status in TCI, so long delayed, worried me.
I restate I have no view as to who should get status in these Islands that decision is only to be made by Turks and Caicos Islanders – but I have an obligation, placed on me by the Constitution, that such a route must exist. With the election concluded I will look for it to restart its work imminently.
I wish all the appointed members well, including those from the political parties, and I hope the debate, that I believe my appointments will generate will help take forward an over-due national conversation that results in a more inclusive TCI where the status of being a TCI Islander, however that status was achieved, and however that process in the future is managed, is a badge of solid national unity and shared national pride.
So may God Bless the Turks and Caicos and may God bless the Turks and Caicos Islanders.
ScotiaBank Turks & Caicos Awarded Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Island – September 24, 2021 – Scotiabank TCI has been named the “Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021” by Global Finance (New York), which regularly selects the top performers amongst banks and financial services and is a trusted standard of excellence for the global financial community.
In commenting on the award, Patricia Adams, Managing Director (Acting), Scotiabank TCI said, “Supporting our customers during the ongoing uncertainties remains our top priority and we are thrilled that our significant focus and investments in our digital banking platforms continue to yield positive results.”
“During this period, we have continuously relied on feedback from our customers about their specific personal or business needs and we remain committed to further improvements as we aim to make it easier and safer for them to conduct their banking” Adams concluded.
Some of the most recent investments include the expansion of the capabilities of the Scotiabank Mobile App, upgrades made to the Bank’s ABM network to include intelligent deposit machines and the use of digital analytics to anticipate customer needs and deliver personalized financial solutions.
Winning banks were selected based on the following criteria: strength of strategy for attracting and servicing digital customers, success in getting clients to use digital offerings, growth of digital customers, breadth of product offerings, evidence of tangible benefits gained from digital initiatives, and web/mobile site design and functionality. Read more about the awards here.
Scotiabank TCI’s award for “Best Consumer Digital Bank” follows another recent global recognition for innovation in financial services by The Banker’s Global Innovation in Digital Banking Awards 2021. The ‘Most Innovative in Data’ award acknowledges the Bank’s investments in data and analytics, as well as its commitment to delivering a more personalized customer experience.
Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation
#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance. The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections. However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.
68,000 STAYED AWAY
While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.
However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.
PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER
This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.
Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.
It could also be voter apathy.
BEST IN SHOW
Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.
North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.
VERY LOW SHOW
The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).
BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in
#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.
The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.
“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.
“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”
- Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
- Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
- Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
- Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
- Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
- Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
- Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
- Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
- Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.
“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.
Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.
“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are here to meet them head on.”
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