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Editorial: Permission Granted, Responsibility Squandered

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#TurksandCaicos, February 11, 2021 – There are around eight constitutional freedoms which the public has given up in the name of public health protection and patriotism.  The governor and the government have been allowed to maneuver these freedoms in a way that it mitigates and marshals the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Criticisms have been that many of these decisions lacked consultation, creativity and consideration.  Early on, enforcement lagged as rules and regulations had to be created and manpower had to be recruited.  When the protocols for enforcement did come, the decision was to create a ticket system.

It was soft then.  It is way too soft now.

While there have been a decent number of tickets issued by the Task Force and Police Force; including those in the amount of $5,000 to businesses breaching closure, face mask and capacity regulations; these have hardly served as a deterrent and cases are rocketing with six people dead in under a month.

It has been said on national platforms by Edwin Astwood, TCI Minister of Health, that the cases we are experiencing in 2021 are the result of poor decisions and large gatherings over the holiday season of 2020.

There were outbreaks across government facilities including at the Prison which led to the Police Department becoming contaminated.  The TCI Hospitals in both Providenciales and Grand Turk experienced a cluster, which mushroomed.  At least two hotels  were cited as having had outbreaks and by the first week of January, the TCI regressed. 

The US Centers for Disease control placed the country back at Level 4; a hard won victory clawed back by the health regulatory agency and a risk rating which guided the US State Department’s decision to also give the Turks and Caicos, a Level 4 Travel Alert, this month.

The parties which were fun at Christmastime had now become deadly in the New Year.

Three women, including two who passed away between Tuesday and Wednesday and three men, including a serving member of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force are all dead. 

The precious members of our society are dead and gone after being infected with Covid-19, which is suspected to have spread across the islands following “ill-advised” shindigs which continued into the second week of January.

Hindsight is 20/20 vision they say and it is certainly worth noting that the ‘bad move’ may have come when the Turks and Caicos Government decided to relax measures during the holiday season, despite clear trends of a rise in coronavirus positives as a result of residents returning from travel already infected.

The fact was shared in December 2020 by Dr. Nadia Astwood, the country’s Chief Medical Officer.

Unlike many other, more cautions jurisdictions, the Turks and Caicos lifted the curfews and business closures on New Year’s Eve from midnight to 2 a.m.  Giving party-goers a no-holds-barred  license to gather for long periods of time, likely in cramped quarters, without masks or physical distancing on what is the biggest party night of the year. 

The fines were no deterrent.

The public has given the Government the power to curb the infection rate, save lives and protect the economy by withholding civil liberities.  With that power, the Government is expected to use every resource possible to apprehend anyone or short-circuit anything which is causing an upset to life.

That has not yet happened. 

To questions on whether technology is being used; the answer is no. CCTV cameras are left to record vacant roadways and not employed in the contact tracing process.

It was not only admitted that contact tracing is a dismal effort but people doing the work are either being abused or described as not at all vigilant.

To queries on instituting tougher penalties like criminal charges and prison time; the Minister of Health has informed this is under consideration.

The mobile app touted in the earlier days of the pandemic never came and no one explained why.

To the restrictive measures being announced, every fortnight now, there is no evidence of ‘science’ being used to substantiate decisions being made.  At this point, the Turks and Caicos Cabinet – which has enjoyed an uninterrupted full salary – appears to have developed amnesia about what the people of this British overseas territory are entitled to as a democratic society.

  • Freedom of Movement
  • Freedom of Assembly and Association
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Conscience
  • A right to Education
  • A right to Peaceful enjoyment of property and protection from deprivation of property
  • Enforcement of these fundamental rights
  • And a Right to Lawful administrative action

Instead, the vast majority of people are distressed by limited financial support from Government; by limited personal income due to the crippling regulations; by the impact of Covid-19 on their children’s educational and emotional development and their own state of mind given the fear of the virus and the trepidations which linger as the country begun roll out of the vaccine.

The fear of offending relatives, friends, co-workers, millionaires, celebrities, big businesses and voters has hampered a more direct dealing with those who breach regulations to the detriment of the country.

Economic activity is therefore held hostage by a few.  Public health is therefore threatened by a few.  Return to some semblance of a regular life for children is therefore stolen by a few and allowing it, sadly, is our Government.

We need to criminalise Covid-19 public health infractions.  We need to put people in jail who take these life-saving measures lightly.  We need a Government which will demonstrate it respects what we have allowed in setting aside constitutional rights in order for them to protect us and the lives we have built.

It has got to be a crime for people to do this much damage to our beautiful by nature, Turks and Caicos Islands.

And it has got to stop; the treatment of law abiding, decent and patriotic residents who often find themselves the scapegoat, suffering in silence while the reckless minority get away with causing people their good health, their good money, their good loved ones and our good life.

CAPTION: Traffic Clog:  A long ride home for residents of Providenciales on day one of a seven-day curfew which begins at 6pm and ends at 6am daily.  The snap measure to curtail COVID gave residents little time to prepare and that meant long queues at food stores, water depots and on the highways as thousands of residents in hundreds of motor vehicles tried to get home in the one hour between getting off at 5pm and being at home by 6pm. 

Bahamas News

GBPA invests $1.1 million in major road infrastructure improvements for city of Freeport

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#TheBahamas, May 20, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) will commence its $1.1 million road resurfacing project in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Sunday, May 22, 2022 beginning with the Fishing Hole Road, and West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout.

“Our City Maintenance and Management section is excited to begin this important initiative to resurface roadways within Freeport,” said Troy McIntosh, GBPA Deputy Director of Building and Development Services.  “Our city has been through many challenging storm events which did catastrophic damage to infrastructure around the island, including our roads.

“But our community is resilient, and we are seeing a positive shift in the economic tide,” continued McIntosh. “Excitement for future opportunities and anticipation of new investments is palpable through the city, so we knew this was the ideal time to start this aspect of Freeport’s much-needed makeover to which GBPA is fully committed.”

Roadworks are scheduled for main thoroughfares and a number of residential roads.  These areas include the Fishing Hole Road, West Atlantic and Adventures Way roundabout, West Atlantic Drive at Rayvin Mall roundabout, Beach Way Drive, Bahama Reef Boulevard, Pioneers Way, Waterfall Drive, Tarrytown Street and Grand Bahama Highway.  “We selected these locations using our Road Rating System, which allows inspectors to assess the condition and rideability of our roads on an annual basis,” added Mr. McIntosh.

The GBPA roadworks project went out to bid in December 2020.  In March 2022, the bid was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix (BHM), who specializes in heavy civil engineering projects including major highways.

“We ask motorists to drive with due care and attention while roadwork is underway,” Mr. McIntosh advised.  Flagmen and temporary traffic lights will be in position to direct traffic.  Please obey the speed limit and posted signs to help ensure the safety of all motorists and crews as they conduct work.  Delays are expected as there will be partial lane closures in some areas.”

The initial phase of road resurfacing is scheduled to be completed at the end of June 2022.  For the latest updates and information on redirected travel routes, residents can follow any of the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s social media sites or visit its website at www.gbpa.com.

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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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