#TurksandCaicos – April 30, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government recently announced the following policies with a view of mitigating against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic:
- mandatory vaccination as a condition to obtain a work permit (both new and renewal).
- mandatory weekly testing of public facing public servants who decide not to be vaccinated.
- requiring vaccines to obtain benefit in certain circumstances (e.g., easier re-entry into TCI for vaccinated residents, etc.)
The Human Rights Commission is mandated to take appropriate steps to protect the rights of all residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands and in doing so must act in accordance with the Islands’ Constitution which enshrines various human rights as fundamental rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by all residents of the Islands. Whilst some human rights are absolute, others can be derogated when required by circumstances of public emergencies. The Constitution, like other human rights conventions, allows for the Government to derogate some of the non-absolute fundamental rights during periods of public emergency.
The Commission has considered the policies of the Government and agree that it is empowered under both the Constitution and international conventions to derogate some of the non-absolute rights. In so doing, the government is required to balance the protection of rights against public safety while ensuring that absolute rights are maintained. In the case of the Covid-19 policies, the right of one individual not to be vaccinated must be weighed against the right to life of the general population. This balancing act is a key component of democratic societies. In seeking to balance, the Government must act reasonably, proportionately and in the best interest of the greater population.
The following is a consideration of relevant fundamental human rights:
This is an absolute fundamental human right and cannot be derogated. Accordingly, the Government cannot deliberately take a person’s life. This includes a duty to take proactive, reasonable steps (not all possible steps) to protect a person’s life; and applies when Government knows (or ought to have known) that life is at serious and immediate risk. In a health setting, reasonableness is judged against broadly accepted medical opinion. It is the Commission’s view that the Government has taken reasonable, proportionate, and pro-active steps to protect the lives of its citizens and residents. None of the Government’s actions places any life at serious and immediate risk.
This is an absolute right and protects against serious physical or mental harm from the Government, whether that harm is intentional or not. The Commission views the Government’s action as proportionate and adequate to protect the general public of harm (both mental and physical). None of the actions will result in inhumane or degrading treatment or harm.
This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated. A person is deprived of their liberty when they are living under constant supervision and/or control and they are not free to leave. The right can be restricted when necessary, under very specific circumstances. A deprivation of liberty is only allowed if it is lawful, legitimate, and proportionate including for the purpose of ‘the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases. ’Government’s action to implement the policies for the purpose of the prevention of Covid-19. The actions are reasonable and proportionate and does not extremely restrict people’s movements.
This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated. It protects our right to respect for private and family life including physical and mental wellbeing and autonomy (e.g., being able to make decisions about your health and care). Condition of vaccination to enjoy certain benefits (entry into public places, hassle free travel, etc.) may in normal circumstances be a contravention of this fundamental right. It is the Commission’s view that the Government action to derogate this right is warranted under the period of emergency and the derogation of the right is both reasonable and proportionate. Persons are allowed to make the choice about their health however, the government has placed reasonable and proportionate restrictions based on the choice made in the best interest of the population at large.
This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated. This right seeks to protect our right not to be discriminated against and means that we should all be able to enjoy our human and fundamental rights without discrimination. Differential treatment of people may not be discriminatory if it can be objectively and reasonably justified. In this case with the ongoing public health emergency the action by the Government can be objectively and reasonably justified in the best interests of the population.
Case law in the EU and Caribbean
Courts in both Europe and the Caribbean have considered contravention of human and fundamental rights claims in relation to mandatory vaccines and derogation of citizens’ rights in times of emergency and crisis.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Czech Republic did not contravene any of the EU Human Rights conventions by requiring mandatory vaccinations (it was not, however, in relation of the Covid-19 vaccine).
The Court in Trinidad and Tobago ruled that the Governments action to refuse entry of citizens into Trinidad and Tobago was not in contravention of any constitutional and fundamental human rights during a time of crisis.
The Commission is not persuaded that the Government’s policies have contravened any rights enshrined in the Constitution. Further, that the policies as implemented are so done for the protection of the public in this time of emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is reasonable and proportionate and it is in their opinion in the best interest of the greater good. We do not think that any of the actions by the Government described herein contravenes any human right or fundamental constitutional right of any resident of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Human Rights Commission continues to exercise its role as a watchdog institution and for the protection of rights for everyone residing in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Media Statement provided by the Human Rights Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands
Register of Interests of the Members of the House of Assembly
#TurksandCaicos, September 29, 2023 – The Integrity Commission advises that the Register of Interests for Members of the Turks and Caicos Islands House of Assembly, as at 31st December 2022 has been completed.
Members of the House of Assembly are required by the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution, Section 103(2), and the Integrity Commission Ordinance (the Ordinance), as amended, Section 52(1), to file with the Commission, Statements of Registrable Interests. The Commission would, therefore, like to inform members of the public that, it has compiled the information contained in these Statements of Registrable Interests and has produced The Register of Interests 2022 for the Members of the House of Assembly, as at 31st December 2022.
The Register of Interests 2022 is now available for public inspection at the following locations:
- House of Assembly in Grand Turk
- Office of the Premier – Grand Turk and Providenciales
- Office of the Integrity Commission – Grand Turk and Providenciales (during the hours of 8:30am to 4:30pm from Mondays to Thursdays and 8:00am to 4:00pm on Fridays.)
- Office of the District Commissioner – Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Salt Cay and South Caicos.
The Register can be viewed at these locations during normal working hours or at a time that is convenient for the respective offices.
For further information or any assistance please contact the Integrity Commission:
By telephone at: 946-1941(Grand Turk Office) or 941-7847 (Providenciales Office) By e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Students not in school cite Fees as Roadblock
Dana Malcolm and Wilkie Arthur
#TurksandCaicos, September 29, 2023 – Concerning reports are coming out of Providenciales regarding the placement of students as the new term got started.
Wilkie Arthur, Magnetic Media Court Correspondent, had the opportunity to speak with several young people who were supposed to be in school. Instead, they were hanging out close to home, as they said they couldn’t afford the fees of the private schools they had been placed in.
Edgar Howell, Director of Education, during an August 31st press conference, had indicated that at least 26 students were awaiting assistance with placement in private high schools and 35 students were awaiting placements in primary schools. Parents should have heard from the ministry within days.
“The schools are full and they don’t have any more money to continue the [private] schools they were going to. So, this bright September morning these children are actually just idle,” he explained.
By law (Education Ordinance 2009), all children between four and 16 years old in the Turks and Caicos Islands are considered of ‘Compulsory School Age’ meaning, they must be enrolled in an institution.
It has long been the practice of the Ministry of Education to place students in private schools and subsidize the fees when space has run out in public schools. This year was no different.
“The Ministry continues to provide assistance to the parents through the private school subsidy program and 375 students are being assisted for the 2023/24 school year,” Howell explained.
It’s not clear if these students were a part of that number.
We have since reached out to representatives at the Turks and Caicos Ministry of Education for information on students who are not in school, how many remain unable to fit into public school classes and what provisions are in place for those students; there has been no update.
Grand Turk residents say they suffered lack attention from TCIAA
#TurksandCaicos, September 29, 2023 – Upgrades are underway at the JAGS McCartney International Airport but Grand Turk Residents say they were subject to subpar conditions for far too long; the comments came at a town hall meeting hosted by the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority in the capital on Thursday September 21, at Dillon Hall.
“I am speaking on behalf of Grand Turk residents. It is unacceptable for the Airports Authority to treat residents how they do,” one resident told TCIAA executives at a town hall meeting in Grand Turk.
The airport was hit during Hurricane Fiona in late 2022, resulting in a destroyed roof and serious damage to the terminals from extensive flooding plus damage to the domestic and international arrival areas, deeming the area unfit for use.
The hurricane damage last year only exacerbated the destruction wrought by previous storms including 2008’s Hurricane Ike and 2017’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The JAGS McCartney International was reopened for domestic arrivals just this past June after phase one of a restoration project. The international terminal was scheduled to open soon after but repairs are still ongoing. Residents told TCIAA executives, the work was simply not executed quickly enough.
“The lack of attention that they paid to the JAGS McCartney Airport after the hurricane, having the residents of this island come in like we’re from a third world country for months? It’s unacceptable for residents of this island for you all to leave us like that,” a resident maintained.
Ongoing updates include fixing the perimeter fence and parking lot as well as the fire station. Residents appeared grateful but cautiously optimistic.
“We see the plans that you have— which is good, and we hope that the next time we have a disaster we don’t have to be waiting for months [and] be treated like that.”
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