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Crime, NIB & Cost of Living:  The PDM Speaks extensively on Big National Issues

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 15, 2022 – Edwin Astwood and Robert Been, of the People’s Democratic Movement party had a lot to say when they sat down with Magnetic Media about a number of nationally pressing issues including the level of violent crime, the rising cost of living and plans to raise worker taxes through the National Insurance Board.

As the Opposition party, People’s Democratic Movement  continues to get louder on matters, which are irking the general public, the messages are resonating and demonstrating that despite having just one elected seat in the House of Assembly, the PDM intends to bring brawny representation.

Edwin Astwood, the PDM’s Leader and Leader of Opposition business in parliament, said cost of living in Turks and Caicos is simply too high, and raising the minimum wage is not enough of an answer.  During the one on one session, February 3, Astwood said bringing up the lowest wage does nothing for those who are not earning minimum wage, so the change needs to come at the border with customs duties.

“Those are the two things that have to be looked at, the duties, our islanders are paying in order to reduce the cost to the suppliers; they will then have to pass that savings on to the consumer, or Government can look at the amount of money that people are making.”

Both men had a lot to say about the spate of crime and how it is being handled.  Astwood, who said he was among the panelists at the public meeting held recently by Police in Grand Turk, said he was also on the receiving end of harsh words from a frustrated public.

The party’s leader shared that he and Been have met directly with the Royal TCI Police about crime and crime fighting.

“It was a very helpful, very useful, very detailed and respectful discussion. Ideas were bounced back and forth. He listened to our ideas, what can work, what cannot work, what can be implemented, what cannot be implemented, and we have an idea on the way forward.”

During the interview, which lasted just over an hour, we were reminded about Robert Been’s campaign stance on crime.  The Deputy Party Leader of the PDM has advocated for community policing to be enhanced and he put forth an idea to do it, affordably.  He still wants to see mobile police stations, and said after their chat with the RTCIPF, the concept seems to be on the way.

“Substation units; which are mobile where you can have a station in an area one minute and the next ten to fifteen minutes it can be in another area. What this does, is it basically deters criminal activities and crime from happening. As leaders we met the assistant commissioner (of Police) on Monday (Jan 31) and we discussed a whole number of topics and again that came up, so Police are looking to invest in the substations.”

Been said communities like Wheeland and Kew Town, the former is one of the furthest flung residential districts; the latter is one of the most crime ridden in the country – would benefit from the pop up police stations.

“It could also be used as a station in the event of a crime, when it is happening.  It could be like a headquarters and the whole idea is to bring back the trust within the community.”

Robert Been said it was unconfirmed during their meeting if there would be one or two mobile police stations to start, but the duo felt confident the Police were moving toward the concept in an effort to abate crime.

“As your opposition, we will definitely be putting pressure on this current administration to bring that mobile station to fruition,’ he said.

A youth survey conducted by the Department of Youth Affairs and published in the National Youth Policy revealed that young people are afraid to live in their neighbourhoods.  They are fearful of being sexually assaulted and/or robbed.

We asked the PDM about the fear among youths and whether the opposition feels the Police is giving the country its money’s worth in the fight against crime.

Been, one of the youngest candidates to run on the ballot, still considered in the category of youth himself, shared that Police presence is vital.

“We need to get more community and neighbourhood watch programs.  It is something which has been missing from neighbourhoods, and while I cannot confirm if it is present now in any neighbourhood, I think it is a solution to help in reducing some of the criminal activities and again working to build back the confidence of the people in Police,” said Been.

Edwin Astwood disagrees with the school of thought which says that national security is the Governor’s job.

“We put the funding there, we direct how we want it to be spent, we don’t have to be involved in the technical issues, we are not asking for that.  But it is our responsibility.  We as elected officials have the main role to play and we have to start playing our role even more,” said Astwood who also offered that Police need to present its full plan for full funding.

He does not agree with a piecemeal approach to the funding of national security initiatives.

“Instead of just allocating a certain budget to deal with it (issue of fighting crime) just for this year, maybe we need to do it in a one  big purchase phase and get all the resources they might need.”

In a recent Budget Supplementary under the current government administration, Royal TCI Police is earmarked to receive over $1 million dollars including $50,000 to support a gun amnesty program.

A vexing issue for islanders is the announcement that in two months, April 2022, the government has approved for the National Insurance Board to raise contribution rates across the board.

While NIB Executives, including its project manager of the now controversial increase – Walter Gardiner, Sr – have been making the media circuit to educate the public on the need for the hike, the PDM recently held a meeting with Rhesa Cartwright, Director and Diandra Mills, Deputy Director on the coming change.

“They gave us two important dates; 2027 when the current contribution rates will not be able to pay the current obligations and 2049, if we have to tap into the reserves, we will completely wipe out the reserves… that’s only 17 years from now,” said Mr. Astwood.

The NIB is running out of time and out of options when it comes to how the public fund will be protected from running out of money.

Edwin Astwood,  seems to be learning more about the challenges at the National Insurance Board than he did when he was a minister in the last government.  He said the PDM was hesitant on activating the increase because they felt it was too much for people at the time; now, he is briefed about two to three other options not being explored to bring greater fiscal buoyancy.

Two of them are:  expand the investment portfolio and stop the fiscal leakage.

“So, you look at either investments, administration cause or the contributions. So, they decide that the best way is to increase the contributions to reach it up to their twelve percent, but we were thinking to gain one other investment. More could be done in investments. Now, there’s $40 million for local investment and I don’t think that is barely touched.”

People are also conning the NIB’s system.  Contributors are claiming injury after three years knowing that if supported, this could serve them up regular payments from NIB as still move toward qualifying for the NIB pension after ten years.

This crookery is costing the TCI big money, the PDM leaders exposed.

“Another thing that we gathered that what has been happening, is that even if you have a person who have left the country over nine years you still have some persons paying to reach the ten year. So, it’s all about putting the right policies in place.

“There are loopholes, and these came out of discussions because we were having discussions and asking questions.”
Robert Been said it does not seem likely there will be a change of heart, however.

“Its only time that’s against the whole system so I think (she said) the government didn’t ask for any delays and even if delays were to be considered I don’t think they would extend more than three to six months.”

It boils down to political will and Board approval.  The public has expressed deep concern about the 12 per cent increase, which will take on a staggered implementation beginning in April 2022.

“Let NIB invest here. It is a policy decision, it has to come from the policy makers and that is us, that is the government that is in place.”

Bahamas News

PM Davis speaks of ‘boundless possibilities’ and collaboration, at the Afreximbank 31st Annual Meetings

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – While addressing the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) 31st Annual Meetings (AAM2024), on June 13, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that he was reminded of the “boundless possibilities that define the Caribbean and, indeed, The Bahamas.”

“Our region is not just a collection of islands but a vibrant tapestry of culture, innovation, and opportunity,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the event held at the Baha Mar Convention Centre.  “The Bahamas, with its strategic location and dynamic economy, serves as a symbol of possibility and a gateway to broader economic horizons.”

He added:  “Growing up on Cat Island, one of our country’s beautiful family of islands, I was always filled with big dreams for my country. I may not have envisioned the specific paths our economy would take, but I always believed in the limitless potential of our nation.  Our history is one of invention, disruption, resilience, and innovation. We have pioneered in various fields, from tourism to financial services, transforming challenges into opportunities and showcasing our ability to innovate and lead.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, just as The Bahamas had embraced its unique position to become a global leader in tourism and financial services, so too can they, as a collective of African and Caribbean nations, harness “our potential to shape our own economic destiny.”

“Today, our presence here underscores the readiness of The Bahamas, and indeed the Caribbean, to be a home for global leaders in various sectors,” he noted.  “The Bahamas has always been more than just a tropical paradise. It is a place of possibility, where dreams are not just dreamt but realized. This ethos is reflected in our history and in the transformative innovations we continue to champion.”

“In a similar vein, Africa is a land of immense potential, brimming with opportunities for growth and development,” Prime Minister Davis noted.  “Our collective mission is to harness this potential, creating pathways to prosperity that benefit not just our regions but the global community.”

Prime Minister Davis went further to outline “a blueprint for collaboration that we all can embrace.”

“This blueprint encompasses key initiatives designed to unite our banking systems, enhance financial inclusivity, and catalyze economic growth across Africa and the Caribbean,” he said.  “This strategic plan is anchored in our shared desire for prosperity and our commitment to overcoming the challenges of distance and disparate regulatory environments.”

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Establishing a Joint Financial Task Force can be the cornerstone of our blueprint. This collaborative body will harness the expertise of banking and finance leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from both regions. Tasked with identifying and dismantling barriers to banking integration, this task force symbolizes our collective will to forge a unified path forward.”

Prime Minister Davis suggested that they could also harmonize their regulatory frameworks to address “critical hurdles” in their journey.

“By aligning our anti-money laundering (AML) standards, counter-financing of terrorism (CFT) policies, and digital currency regulations, we create a seamless environment conducive to cross-regional banking operations,” he stated.  “With its robust regulatory landscape, exemplified by the DARE Act, The Bahamas is a pioneer in this endeavor, guiding our efforts towards regulatory excellence and stability.”

He added:  “Additionally, promoting financial inclusion and digital banking leverages the power of technology to erase boundaries and open doors. Inspired by The Bahamas’ pioneering launch of the Sand Dollar, the world’s first central bank digital currency, this facet of the blueprint envisions a future where digital banking platforms extend financial services to every corner of our regions, ensuring that none of our citizens is left behind.”

Prime Minister Davis said that facilitating trade and investment through streamlined banking procedures and dedicated financial instruments could bolster economic exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean. By focusing on sectors of mutual interest like tourism, agriculture, renewable energy, and technology, he added, they could unlock new avenues for growth and collaboration.

“Key to this blueprint is developing human capital, underscoring the belief that our greatest asset is our people,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “Joint educational initiatives and training programs will equip banking professionals with cutting-edge skills in fintech, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance, ensuring our financial sector is robust, secure, and innovative.”

“Creating a bilateral payment system or exploring the development of a shared digital currency represents a bold step towards financial sovereignty and integration,” he added.  “Such an initiative will facilitate smoother trade and investment, reduce our reliance on external currencies, and strengthen our economic bonds.

“Together, Africa and the Caribbean can embark on this transformative journey, driven by unity, innovation, and mutual respect. Let this blueprint be our guide as we strive to unlock the full potential of our regions, forging a path towards prosperity that will be remembered for generations yet to come.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that the Afreximbank annual meeting represented “a pivotal moment for all of us, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).”

He said: “We face a global financial system that often locks us out, creating inequities perpetuated by the Global North. These powerful nations frequently establish one set of rules for themselves and another for developing states, undermining our progress and prosperity.  It is imperative that we call out this behavior and demand an inclusive, fair model for the global financial system.”

Prime Minister Davis continued:  “Our journey together – Africa and the Caribbean – supported by the visions we share and the actions we are committed to, heralds the dawn of a new era.  An era where financial inclusivity fostered by innovations like the Sand Dollar and robust regulatory frameworks become the standard across our waters.  An era where our joint task forces and harmonized policies pave the way for a future where trade, investment, and mutual growth flow as freely as the waters that connect us.”

He said that, as they all looked to the horizon, they should see not a barrier but a vast, uncharted ocean of potential.

“Let us decide, here and now, that the waters which separate our lands will not impede our progress but will act as the very medium through which we unite our dreams and ambitions,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added:  “Friends, I ask the question again – will we allow the separation of water to get in our way? Or will we embark together on this bold journey, proving that our spirits are stronger than the oceans, our resolve deeper than the deepest sea, and our potential boundless as the sky above?  The choice is ours. Let us choose to bridge the waters, to unite our dreams, and to craft a future where Africa and the Caribbean thrive together, in prosperity and partnership. This is our moment. Let us seize it with both hands, for the sake of our present and for the countless generations to come.”

“Lastly, I hope that this annual meeting in the Bahamas is successful – and I have no doubt that it will be – and that you have time to kick off your shoes, get your feet wet in our sands, get some sand in your toes, enjoy the warmth of our people, and discover why it is better in The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“The moment is now.  Let us seize the moment.”

PHOTO CAPTION

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis addresses the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) 31st Annual Meetings (AAM2024), on June 13, 2024, held at Baha Mar Convention Centre.

 

(BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

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Crime

Assistance Needed in Identifying Murder Victim

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***MEDIA RELEASE***

 

June 16th, 2024.

The Serious Crimes Unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police yesterday (June 15th)  evening responded to a report of a shooting death.

Upon arrival at a location along Five Cays and South Dock Road, Providenciales, officers observed the body of a male with what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

The victim is approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall. He was found wearing red shorts, blue underpants, and a pair of black and white slippers and was shirtless. The individual had a dreadlocks hairstyle.

There were tattoos on both his arms and a cross under both eyes.

The estimated age of the victim is between 25 to 40 years old.

We are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying this individual.

Anyone with information that may help in this investigation is urged to contact the closest police station, 911, the Serious Crime Unit at 231-1842, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477 to provide any information on this murder anonymously.

Additionally, individuals are encouraged to download the CrimeStoppers P3 app to share information anonymously.

 

Murder scene photo by Wilkie Arthur, Eagle Legal News Media

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The Truth about Heaving Down Rock, the National Trust Vs Lew1 Shipping  

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By Hon. Ralph Higgs

 

As humans, it is very easy to forget what the past looked like when we struggle with today’s challenges. Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about the time that I served as the Member of Parliament for North and Middle Caicos from 2016 to 2021. Alongside my dedicated PDM colleagues, we poured our hearts into making life better for the constituents of ED4 and the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Among the many projects we championed, the transformation of Heaving Down Rock in Leeward, Providenciales, stands out vividly in my memory.

Heaving Down Rock has always been more than just a loading point for mariners; it is a symbol of our rich heritage and the spirit of our people. However, before the improvements, the PNP government was comfortable with Heaving Down Rock being nothing but a quarry loading dock, devoid of basic facilities. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the PNP government gave this public property to a party supporter prioritizing personal connections over the public good. Thankfully, that supporter donated it to the National trust after the public got wind of it.

Today, as a result of the work under my Ministry and the PDM Administration, the Heaving Down Rock facility is comfortably used and enjoyed by the commuters of Pine and Parrot Cay, aquatic operators, and cargo and ferry services. The facility is even casually used by individuals and groups for relaxation or fishing.

As we navigate the present and look toward the future, it is crucial to remember these lessons. Our progress from 2016 to 2021 shows what can be achieved with dedication and a genuine commitment to the people’s welfare.

As a proud Turks and Caicos Islander, who has always held the country’s best interest at heart, I can assure you that I will continue to build on our progress.

The impasse that currently exists between the National Trust and Lew1 Shipping is nothing short of a national crisis which has serious and direct implications for the people and businesses on North and Middle Caicos and all the cays in between.

This PNP government should not have allowed it to come to this point. They must intervene forthwith to rectify this situation. It is impractical, if not impossible for Lew1 shipping to operate from South Dock. It will increase the already high freight between Providenciales, Pine and Parrot Cay, North and Middle Caicos by at least three (3) fold. And as most of the journey now would be on the high seas; the ocean, there could be many days when the sea is too rough for Lew1 to travel from South Dock to North Caicos and the islands in between. Thereby making a bad situation even worse.

When I was in office, on many ocassions, the National Trust had proposed increasing the cost to Lew1 Shipping out of Heaving Down Rock. Me and my government resisted as we could not support any higher freight on the backs of the people and businesses of our islands. There were also several ocassions when the National Trust sought to close down Lew1 Shipping operations for non-payment. But again, me and my government intervened. We made sure negotiations continued between Lew1 Shipping and National Trust to prevent any disruption in the  important service that Lew1 Shipping provides to the family islands.

Successsive governments have provided subsidies to local airlines that operate between our islands. They have also provided subsidies for the ferry to run between Salt Cay and Grand Turk. Most recently, the government wrote off almost $2M worth of debt owning to TCIG by these airlines. The time has perhaps comes for the governement to look at the situation that currently exists between Lew1 Shipping and the National Trust. Surely, it could insist that the two parties negotiate a settlement to this matter while it considers a path to settle the debt owing to the National Trust by Lew1 Shipping.

The National Trust is a quasi-government entity and it raises funds through fees levied on users of our national parks and facilities such as Heaving Down Rock etc. Historcially, the National Trust has been poorly subvented and it has been responsible for raising up to 60% of its budget. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the last meaningful increase which the National Trust received to its subvention came under the former PDM administration. This PNP government has not not seen it fit to increase the National Trust subvention in any direct meaningful way. I am reliably informed that the staff of the National Trust did not even benefit from the increase in salaries that this government implemented a few months ago.

I am certain that the current situation between the National Trust and Lew1 Shipping didn’t happen in a vacuum, neither did it happen overnight. The fact that this government could allow the lifeline of North and Middle Caicos and the resort islands of Parrot Cay and Pine Cay to be cut demonstrates the lack of appreciation for value that Lew1 shipping brings to these islands and they simply do not care of about the struggles at the people and businesses face on daily basis.  I am sincerely and respectfully urging the government to order the National Trust to allow Lew1 Shipping to resume operations forthwith and to commence the necessary arrangements to write-off this small debt of approximately of $100,000 which represents about 4 years worth of fees that is owed to the National Trust  by Lew1 Shipping and to find an amicable way to address the other concerns raised by the National Trust.

 

 

Contact Details:

Ralph Higgs

Tel: 649.232.3917

Email: ralphhiggs46@gmail.com

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