By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, May 15, 2023 – The Ministry of Health is on a mission to get Turks and Caicos Islanders used to talking about their mental health with a suite of new activities during Mental Health Awareness Month.
In a recent luncheon and panel discussion, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence explained what simply speaking up could achieve. Dr. Alicia Malcolm, Director of the Department led the charge. Acknowledging that mental health was still somewhat of a taboo topic in the country, she detailed the scientific approach that the department was taking to change that.
“It is supported by empirical evidence, that when persons with lived experiences step forward and speak out about their experiences, a shift does take place; attitudes will change, negative perceptions fade, acceptance will increase and help seeking behavior will become more common,” she said.
It was with that theory in mind that Malcolm and her team began to seek out TCI Islanders who had struggled with mental health to share their stories. Several islanders stepped up to the plate, along with the panelists at the luncheon, there was a video featuring the official ‘Stigma Fighters,’ a group of residents who detailed their journeys and were featured on billboards across the country to help normalize the issues and encourage more people to seek help.
In addition, Malcolm explained the theme “dismantling stigma one mind at a time” was specifically chosen for the TCI to keep educating residents, until there was a tangible reduction in stigma in the country.
“Mental health challenges are real, they do not discriminate and it is absolutely OK to reach out for help,” she emphasized.
Minister of Health Shaun Malcolm added his voice to the call, imploring residents to educate themselves as this would facilitate a more comfortable and accepting environment for all.
“Stigma exists in these Turks and Caicos Islands as it does in most countries– and we have to continue to tackle it through events such as this,” he said.
Malcolm stressed that unity and support could work wonders for suffering residents.
“Let us be here for each other. Let us encourage persons who need help to take advantage of the services that are available and most importantly let us remember that the more we talk about mental health the more normalized it will become.”
The panel discussion was held Friday May 6, 2023 at the Shore Club.
Saunders “surprised” by move to Backbench; promises to address the nation this week
#TurksandCaicosIslands, February 28, 2023 – Surprise was one of the main emotions rolling off of E. Jay Sauders, All Island Elected Member, when he spoke to Magnetic Media Tuesday afternoon. The brief phone interview came only minutes after he confirmed to the media around 3 p.m. that he had been removed from his post as Deputy Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands by Washington Misick, TCI Premier.
“I am a bit surprised– I sit here at the pleasure of the Premier, the Premier acted in a certain way and it is his right to decide who he wants and doesn’t want in his cabinet and that’s the position that he took.”
The biggest question now is who will replace Saunders as the Premier’s right hand man, Magnetic Media spoke to a high-profile source around 3:30 pm who told us: “The Premier hasn’t made a decision in that regard as yet so there’s nothing yet to announce.”
It’s likely, the source told us, that the Premier will take on the Ministry of Finance himself, having had experience with that ministry in the past.
Sure enough minutes after that conversation a press release came from the Office of the Premier announcing that he is the new Minister of Finance, Investment and Trade; the statement also bid Saunders goodbye.
“I wish to thank Honourable Saunders for his service these past three years as my Deputy and for his stewardship in the ministries he served,” Misick said.
It comes as no surprise to residents however and a firestorm of comments followed the announcement,
“This is so wrong!!!” said one resident.
It was a sentiment fielded by Magnetic Media over a dozen times.
“He is running this country and this party with his silly feelings. And with Washy age, he need to relax himself.”
Another predicted, “This will hurt the PNP in the next election for sure, plus with the current conflict of interest matter pending with Washy and the Integrity Commission, this was not the best move at this time for him to be both Premier and Minister of Finance.”
The booting is the second high-profile shuffle in the Washington Misick-led PNP Administration following the removal of Akierra Missick, Elected Member for Leeward from her post as Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development in 2023.
That shakeup went totally without explanation, similarly, no explanation has come from the Premier’s office this time either, but it follows a leadership challenge at the party’s national convention just days prior.
Saunders had attempted to go against Misick for the head of the PNP party but could not get enough votes to push the challenge through.
As a former CEO of DigicelTCI, E. Saunders initially served as the Health and Human Services minister as the country clawed its way back to health after a brutal Coronavirus Pandemic. He was then appointed, by Misick, to the ministry for Finance, Investment and Trade, setting and achieving lofty goals including the achievement of a $400 million yearly revenue two years into his tenure and the removal of the Turks and Caicos from the EU Blacklist of non-compliant tax jurisdictions.
Now with one year left before a new general election is called, Saunders, in his own words, will join the rest of the backbench of politicians.
Also feeling the “stick” is reported to be Jas Walkin, the man Washington Misick appointed to lead his winning general election campaign in 2021. Walkin had put his name forward for party leader but hurriedly withdrew it. Reports of a suspension have been shared via social media with residents expressing disdain at the possibility.
The consensus from many, they’re not surprised and also not happy about the removal of Jas.
For now, Saunders is focused on moving,
“Depending on how quickly I can get through the packing up of my office, I’ll do a Public Address tomorrow, but no later than Wednesday,” he promised.
The demotion also means a significant pay cut for Saunders from the Deputy Premier’s $175,000 base salary and $60,000 in allowances to the $97,000 base salary and $10,200 in allowances which is paid out to Members of the House of Assembly, where he will continue to serve as an All Island Elected member.
Kyle Speaks as Party Chairman
#TurksandCaicos, February, 27th, 2024 – After a challenge to the party’s leadership and resulting public chatter, Kyle Knowles, Progressive National Party Chairman is calling for the PNP to ‘stand together in support of the ‘duly elected premier and leader,’ emphasizing that ‘the re-election reflects the confidence and trust placed in him by the members of the party.’ The challenge was issued by E Jay Saunders, current Deputy Party Leader over the weekend, Knowles maintains there was unity, civility, and passionate debates during the National Congress. It comes on the cusp of a general election where the winning party will have for the first time 5 years in office.
Premier makes first national Statement, Announces who gets Finance Portfolio
#TurksandCaicosIslands, February 27, 2024 – The Premier has advised Her Excellency Anya Williams, Acting Governor, in accordance with Section 34(2)(b) of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution the following change to ministerial appointments with effect from Tuesday, February 27, 2024:
• Honourable Charles Washington Misick, Premier and Minister with responsibility for Finance, Investment, and Trade
The Honourable Erwin Jay Saunders will continue to serve as Member of Parliament for the All-Island District.
In announcing this ministerial change, the Premier stated, “I wish to thank Honourable Saunders for his service these past three years as my Deputy and for his stewardship in the ministries he served. My government will undertake a review of the various functions and responsibilities as outlined in the current ministerial portfolios, and I will advise the Acting Governor of any additional changes in due course.”
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