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Informal Settlements Unit Lead Promises Prosecution & Demolition

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 2, 2023 – Leaders of the newly etched Informal Settlements Unit (ISU) sat with members of the media on Tuesday August 22 in an opportunity to expound on the goals and mission of the ISU.  Although somberly stated, there was no mistaking the dogged resolve of Justice Carlos Simons, KC to see an end to the multi-pronged problems created by permitting unplanned communities in the TCI to go unchecked.

“We have a national motto, it says beautiful by Nature and this type of development undercuts (this),” said Simons who a month earlier, launched the ISU with the support of the Premier and the Governor of the territory.

The ISU is a Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) agency responsible for mitigating the proliferation of informal settlement activity in the Islands and the principal aim of the ISU is to build safer, more sustainable communities in the Turks and Caicos Islands and to improve the standard of living and quality of life of the affected occupants by undertaking this work.

The ISU is charged with the work of stopping this illegal practice and regularizing the long-established informal settlements to bring them in line with planning and other applicable laws.

“So don’t do it!” said the justice; a message to the crafters of these illegal constructions.  In far too many cases, they have proven to be manipulative; brazenly flouting country constructions codes in order to fatten their pockets by selling small parcels of land to impoverished or vulnerable groups; this fate has fallen largely to the Haitian community which either holds lower-salaried jobs as part of the expatriate workforce, or have migrated to the TCI illegally.

The Turks and Caicos, said Simons, is the only British overseas territory with this problem.

“In cases where there is evidence of fraud persons will be prosecuted. There is no way the Unit is going to stand by and see hard-working, law-abiding residents fleeced of their hard-earned cash on the basis of land ownership that never could exist,” Simons added, “The ISU will simply refer cases of this nature to the Attorney General’s Chambers who will take it up with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the evidence will be laid out for the judge to do with.”

It is estimated that in one informal settlement community alone, known as Dock Yard, there are at least 3,000 residents pressed into 20 acres of land.

Simons promised that his Unit, with its partners aside, will authorize the demolition of any expansions to these illegal communities which number 45 country-wide.

The goal, to reclaim some 500 acres of illegally developed land and see the thousands of residents re-situated to better quality and planning approved housing.

Joining that interview, Tito Lightbourne, Permanent Secretary of the National security secretariat who concurred that these developments pose a national security and public health threat.

When Justice Carlos Simons and PS Tito Lightbourne on Tuesday held a press conference on the gamut of work put to the Informal Settlements Unit, they very clearly stated that there were hundreds of acres to be reclaimed – both public and private.  Lightbourne said as many as 20 individuals would be make up the team at the ISU, mainly on a consultancy basis with a deputy to manage the day to day operations hired in support of  Mr. Simons who heads the unit hired.  He called the budget for the ISU, robust.  The ISU is located at the Laporte Plaza in Down Town Provo.

Dock Yard Residents feel forsaken they say… unable to get city or government services into the area… customs, they told Bishop Coletta Williams and Wilkie Arthur doesn’t come in to inspect their shipments for the stores legally licensed to operate, they have to work another arrangement so their goods are cleared …they believe Govt wants no part of the community, but head of the newly established ISU, Justice Carlos Simons KC says that is not true.

During a media meeting Tuesday PS of NSS Tito Lightbourne said  a survey which they commissioned for the Dock Yard report revealed there are at least 3000 people living in densely populated Dock Yard, 3000 people on 20 acres.  The ISU, with its new office No 20 and 22 Laporte’s Plaza, downtown Provo, said the time has come for an end to illegal settlements in the TCI and the unit is committed to getting that job done.

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STATEMENT FROM THE HONOURABLE C. WASHINGTON MISICK, PREMIER TURKS AND CAICOS GOVERNMENT

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#TurksandCaicos, May 22, 2024 – As Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, I assure our American friends that the Turks and Caicos Islands prioritizes hospitality, cultural exchange, and mutual respect.  You will find our doors open and our hearts eager to share the warmth and beauty of our homeland.  We value the trust and confidence travelers from around the world place in us when they choose the Turks and Caicos Islands as their destination.  Transparency and accountability are paramount in our operations, ensuring that our decisions are made lawfully and in the best interests of all residents and visitors.

The Turks & Caicos Islands welcome over one million visitors each year, more than half of whom are American.

Respect for the rule of law and an independent judiciary are key tenants of our justice system, and all persons are equal in the eyes of the law.  Judges are permitted to use their discretion in sentencing individuals who have been convicted of violating our Firearms law. In fact, in cases that occurred prior to the five cases that have generated media coverage, the mandatory 12-year minimum sentence has never been imposed by the Court because judges determined in each case that exceptional circumstances warranted shorter sentences.

Our justice system is designed to uphold the rights and freedoms of all individuals, regardless of their place of origin, while maintaining the security and integrity of our Islands.  Our judicial and law enforcement institutions are dedicated to impartiality and consistency in enforcing our laws.

Recent events have underscored the importance of adhering to the principles of justice and accountability.  Let me be clear: In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the law stands firm and applies to everyone equally, without exception.  Our commitment to the rule of law is unwavering and remains a cornerstone of our democratic values.

We are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all citizens, residents and visitors.

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EXCLUSIVE!  Police black CID Vehicle shot up by bandits in Five Cays

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Wilkie Arthur

Court Correspondent

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 15, 2024 – It was an uneasy night on Tuesday May 14 for some residents of Five Cays, Providenciales owing to continuous, serious fire power with gun shots blaring in various areas of the community.

Some say they heard shots in Granny Hill and reported a man walking around with a gun, randomly shooting at unidentifiable targets. Some say shots were heard behind the Enid Capron Primary School.  Some say they heard gun shot sounds coming from a residential area as well.

The most compelling accounts, however, were on reported events in another area called “The Wells”; a community in the depths of Five Cays and South Dock.

Criminals took on law enforcement in a gun battle involving the armored truck and a CID vehicle.

No members of the Royal TCI Police were hit.

Not the same for the other side.  One person was hit, a young man not known to police and it’s not clear if he was one of the men shooting at the police or an innocently caught in the crossfire.

The man was arrested as a possible suspect.  He is also in hospital with an “entrance and exit” gunshot wound.

During the shootout in The Wells, the CID vehicle was shot at repeatedly, disabling its movement as gunfire damaged the engine. Concerning to us, these shootings were at different times and locations but came in rapid succession; one right after the other, I was told.

Most described the sounds as coming “from some big guns.”

Police the morning after allowed me in to see up close.

Video, photos feature my EXCLUSIVE, close-up look at the damage done by criminals; it is clear high powered rifles were used by these suspects still at large.

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Charred Remains Found in Back Seat of Completely Burnt Vehicle

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Wilkie Arthur

Freelance Court Correspondent

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 21, 2024 – A gruesome discovery was made around midday today (Sunday, May 19th, 2024) when police and fire rescue teams responded to a call at a location on Blue Hills Back Road, off Millennium Highway. The area, situated next to the Fortis Sub-Station, is accessible via a long, secluded dirt road.

Upon arrival, authorities found a vehicle completely engulfed in flames. The vehicle was later removed by police after being alerted by an anonymous source to its burnt-out location. Local residents indicated that the fire had been ignited around 2-3 a.m. earlier that morning, but authorities were not notified until later in the day.

Residents could not provide details about the individual inside the vehicle or even discern its color due to the extensive damage caused by the fire. Videos of the discovery location are available, but footage of the vehicle itself will be provided once it has been located. The vehicle was reportedly still burning when police arrived at the scene.

Official Royal TCI Police Report:

Media Release – May 19th, 2024: Active Investigation Officers of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF) are currently on the scene of a vehicle fire in the Blue Hills, Providenciales area. Acting on received information, officers arrived at the location along North Side Close and discovered a burnt vehicle with what appeared to be a body inside.
The RTCIPF is conducting a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances of this incident. As this is an active investigation, more details will be provided to the public as they become available.

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