UK Decision to Impose New Constitution on Turks and Caicos is Unpopular
The Turks and Caicos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom which came under intense scrutiny in 2009 for what the UK called local government corruption. Despite the absence of any corruption prosecutions or pending trials for corruption (still to this day), the UK suspended the entire country's rights to trial by jury, elections and votes on any government matters.
In the meantime, the UK has been postponing elections and imposing milestones for Turks and Caicos for two years saying they need to meet milestones before democracy and elections could be restored. Many political leaders said the UK milestones are never ending and meant to stall the country for some other agenda. Instead of letting the Turks and Caicos meet the milestones and allowing their own elections toward self government, the UK rewrote the Turks and Caicos constitution giving the UK appointed governor permanent power over the government. It also gives the UK governor the right to grant voting rights to non-citizens. The UK has determined that the voting franchise should be opened up to expatriate residents to fit the needs of the growing foreign population and the needs of the stakeholders in the Islands. The new UK constitution will replace the islands' 2006 constitution.
The new constitution was decided by the UK's Foreign Commonwealth Office and did not include a vote from the people of Turks and Caicos.
Though the UK appointed delegates who were invited to participate in the process are reportedly encouraged by the concessions that were made by the UK at the constitution meeting in London, there is not much optimism by the indigenous people in Turks and Caicos. One of the citizens displeased by the new constitution and the process that the UK used to reach its decisions is PDM political leader Doug Parnell. Doug Parnell said,
"I’ll never be satisfied until we can achieve the type of self determination for our people that would provide every man and woman who call themselves a Turks and Caicos Islander full and complete satisfaction of what’s in our own Constitution."
The objections by the people of Turks and Caicos are that the people did not create their own constitution, but was created for them by the UK as well as passed without a final vote by the citizens of Turks and Caicos. Furthermore, the UK government is not democratically elected and overthrowing a democratically leader and failing to return direct rule by a democratic process is considered by Caribbean lawyers as "barbaric". In addition to barbaric, it is also being called a deliberate act to interfere with the citizens' rights to self determination, a value advocated by the United Nations for Turks and Caicos.
The citizens of Turks and Caicos anguish that the United Kingdom is controlling the media and that their will not be known. One person said that the UK is trying to label those opposing the UK "as criminals with something to gain by wanting our voting system and democracy."
The citizens of Turks and Caicos are especially concerned with the UK interfering with their electoral base as it will decrease the voting power of the indigenous citizens. The UK is accused of diluting the will of the people as "there is nothing fair about an unelected leader [UK] taking our voting power and offering it away to their own constituents". They say opening the voting franchise will cause inequity and power to foreign interests, dramatically interfering with democratic principles that were designed to protect the people's will, "much like the British citizens wouldn't roll over if the EU came in and made material changes to their government and voting rights in their own home country."
Is Turks and Caicos on the right track now that it has taken governance and is enacting a new constitution granting UK power in Turks and Caicos? The UK says yes. Overwhelmingly, the indigenous people of Turks and Caicos say no; the United Nations says no, Caricom says no and neighboring Caribbean countries say no. The UK has said that the indigenous people are satisfied with the outcome of the process, to that citizens say they would never give their self determination away and if "the UK wants to speak for us why not prove it and put it to a vote."
Tags: Turks , Caicos , UK , British , Government , Constitution , FCO , Henry Bellingham , Voting
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