Open Letter from Albray V. Butterfield Jr. To The Rt. Hon. William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and commonwealth Affairs
Albray V. Butterfield, Jr.
Turks and Caicos Islands
British West Indies
4th February 2013
The Rt. Hon. William J. Hague, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Westminster, House of Commons
London, United Kingdom, SW1A 0AA
Dear Hon. Hague,
REF:- THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS AND ITS DEMOCRACY
On 9th November 2012, we the electorate of the Turks and Caicos Islands (“TCI”) went to the polls nationally to democratically elect a Government and House of Assembly of our choice to govern our country’s affairs. At the time, it was our honest belief that the TCI would finally be returning to normal governance by our own local elected leaders. Our optimism for a brighter future became more assured ensuing the success of a series of meetings Hon. Premier Dr Rufus W. Ewing, and Hon. Charles W. Misick attended in London with United Kingdom (“UK”) Ministers, members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (“FCO”), fellow Premiers and Chief Ministers from the other British Overseas Territories within the Caribbean and North Atlantic Regions, and you Hon. Secretary of State. However, for some unforeseen and unexplained reason, the honeymoon did not last very long between the Governor’s office in the TCI (“Waterloo”) and the newly elected TCI Government, as it relates to the renewed open partnership between the TCI and the UK.
It appears that Waterloo is back to doing business as usual by continuing to operate as the interim government, attempting to usurp the authority and political will of the democratically elected TCI Government and House of Assembly, making it almost impossible for any elected Government (Progressive National Party or People’s Democratic Movement) to govern and execute its political mandate on which they campaigned.
I am almost certain that this was not the intentions of the TCI electorate on 9th November, when we stood in long lines for hours, some of us for up to eight hours in the hot sun waiting patiently to exercise our constitutional right to vote and elect a democratic TCI Government and House of Assembly in order to relieve Waterloo of its duties as the interim government of the TCI.
Upon possessing office, it is reasonable and expected that a new incoming administration within its first three to six months would have some transitional and settling-in issues with the established Westminster protocols, their respective Permanent Secretaries, the Civil Service on a whole, and Waterloo. However, what’s not expected, is Waterloo taking such a heavy handed, autocratic and unreasonable approach with the new TCI administration’s political mandate; case in point:- Value Added Tax (“VAT”) which was signed into law on 18th July 2012, and scheduled to come into force on 1st April 2013. During the recent national election campaign, all of the local political party’s candidates ran and won nationally and within their respective constituencies, on an anti-VAT platform. Hence, they were politically mandated on 9th November 2013, amongst other things, to repeal the VAT legislation in the TCI House of Assembly at their earliest convenience. On 19th November 2012, when the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Hon. Mark Simmonds was asked in a question tabled in the UK House of Commons by Labour MP Hon. Brian Donohue, if he (Hon. Simmonds) would reconsider the implementation of VAT in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Hon. Simmonds went on record and publicly replied that: “The introduction of Value Added Tax is a decision for the Turks and Caicos Islands government.” Hon. Simmonds statement to the House of Commons gave our local elected members of the TCI House of Assembly much enthusiastic hope. However, in January 2013, Hon. Simmons responded in writing to the Hon. Premier Dr Ewing stating among other things: “I should be clear that I believe that, at this stage, the best option for the Turks and Caicos Islands is to press ahead with the implementation of VAT.”
VAT is just one example of the many heavy handed, autocratic and unreasonable decisions being made by Waterloo in an attempt to usurp the authority of the elected TCI Government and House of Assembly.
One does not have to be a learned person in political science, or profess to possess the gift of clairvoyance in order to foresee that this alleged co-governance of the TCI internal affairs is a recipe for disaster. Should such acts be allowed to continue, it will have a major tsunami like negative effect on the current socioeconomic affairs of the TCI, and will further delay for many years in the future, the recovery of the TCI economy. If the TCI are to move forward and regain its rightful place within the region, the FCO must allow the democratically elected TCI Government to govern without unnecessary interference in accordance to the autonomy granted through constitutional devolution.
Hon. Secretary of State, the TCI Citizenry was further insulted and disrespected by your appointed Attorney General via his inflammatory press release in January 2013, threatening prosecution, ten years imprisonment and fines of up to US$50,000.00 for anyone that publicly expresses their discontent and causes the TCI Judiciary to be looked upon with disrepute. Your appointed learned Attorney General should have been aware that the United Kingdom’s House of Lords on 10th December 2012, abolished the draconian law of “Scandalising the Judiciary” as a form of contempt of court under the common law of England and Wales. Lord Pannick stated among other things:- “It is no longer necessary to maintain as part of our law of contempt of court a criminal offence of insulting judges by statements or publications out of court. The judiciary has no need for such protection.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011 (“TCI Constitution”), Schedule 2, Part 1, Section 13, guarantees every person that reside in the TCI the right to Protection of Freedom of Expression; it expressly states the following:-
Protection of freedom of expression:-
“13.—(1) Except with his or her consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive and impart (to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his or her correspondence or other means of communication.
(2) Nothing in any law or done under its authority shall be held to contravene this section to the extent that it is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society—
(a) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health;
(b) for the purpose of protecting the rights, reputations and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, regulating telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting, television or other means of communication or regulating public exhibitions or public entertainments;…
Has democracy and the constitutional fundamental rights and freedoms of the Citizenry of the TCI sunk so low that the TCI has now reverted to the era of Apartheid South Africa in the 1970′s and early 1980′s under the oppressive regime of Prime Minister then later President Pieter Willem Botha? Should that be the case, then let me be the first to enlighten your appointed learned Attorney General; the TCI is not South Africa, we are not South Africans, and this is 2013. The days of using draconian laws to silence, threaten, and intimidate the majority into submission to the minority, those days are long gone. We the People of the TCI refuse to remain silent any longer, and refuse to be dictated to by the minority. Today we are empowered, highly learned in the law and have the financial means to fight to the bitter end to defend our democracy and protect our constitutional fundamental rights and freedoms.
According to you Hon. Secretary of State in a written ministerial statement on 12th June 2012, in your update to the House of Commons on progress on the restoration of good governance, and plans to hold elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands, you stated in your conclusion among other things the following: “The UK believes that democracy, whether in an independent country or in an Overseas Territory, provides a solid foundation on which to build an accountable and responsive state. This belief underpins our work to advance democracy worldwide. We will support TCI to develop its democracy in line with our responsibility for security and good governance and our positive vision for our Overseas Territories.”
If what has been happening, and is now being allowed to continue to happen in the TCI since 9th November 2012 (i.e. the Political Will of the democratically elected TCI Government and House of Assembly is being ignored and usurped, and the Constitutional Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the TCI Citizenry are now being attempted to be suppressed through fear and intimidation by your appointed Governor, Attorney General and by extension you as head of the FCO), then UK’s definition of “DEMOCRACY”, is no different than that of the Republic of Cuba, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the People’s Republic of China, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, hence making the United Kingdom one of the biggest and most blatant hypocrites’ of this new millennium.
As a result of the heavy handed and autocratic approach being meted out by Waterloo, one good thing has derived from such actions; it has united us as a people and further strengthen our resolve to never give up fighting for our democracy and constitutional rights. On Friday 1st February 2013, an historical event took place for the first time in TCI political existence, all of the democratically elected members of the TCI House of Assembly debated with sincerity and ensuring unanimously voted to repeal the Value Added Tax legislation. The result was a super majority victory with all of the elected members on both sides of the aisle voting “YES” to repeal. This demonstration of national unity was a loud statement to the UK and the world that we the People of the TCI have spoken, we are finally maturing politically, and we are determined to reclaim and preserve our democracy.
Schedule 2, Part 4, Section 74 of the TCI Constitution, bestows upon Waterloo the powers to assent, and/or recommend amendments, or veto any bill that was ratified by the TCI House of Assembly. However, should you Hon. Secretary of State choose not to have Waterloo assent to the express will of the People of the TCI, and have the bill vetoed, then the world will finally know that Democracy in the Turks and Caicos Islands has died, and the Turks and Caicos Islands are being ruled under an Autocracy regime, and the elections of 9th November 2012, was nothing more than political theatrics to quell the local and international political pressure that had reached it limits.
Hon. Secretary of State, the vast majority of the TCI Citizenry, its full and part-time residence has lost all respect and confidence in your current appointed Governor of the Territory, and the current Attorney General as chief legal advisor to Waterloo, and the local elected TCI Government. Therefore, we Turks and Caicos Islanders are humbly and respectfully requesting that you urgently address the situation in the TCI before it escalates any further. The people of the TCI have reached the point where we will not tolerate much longer any further disrespect from your appointed personnel. Please honour your promises and statements made to the TCI during Hon. Premier Dr Ewing most recent visit to London in mid-November 2012, and prove to the world that the United Kingdom is a pillar of democracy.
I am publishing this letter openly in order to bring this matter to the attention of the international community.
Albray V. Butterfield, Jr.
A concerned proactive Turks and Caicos Islands corporate citizen
Hon. Mark J. M. Simmonds, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
His Excellency Governor Damian R. Todd, UK Governor of The TCI
Hon. Robert Hall, Speaker of The TCI House of Assembly
Hon. Premier Dr Rufus W. Ewing, Premier of The TCI
Hon. Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, Leader of The TCI Opposition
Hon. Members of the TCI House of Assembly