Response to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague RE-Premier Dr. Rufus Ewing Caricom Speech
Published in TCI POST on 15th of March 2013
Dear Mr. Hague,
I appreciate your latest correspondence as of March 12. I am encouraged by your reaffirming the ideals and objectives lined out in the Overseas Territory White paper. Let me assure you that we in the TCI are equally interested in a flourishing partnership with the UK. However, as I have pointed out before and will point out again, the current situation is nowhere close to the ideals and standards that the White paper prescribes. The remarks at CARICOM were in no way meant to offend, but to correct the path that our friendship has taken in the past 4 years. Unfortunately, previous attempts to address these issues on a less public level had all fallen on deaf ears. As such, these remarks should be seen as an attempt to strengthen the relationship between our nations, and a strengthening of this relationship can only happen on terms that are perceived as fair, transparent and appropriate by both the TCI and the UK.
Before I go into detail on what we have perceived as wrong and unjust, let me make one point very clear.
The current PNP administration can in no way be held responsible for any alleged wrong-doings that happened during the previous PNP government under Michael Misick. While we still wait to see evidence presented in a court of law concerning the alleged actions of select individual of that former administration, let me remind you that the current government consists of a totally different set of persons and none of them have been implicated in the investigations surrounding the old government. As you might recall, there were a number of highly publicized scandals in recent years which involved a large numbers of British politician, both Labour and Tory. However we would never discredit your party, the Tories because of the failures of these few individuals in the past. And we will not discredit your coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, because of Chris Huhne’s personal failures and his recent criminal conviction. And neither will we discredit the good reputation of the United Kingdom and Her Majesty’s Government because of these past yet regrettable scandals. I will kindly ask you to adhere to the same standards when you refer to my party, the PNP, to my government and to the Turks and Caicos Islands as a whole. We have come a long way to reform our party and we won the recent democratic elections, bringing a group of young and energetic Turks and Caicos Islanders into government. My government deserves a chance to prove itself and we do not agree with constant comparisons and finger pointing to former members of parliament, and I am sure you will understand our concerns.
Let me move on to point out some points that we find troubling and that have caused a great amount of misunderstanding between our nations.
First of all, we welcome your acknowledgement of a broad responsibility for good governance in our territory. In fact, we would have much welcomed this commitment in previous times while alleged Mal-governance and serious wrongdoings by elected officials are said to have caused the dire financial situation we find ourselves in. But let me remind you that the judicial process was and is in no way expeditious or transparent. While our country and our people have already been burdened with a $260 Million loan for undisclosed liabilities, humongous ongoing costs of the prosecutions, the loss of democratic representation, the threat of ever rising taxes, not to mention the loss of self confidence and dignity for our nation – we have yet to see evidence presented in a court of law. While the verdict for our electorate has already been spoken and the punishment has been executed on our people over the past years, we have yet to see the bigger picture and hard facts of how all of these alleged crimes could have taken place under a British Governor and FCO.
In regards to the process of these investigations, many of my countrymen are deeply worried about the fact that foreign developers of a certain skin color involved in these alleged crimes were given the option to settle their cases for multi-million dollar settlement fees, while our own people have not been offered this option and are now facing criminal trials and jail time. It is further worrisome that the investigation stops short of investigating some individuals at all, if I can just mention the fact that no British bureaucrat has ever been mentioned in this investigation, yet it is alleged that $3 to 5 Billion in crown land assets have been removed from our country and the Governor at this time signed off on every single transaction. It is hard to see transparent and responsible action in this process.
In regards to the outcome of this investigation, I have to remind you that the recovered amounts are only barely higher than the costs of the investigation which currently stands at over $13 Million, leaving only a tiny amount of net gains after lawyers’ fees. In the scope of the overall scope of the alleged crime, this can only be labeled as the proverbial drop in the ocean.
In regards to the case of Mr. Michael Misick, let me assure you that it is totally beyond the power of myself or my government to control the actions of this one man. Mr. Misick is a grown man and he is making decisions for himself. I can only assume that he is trying to protect his legal rights and human rights during this investigation, which he is very much entitled to.
However at this point, I will have to remind you that it took the British Government more than a year to fund the investigation against Mr. Misick and a few more years to come up with official charges, and then Mr. Misick was given again more than 9 months to allegedly conceive a child in Brazil, all of which has massively deteriorated chances of bringing a proper judicial process against this one individual into motion. Once again, the current situation is unfortunate for all of us however it is not the time to cast blame on my administration which was just elected less than 5 months ago.
Then let me move on to the issue of VAT, which in itself has stood out as a frightening example of a heavy handed, non-transparent and irresponsible approach to governance executed by the British interim administration, particularly by current Governor Ric Todd and the CFO McGarel-Goves. To implement such a massive new tax burden without proper consultation, against the will of the whole electorate and the whole business community, without any consideration of our economic situation and without any fine-tuning to our specific circumstances, this alone has all the markings of an arbitrary dictatorship and not the flourishing partnership that you cited. I could go on and fill many pages on this topic, however since the whole dilemma is so well documented, I will leave it at that. I will however mention that the recent refusal to sign the VAT repeal bill and to leave the tax hanging over our heads is an unprecedented case in both the TCI and UK legislative process. This has only lead to a further hardening in emotions for my people, which was so easy to avoid had we only been listened to early last year – this is what a flourishing partnership would have easily prevented from happening.
To close my response, let me make clear that we stick with our call to recall Governor Ric Todd and the Attorney General, and that we are relieved that the current CFO is leaving and will hopefully be replace by an individual that has an ear for our concerns and a heart for our country. The country is spiraling out of control with Ric Todd at the helm. Not only has he alienated every political and religious denomination in this country, he has caused much sorrow and distress for my long suffering people. We are a forgiving people but in his case, too many lines have been crossed, and too much disrespect has been displayed towards our country and culture. On top of that, we are faced with a deteriorating health situation and a rise in crime which has lead to the historic Travel Advisory by the US embassy issued yesterday. We are thriving to accomplish a flourishing relationship with the UK, however this will only be possible with a new set of representatives and a fresh new beginning.
Let me conclude by reiterating my believe that not all is lost, and that the TCI and the UK can move forward as a partnership between equals, and that we can learn from each other rather than pull each other down. There is a lot that is still to be achieved to improve our relationship, and we will not turn down any honest attempt to assist us and pave the road to the future. I hope this open discourse will set the foundation for a process that ultimately leads to the achievement of our goals.
Response to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague RE-Premier Dr. Rufus Ewing Caricom Speech