Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Rule of Law in the Turks and Caicos Islands

By David Rowe
Caribbean Journal - Op-Ed Contributor

In a political blast that threatens to cause a constitutional crisis in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the current Premier, Dr Rufus Ewing, has asked Her Majesty’s Government to recall Governor Ric Todd, Attorney General Huw Shepheard and CFO Hugh McGarel Groves.

This development is the most recent in a sequence of historic constitutional developments in the Turks and Caicos. But there has been serious corruption in the Turks and Caicos, and any potential recall of the Governor would simply not help in resolving these longstanding problems.

The Turks and Caicos had its 2006 constitution suspended in August of 2009, when the United Kingdom resumed direct control over the Turks and Caicos in response to widespread allegations of serious government corruption.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office reviewed a Commission of Inquiry led by Sir Robin Auld, who had documented widespread government corruption among government officials including Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Michael Misick.

This is not the first time that the British had imposed direct role as they had done so in 1986, although it was later restored two years later.

Michael Misick resigned after the Auld Commission of Inquiry accused him of corruption and he was later asked by the Turks and Caicos’ newly-formed Special Investigation and Prosecution Team to surrender to the police for questioning.

Misick failed to surrender, however, and after a sojourn in a series of Latin American countries, was later arrested in Brazil after he was made the subject of an Interpol international arrest warrant.

The SIPT investigators who are seeking to question Missick have charged at least 12 other individuals, including five former Cabinet Ministers, on corruption-related charges.

In related circumstances, the SIPT reached an agreement with Sandals Resorts International, by which the company paid $12 million US dollars to the government.

The British Foreign Office introduced a new Turks and Caicos constitution in 2011.

The new constitution ultimately restored representative government to the Turks and Caicos with a local Cabinet, Ministers and a House of Assembly consisting of 15 elected members, chosen democratically in a vote in November 2012.

That election saw the return to power of the Turks and Caicos’ Progressive National Party, which won 8 of the 15 seats.

Earlier this month, however, one of the seats was declared vacant because of a successful election petition. A by-election is pending which could lead to a change of government next month.

In Ewing’s letter seeking a recall of the Governor and other officers. He suggested that “justice is for sale,” under the guise of plea-bargaining.

Dr Ewing specifically referred to well-known expatriate developers who had, in his opinion, secured their freedom from prosecution, both by monetary exchange under the guise of “Civil Recovery”, and by providing evidence against accused local politician “co-conspirators.”

In his letter to the Foreign Office, Dr Ewing implicitly suggested that there was a violation in the Rule of Law in the way in which the Constitutional Rules were being interpreted in the Turks & Caicos.

Professor AR Dicey, the British scholar famous for his jurisprudential theory, says that no one is above the Rule of Law, and he points out that the Rule of Law strengthens democracy.

Of course the Turks and Caicos is still a British Overseas Territory, and ultimately the Rule of Law will have to be determined by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Rule of Law dictates that the British Administration should be fair to all defendants both local and expatriate. But the allegation that “justice is for sale” should, at all costs, be disproven.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla.

February 14, 2013

Caribbean Journal