In response to a request for documents under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has stated that, notwithstanding the imposition of direct rule by Britain in 2009, the Turks and Caicos Islands government is not part of the British government and the FCO has no access to TCI government documents.
Last month, TCI News Now requested the FCO to provide “a copy of the Development Order referred to in an agreement between the government of the TCI and the Sandals Group dated 11 October 2006… together with copies of all such unpublished Development Orders issued since 1 January 2003”.
Malcolm Kirk of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, Caribbean and Bermuda Section, responded to this request, saying, “After a thorough search of our records, I can confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not hold any information relevant to your request.”
He suggested that we may wish to approach the Turks and Caicos Islands government directly for this information.
Given the active and hands-on involvement in the affairs of the TCI by British ministers and FCO-appointed and supervised officials, not to mention the perception of TCIslanders regarding British direct rule, we appealed this decision, suggesting that to "approach the Turks and Caicos Islands government directly for this information" creates a somewhat anomalous situation, especially since the officials in the TCI to whom we would direct such a request all have fco.gov.uk email addresses.
We added that, on the face of it, the response to our request would seem to be a disingenuous attempt to avoid providing the information sought.
In response, John McManus, also of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, reconfirmed that FCO does not itself hold the documents requested.
He also rejected the argument that it was “disingenuous” to refer us to the TCI government.
“It is possible that they hold the document and so this was reasonable,” he said.
McManus said that it is also not correct to say that the “British government (through the FCO) is also the Turks and Caicos Islands government, having assumed direct rule in 2009”.
“The Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution (Interim Amendment) Order 2009 suspended ministerial government and dissolved the House of Assembly, and provided instead for the temporary governance of the territory by the Governor. [U]nder the TCI constitution, the Governor is the part of the TCI Government. Thus TCI is not subject to the UK’s FOI Act because, for the reasons as explained above the TCI Government is not part of the UK Government. It is, therefore, for you to approach the TCI Government for the required documents. There is no obligation for the FCO to do this on your behalf,” he stated.