By David Tapfer
The Turks and Caicos Islands is a representative democracy. So are Britain and the USA. Members of the policy- and law-making government are elected by local constituencies and are expected to represent the needs of their district. Possibly nowhere else in the democratic world is this more misunderstood than in the TCI.
David Tapfer is a retired, US-born engineer and management executive. He is the former chairman of the Middle Caicos Branch of the Peoples Democratic Movement
We made a giant step in broader thinking by setting up “at large” candidates, who are elected by all the districts combined. Like the presidential race in the USA, we had the “at large” election. However, we seemed to regress in Provo, North and Middle Caicos. We have, in my personal opinion, entirely too many election districts in Provo. The issues that affect Long Bay also affect Blue Hills and the other four Provo districts. Long Bay voters drive all over Provo. All Provo road issues affect all Provo residents. Education, same situation.
We now have six weak representatives in Provo. The opposition winners have no power to do anything for their little corners of Provo. The three ministers could do something but are distracted by their ministries and trips. We need to split Provo into two districts with two powerful representatives.
Big old Middle Caicos, now thinly populated, has separate issues. Decades of principally PNP representation have left Middle Caicos virtual destroyed. In the 1930s, Lorimers had over 700 residents and, due to Robert, Sam, Jeffrey and now Don Hue, we are hard pressed to find 100 people in Middle Caicos, the largest most beautiful island. Jeff and Sam built their personal business in Provo and Robert ran off to Grand Turk. If the Marriott was building in Middle Caicos, our people would flock back home and schools on Provo would be relieved.
North Caicos needs to review what happened there. Belfield Landing was a mistake, Royal Reef, North Caicos Yacht Club and St Charles Place -- all overpriced and under financed. North and Middle Caicos are now in the same basic condition Provo found itself in 30 years ago. I find the concept of electing people who live somewhere other than their constituency ill advised.
Perhaps it is time to think outside the box and across party lines.
The at large candidate receiving the most votes needs to be premier; the people elected her. The other four at large candidates need to be our ministers. District candidates need to spend their time in their districts not in Papua New Guinea. Interesting is that at least one elected constituency representative is not permitted to visit the USA but is still electable.
If we revised our parliament to achieve popular at large ministerial empowerment, we would see unity among the political parties, less chance for corruption. Again, district representatives need to stay home in their districts and provide their constituencies with the representation they deserve.
Five ministers is enough and all from the “at large” winners. Finance, education, immigration-labour, development-tourism and health are the important ones. The others can be handled by thr civil service or have their responsibilities split up. Land can be handled by the minister for development. The ministry of government support services is unnecessary. Voters need to ask why our head doctor, an at large winner, is not health minister, addressing health issues and costs.
The FCO would approve this kind of thinking; how about the people we elected to represent us?