Turks and Caicos Islands House of Assembly building in Grand Turk
After taking the maximum limit of three weeks in recess, the House of Assembly convened on Friday but little was done to solve the challenges the country is facing. The people of the islands are looking for employment, a lowered cost of living, improved health care and reduced health care costs. There are also concerns regarding the influx of illegal migrants, especially from Haiti (see separate story).
The most revealing portion of the meeting was the question and answer period, where a laundry list of questions had been submitted to ministers weeks before the meeting. This allows the ministers to engage the services of civil servants through their permanent secretaries to produce the answers.
However, in an apparent effort to reduce the amount of time allotted to answering the questions, most of which were posed by the opposition, each minister took time to provide a list of housekeeping activities their ministry had done on a day to day basis.
Premier Rufus Ewing
This began with Premier Rufus Ewing, who said that the previous Progressive National Party (PNP) administration had been instrumental in bringing in an increasing number of developments. However, as is well known, none of the few developments approved by the former administration had either been completed or, if completed, were not subsequently placed in receivership. This includes resorts and condominium developments owned by current and former PNP ministers.
Ewing went on to speak of increasing numbers of tourists under the PNP when in fact the numbers of stay over tourist arrivals went down and were frequently not even reported. Only the start up of the cruise port added to the numbers. These visitors pay $3.50 arrival-departure fees.
Despite claiming that his party had increased tourism, Ewing said that the previous downturn was due to world economic conditions.
Ewing attempted to take credit for the Dolphin Cove project on Grand Turk, which is receiving widespread disapproval on the part of environmental interests.
Finance Minister Washington Misick tabled the results of the 2012/13 budget. The actual figures will be reported when available. The 2013/2014 budget is still waiting on London’s approval of the Fiscal and Strategic Policy Statement (FSPS).
Amanda Misick, who at one point in her speech apparently had problems controlling her laughter, reported on her ministry of home affairs. She said is working a catching stray dogs and rounding up the loose horses, donkeys and cows on Grand Turk.
Opposition Leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson
At one point in these proceedings, the House session was interrupted by the leader of the opposition, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, who said that the speeches were too long and incorporated non-specific answers to the questions.
It appeared that the government itself had no agenda except to respond to what the opposition put before the House in the form of questions.
At one point, Don-Hue Gardiner, the Minister of immigration, disappeared then later returned. After fewer than half of the pending questions had been asked, the Speaker said he had to leave and so did Premier Ewing.
Rather than turn the House over to the deputy speaker, Josephine Connolly, the government members, supported by at least one of the governor’s appointed members, moved and voted to adjourn the session.
“Well you have the votes to shut this house down,” said Cartwright-Robinson.
The House session will be continued on May 15.