(L-R) Ministers Don Hue Gardiner, Amanda Misick, Rufus Ewing and Washington Misick
In last week’s House of Assembly meeting, comments made by Don Hue Gardiner and other ministers were said to be outside the normal business of the House and Gardiner and other ministers were cautioned by their own party members to observe protocol.
Gardiner said that attorney general Huw Shepheard was “filing law suits all over the place and not informing cabinet ... I find out about these suits from the papers.”
He then went on to say that, as an attorney, Shepheard was acting without instructions from his clients. However, the Attorney General’s Chambers are separate and apart from the business of government, and legal actions not affecting the business of government are separate from the business of the parliament.
Acting attorney general Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles told Gardiner to withdraw his comments, which he eventually did but laughed aloud as he did so, making his withdrawal appear disrespectful.
Other ministers began to make comments that were untrue and did not relate to House business. Minister Amanda Misick said that the constitution has them paralyzed. Premier Rufus Ewing complained about his lack of access to the statutory bodies.
Washington Misick said that the constitution needs to be changed because the attorney general is in charge of Crown land. However, this provision is not in fact part of the constitution. The 2011 constitution is very similar to the 2006 constitution except for certain limitations imposed as a result of the problems arising from the Progressive National Party (PNP) government between 2003 and August 2009 when the constitution was partially suspended by Britain, imposing direct rule at the same time.
These comments during Thursday’s House session were followed by remarks from PNP appointed member and former clerk of parliament Ruth Blackman and by PNP backbench member from South Caicos Norman Saunders, who told their colleagues to confine their comments in the House of Assembly to the business of the House and the Turks and Caicos Islands government.
The opposition also warned the government members to confine their comments in the House to relevant business and to tell the truth and be honest with the people of the TCI.
Many TCIslanders see the looming prosecutions of former PNP ministers by the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT) as distracting current ministers from performing their expected functions.
Complaints over prolonged delays in almost all areas of the elected government as a result of a lack of attention from ministers are frequently heard on the streets, both in Providenciales and Grand Turk.