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News from the Turks and Caicos Islands:

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Suspension of Turks and Caicos Constitution is not new in the region
Published on March 17, 2009Email To Friend    Print Version

By Oscar Ramjeet
Caribbean Net News Special Correspondent

Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Governor, Gordon Wetherell, in a broadcast to the territory on Monday announced that the constitution of the TCI would be partially suspended for two years following receipt of the final Commission of Inquiry report into government corruption, which is due on or before April 30, 2009.

This is not the first time that the Constitution in the TCI was suspended. Twenty-three years ago, in 1986, Britain took similar action following a publication of the report of an earlier Commission of Inquiry into arson, corruption and related matters. That report severely criticised both the Turks and Caicos government and the opposition for alleged malpractice and criminality.

Governor Gordon Wetherell
But perhaps the biggest and most controversial suspension took place in October 1953, when Britain suspended the then British Guiana constitution after the Jagan government was in office for only 133 days, claiming that the government was far too left, and that Jagan, the Premier, was an avowed communist.

The British Governor brought several battalions of British troops to maintain law and order after he suspended the constitution, but the British soldiers had little or nothing to do while they were in the then British Guiana. Everything was quiet; there was no reaction from the public. They had a good time drinking rum and having fun with local women.

Most countries in the Commonwealth criticised Britain for taking such drastic step because there was no evidence that the government was communist and it was wrong to throw out a duly elected government that had swept the polls less than five months before.

St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla had a disruption in 1971, four years after the islands gained full internal autonomy, when some leaders moved to secede Anguilla from the other two islands. Anguilla still remains a British Dependent territory while St Kitts and Nevis gained independence and is now known as the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.

The TCI Governor in his broadcast did not give many details, but he indicated that the Cabinet and House of Assembly members would be removed and that powers and functions currently exercised by Ministers would be exercised by the Governor acting in his discretion, including those in relation to public finances, legislation and necessary regulatory reforms.

The Governor added that an Advisory Council was to be established to assist him in the formulation of policy and exercise of his functions.

The Governor also indicated that the Commissioner, Sir Robin Auld, was not ready to formulate provisional findings or recommendations for the institution of a criminal investigation in relation to any individual or any interests he or she may have.

However, Governor Wetherell said, "I can confirm that consideration is being given to the establishment of a special civil recovery team, and the need to bolster the capacity of the police and to appoint a special prosecutor to undertake prosecutions which may be warranted in keeping with any evidence of criminality which may be disclosed by it (the final report).”

Meanwhile, reports from the TCI have stated that most people are pleased with the report, and they would like a special prosecutor to be appointed as soon as possible to track down those involved in corruption.
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