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TCI Elections In Limbo

Less than four months after electing their first local government in more than three years, Turks and Caicos Islanders could be headed back to the polls soon if a judge rules that several of that island’s elected officials violated election laws.

Six members of the TCI House of Assembly – two from the governing party – the Progressive National Party (PNP) and four from the Opposition party – the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), are awaiting a decision from Chief Justice Edwin Goldsbrough that will determine whether new elections will be held.

The legal wrangling started after the TCI Integrity Commission reported serious concerns about those members’ failure to make certain declarations ahead of their nominations for last November’s general election.

Court proceedings got underway on Thursday and lasted through the weekend with a decision expected to come early this week.

A by-election for at least one seat is already scheduled for this Friday.

However, it could very well be called off if the chief justice rules that the PNP candidate in the upcoming by-election Amanda Missick is ineligible to run.

Ms. Missick, who was declared the winner for the Cheshire Hall/ Richmond Hills district in the November 12 General Election, was unseated after an earlier court decision that nullified those election results and ordered a by-election.

Ms. Missick is again offering herself as the PNP candidate for the district, but this time her eligibility is being questioned after the TCI Integrity Commission claimed that she failed to meet the deadline to declare her candidacy for the by-election.

This case involving Ms. Missick is being particularly closely watched because if she is ruled ineligible to contest the seat in Friday’s by-election, the remaining candidate will be declared the winner.

If this happens, it could result in a change of government with power being handed over to the current Opposition party, the PDM.

“This is a unique case where you have six seats can all be disqualified, decided, contested within these hearings and it will disqualify at least one of the people as a candidate in the upcoming by election and for four or five others it could create more by elections,” says Joddy Henry, a reporter with TCI television station WIV 4. “In essence it will be a general election all over again.

Everyone here wants to put some conclusion to these matters and know once and for all who the government for the Turks and Caicos Islands is.”

The hearings are also creating some concern among Islanders as to whether these proceedings are an orchestrated attempt on the part of the British Government to again seize control of the TCI.

In March 2009, the British Government ruled that there was widespread corruption on the part of the local government and subsequently suspended the TCI Constitution and full power of the day-to-day administration of the island nation was transferred to the governor.

TCI Premier Dr. Rufus Ewing was sworn in to office after leading the PNP to victory in last November’s elections.
The premier hardly minces words when it comes to talking about his tumultuous relationship with the British and like many other Turks and Caicos islanders, he too questions the veracity of these hearings.

The men and women who are being scrutinised are upstanding citizens and their reputations are being damaged by this process,” Dr. Ewing said. “The governor and the [UK Foreign Secretary William Hague] themselves are speaking to this issue of corruption as if these people have been found guilty of some wrongdoing already.

“I think as responsible senior and high-ranking government officials in this country and the UK, they must know better than that. But they take the opportunity to utilise those particular bits of information to misconstrue them, to influence the minds of the voting public and to confuse the electorate.”

The premier acknowledged that the previous PNP administration greatly damaged the party’s reputation and raised considerable doubt on the part of voters about the local government’s ability to rise above corruption, but he adds that it is time to move on.

“What happened in the past is in the past,” said Dr. Ewing. “You cannot take the doings of the past to whip the present government even though it is the same organisation you can’t take what the previous government did to whip the members who are different in the same organisation going forward.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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