By Caribbean News Now contributor
LONDON, England — In a strongly worded letter on Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague described Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Premier Dr Rufus Ewing’s speech last month to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government as a substantial misrepresentation to the people of the TCI and to the leaders of the Caribbean.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague
“I have seen the speech you gave to CARICOM heads of government on 18 February about the relationship between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United Kingdom. I regret to say you substantially misrepresent both the past and the present situation to both the people of the TCI and to the leaders of the Caribbean,” Hague said.
Hague went on to remind Ewing that the previous government run by his Progressive National Party (PNP) “left behind a chaotic situation including — through incompetence, abuse of power and corruption — rapidly deteriorating public finances.”
“As a result, TCI was, in effect, bankrupt. In 2009 the UK government provided emergency funding to enable public workers to be paid. In 2010 we provided a guarantee that enabled the TCI government to borrow up to $260 million at an affordable interest rate in order to enable the government to maintain essential services while bringing public finances back under control,” he continued.
Hague said that Britain accepted broad responsibility for good governance in its Overseas Territories and referred to the 2008-2009 Commission of Inquiry in the TCI, which concluded that there was a high probability of systemic corruption among ministers, members of the legislature and public officials in the then TCI government.
The inquiry documented detailed information on corruption, dishonesty and abuse of public office by former premier Michael Misick and other ministers in the previous PNP government and recommended criminal investigation. As a result, Britain suspended parts of the TCI constitution providing for ministerial government and the House of Assembly.
Subsequent investigations have led to 12 former ministers and others being charged and the attorney general is seeking Misick’s extradition from Brazil to the TCI.
“Misick is resisting return to TCI and seeking political asylum,” Hague said.
He also pointed out that a prominent international law firm was appointed to recover misappropriated assets and has so far recovered $16.6 million, with a further $2.6 million ordered to be paid, as well as nearly 2,500 acres of Crown land recovered; all to benefit the people of the TCI.
The British Interim Administration implemented a broad programme of reform to deal with this situation and to help prevent it being repeated. It established a robust framework for good government and sound public financial management and integrity and accountability in public life.