A flagrant violation of TCI`s democracy – Premier

Weekly News reporter
THE POSITION of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was a flagrant violation of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ democracy.

These sentiments were expressed by Premier Rufus Ewing at the recently-held UK Overseas Territories Attorneys General four-day symposium held in Providenciales from 18- 22 September at the Blue Haven Resort.

Delivering the keynote address at the conference, Premier Ewing lashed out at the British for imposing a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) upon the country under the new 2011 constitution.

He said it was sold to the people that the position would remain until such time that the Loan Guarantee was lifted after repayment of the UK guaranteed bond.

Ewing who shocked the gathering with his strong sentiments, revealed his plan to introduce in a CFO Repeal bill to the House of Assembly to forcefully demonstrate his Government`s will to remove the CFO.

He said: "This Government upon assuming office took the stance as communicated in my letter to the UK Secretary of State in February 2013 that the position of CFO was a violation of the principles of democracy.

"The responses received made it blatantly clear that we would be fighting an uphill battle against the UK’s position and this administration made the decision to focus efforts on governing this country and aggressively embarked upon one of the most successful economic recovery strategies seen in modern times.”

"We deemed it essential to fortify ourselves to fight another day and relied on the guarantee of the UK Government that the position of CFO would be extinguished upon retirement of the UK Guarantee.”

Ewing reminded the conference that his government has since toiled arduously and the people have made tremendous sacrifice to achieve the economic recovery of the country.

"We have retired our debt in February of this year and discussions had commenced with the Overseas Territories Minister and FCO from December last year as we demanded that the U.K. Government uphold its end of the agreement with the people of these islands.”

It was agreed in the Government`s discussion with the UK Government that there would be a six month transitional period following the repayment of the bond.

However, this period expired at the end of August of this year and the UK government has failed to honor their end of the bargain to remove the CFO.

Ewing, while addressing the gathering said: "Ministers and AG's, separated by the ocean we may be, and in some cases by vast distances, there is much we have in common and much that we share beyond our status as colonies of the United Kingdom.

"We share a belief in justice, fair play, honesty and each of us at the knee of our parents learned the value of a promise and that a man's word is his bond.”

The Premier even quoted Ecclesiastes 5:5 which reads:"It is better not to make a vow, then to make one and not fulfill it," to get his point across.

He noted that as the leader of the nation he has a responsibility to speak out and stand up when a vow made to his people goes unfulfilled, especially when they have adhered to the principles and the rules.

He said: "Six months ago a promise was made to the government of Turks and Caicos and to Turks and Caicos Islanders.

"A vow agreed upon in the manner that all honorable men and women of integrity understand from a people and from a nation who have proudly, ably and more than capably, fought their way back from economic dependency under the scrutiny and spotlight of the world at large; under the institutions and standards of good governance. We have the undeniable right to expect no less than honorable actions by the FCO, whom I now advise in turn to beware of the scrutiny and spotlight of the world at large, should they continue to treat this nation in a dishonorable manner.”

He emphasized that six months ago Her Majesty's representative of the United Kingdom vowed that upon the payment of a $170M debt that the CFO would be removed by an Order in Council, which would allow the duly and lawfully elected representatives of the people to resume the rightful authority to manage the financial affairs of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The CFO, under the provisions of the CFO Ordinance, has absolute authority over the Public Finance Management Ordinance, and through his actions and by exercising his authority, has unilaterally appropriated funds whose expenditure were not sanctioned by the duly elected members of Cabinet.

Ewing pointed out that in several instances Cabinet opposed these appropriations where they were deemed not to be in the best interest of the people of this country.

"In addition to authorizing the spending of millions of dollars to the benefit of a UK initiated legal trial and investigation team, for which there is no accountability, an undertaking with no end in sight, the CFO has denied and delayed major policy initiatives and decisions of the duly elected government with no regard as to the far-reaching implications for the livelihood of our people and our businesses.

"In my meetings with all three of the successive Overseas Territories Ministers, who held office since we were elected to office, the Secretaries of State and DFID Ministers, I have discussed the following the issues of concern: "The UK Funding of the endless SIPT Trial, Constitutional Amendments and the role of the CFO and, to date, the UK government has continued to disregard the wellbeing of the people of this nation and has continued to abuse its responsibilities as a sovereign state.”

He asserted that the Turks and Caicos haS the right to its autonomy.

"I say this to you today, because there comes a time when words are insufficient and action must be taken, and I am prepared the take the action of removal of the CFO, and likewise call for an inquiry into the unaccountable and endless expenditure of the SIPT trial and seek to recover every cent of monies spent.”