11 Views no discussions Tweet NewsRegional Great strides made at London constitution talks, says Turks and Caicos party leader by: – June 21, 2011 Share The Turks and Caicos Islands delegation in London with Minister Henry Bellingham (centre) (FCO photo)PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — The People’s Democratic Movement seven member team led by Doug Parnell claims to have achieved great strides at the London constitution talks, as the team was able to successfully argue against a change of fundamental provisions of the 2006 Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution.Parnell said the PDM team had a few disappointments but for the most part he was pleased with the outcome of the talks and now wants to focus on rebuilding the Turks and Caicos Islands.Asked about the outcome of the London talks, the PDM leader said, “Well, I’ll never be satisfied until we can achieve the type of self determination for our people that would provide every man and woman who call themselves a Turks and Caicos Islander full and complete satisfaction of what’s in our own constitution; however, I must say that given the point where we started from in the draft, and certainly coming out of the recent history where the constitution was suspended and the legislature disbanded, I must say I think we have made some great strides in these direct talks with UK Ministers.”Composition of House of Assembly and Voting SystemParnell explained what was achieved as it relates to the voting system.“The voting system remains what our people are accustomed to, which is first past the post, and I’m pleased about that, and it’s a complete first past the post system. I argued and all the other persons who felt like I did argued very strongly on retaining the first past the post system for our people and I do believe that was a great move away from that mixed member proportional system that would have taken a mathematician a while to figure out who was elected in the Turks and Caicos Islands; we’ve moved away from those confusing clauses that found their way into the draft. So it’s actually fifteen first past the post. The FCO is very clear on that, the minister is very clear on that. The constituencies will be decided by a first past the post basis, and the five at-large constituencies would be decided on a first past the post basis, which would basically mean that the first five with the highest votes would win and that is well understood by ministers here in the UK and I understand it to be the case, and they’ve now written that in an FCO statement.”Four Appointed Members“As far as the appointed membership is concerned, one of the concerns we have is that if it is simply left up to the Governor to make those appointments then it may affect the numerical strength of the government and perhaps the confidence of the government and we’re very concerned about that.”Responding to a statement made Minister Bellingham that there will four Appointed members of the House of Assembly, two by the Governor and the other two by leaders of the two main political parties, Parnell said he is awaiting the exact language of that amendment .“We have to see the exact wording of that. I’m very eager to make sure that those two appointments satisfy me that it would not affect the numerical strength, the stability and the confidence that a government would need to have in the Westminster system to run a government.”Two Party SystemParnell said the country has spoken loud and clear in favour of the two party system.“I don’t believe that the party system is still on trial (after these talks). We were very successful at taking the two party system off trial. I think most of the people got the message loud and clear. I think Minister Bellingham, himself, being a democrat understands this. That’s a matter for an elected government to decide and as a democrat I was proud that he left certain elements of talks up to an elected government to solve. You can’t stuff all these things in one big constitutional bag.”Powers of the Governor“We went a great deal in the position paper criticizing the statement of governance principles, powers that the draft constitution sought to give the Governor and in these talks we moved far away from what was in the draft. Again I’m waiting to see the draft of what that looks like and hopefully that would reflect that what we agreed in those talks would be suitable for us. I think it’s very clear we can’t have a Governor that’s above the law, and we got those provisions out, we can’t have a governor that turns down the advice of the Cabinet willy-nilly, that’s out and I think we got those provisions out. But it also gives the system in the Turks and Caicos an opportunity to function. And when I say that I mean it gives the Governor an opportunity to say no in very rare circumstances if he cannot get in touch with the Secretary of State, but cabinet must be kept very well informed of what he is thinking ahead of time. This makes for better functioning of government in the Turks and Caicos Islands and these are all things that weren’t there in the draft that we got done, and so I’m pleased about that, that we have moved a long way from where we were in the draft about the Governor’s powers.”Trial By Jury“I’m not pleased with the fact that the request that my party made to have the right to trial by jury reinserted in the constitution as a fundamental right, only to be denied in very exceptional circumstances, was not considered. I must say I was disappointed that I did not get the type of support that I was expecting to get from other delegates on that provision, so I’m very, very disappointed in that, that’s a very sad thing for me to report. After we come out of this period and we have an elected government we won’t be able to go back immediately to reinsert that right to trial by jury. We will have to live with something that was done by a body that’s not elected by the people and to me that’s unacceptable”Belongership“One provision that makes me proud is that we were able to strike out those long and lengthy provisions for the definition of belonger in the Constitution and we have also changed the name of belonger to Turks and Caicos Islander. Which will help with our own understanding of who we are, number one, and we have also made it clear that there are certain minimum pre-conditions which were in the draft but were in keeping in alignment with what was in the Blue Ribbon Commission, an immigration review that was conducted some time back, and I’m pleased about that and I think that all members seem to support that provision that I put forward.”Deputy GovernorUnder the new constitution, the Deputy Governor shall be appointed by the Governor and must be a Turks and Caicos Islander. Parnell would like to see consultation between the Governor and the political leaders before any appointment is made.“What I’m concerned about there is that person is appointed after consultation with the Premier and the leader of the opposition. To me this is extremely important, because the Deputy Governor would be head of the civil service and could be called upon to exercise some authority, some decision making authority as it relates to the civil service. And so what I wanted to make sure was that the process would be made after consultation. There was general agreement about that. The Deputy Governor could be somebody that transcends different governments and so I think it is important that the person is someone who reflects the type of person that the House of Assembly would like to seen in that position. And to me that is extremely important. I think that we were very clear even in the 2006 Constitution though it is not a political position at this point.”New Governor“It was good that the timing of it came about when we were able to be informed about the new Governor. I haven’t look at his bio yet but I’ll soon do that, but we’ll see what he’s made up of and what he’s like. I believe that we still have a while left with Mr Wetherell and we’ve weathered a lot of storms with him here in the Turks and Caicos Islands and we have to get through this period with him then look forward to a strong capable Governor who can represent the views of the United Kingdom Governmentproperly to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, someone who respects the people of the TCI and takes into deep consideration our values, and I can’t assess that, I haven’t met him yet.”Achievement of Milestones and Date for Elections“What I can say is that at the public meetings, it was very clear that Floyd Seymour said we gave you our car to clean and you’re looking up in the transmission and so we need our car back. Mr Seymour is here with me in the talks and we have a date that we will get the car back on the road, and that date is coming closer and we have a date that will be announced soon and we expect that we will get that car back very, very soon.”Independence“The political parties in the UK have different views about the overseas territories. It is very clear that the Conservative Party who leads this coalition government in London feel very strongly about their territories and their links to the United Kingdom. That’s a matter for the people in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And we’ll have to assess coming out of this period when we are ready. In my mind I think there are certain periods of time that will be important to keep under review for when and if a question should be put. So that is where my thinking is at this point.”Youth Ambassador“I would like to pay a special compliment to the youth ambassador. I know there was a great deal of criticism of all the members leading up to these talks. I know I was very keen not to publicly in any way criticize any of the members… some of them with their own ideas however they came about acquiring those ideas about what they want to see in their constitution and I supported that, but Mr Farrington did a tremendous job as the youth ambassador and supported the views of my party and the other party which related to the voting system were in sync, he ought to be commended for that. As a young man coming to the United Kingdom he could have easily said no, this is not territorial waters for someone my age, but he stood up and sat up in the meeting and performed, and he was a man of his word to what was discussed at the Common Ground meeting.Putting God In The ConstitutionThe PDM leader said the PDM team was in full support of the preamble brought to the table by the TCI church and incorporating God into the constitution.“I can’t say I would say anything negative about any of the members. Pastor Handfield brought the preamble which we sought to add a word or two and I am looking forward to seeing the amendment on marriage between a man and a woman. We fully supported the church in those respects.”Two Term Limits of PremierParnell commented on whether he was bothered by the two term limit for the office of Premier.“We need to get back to democratically elected government. It’s not a big if, just do your work and leave the rest to God. No matter what comes my way I wouldn‘t say that’s a deal breaker at this juncture. The Secretary of State was very clear on what he wanted to see… the constitution of the Turks and Caicos Islands is in fact UK law until we are prepared to have that question put, we have to take some of it and move along so that we could rebuild our country developing our people and get back to the point of providing hope to the disillusioned and making sure that we can rebuild our economy which is badly suffering. One of the points we made was most people of the TCI if you had assets before the constitution was suspended if you have lost fifty percent of those assets. It is not a deal breaker; my views could be heard in a more substantive way for that provision.”Caribbean News Now Share Share Sharing is caring!