Published On: Thu, Nov 29th, 2012

Turks and Caicos parliament reopens, but is it constitutional?

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands - After a three-year hiatus since Britain imposed direct rule in 2009, the newly constituted Turks and Caicos House of Assembly was inaugurated on Wednesday, amid some unanswered questions over whether the relevant provisions of the territory’s new constitution had been observed.

Section 66(1) of the TCI constitution (Sessions of House of Assembly) reads as follows:

“66.—(1) The sessions of the House of Assembly shall be held at such times and places as the Governor may appoint by proclamation published in the Gazette; but there shall be at least one session in every year and a session shall be appointed to commence within two weeks after any general election.”

The constitution further defines “session” in relation to the House of Assembly as “the sittings of the House commencing when the House first meets after its prorogation or dissolution at any time...”

With the elections in the TCI having been held on November 9, 2012, a simple reading of the constitutional provisions would indicate that the first session of the new parliament should have commenced no later than November 23, 2012.

Earlier this week, Caribbean News Now asked TCI attorney general Huw Shepheard to explain or clarify the apparent discrepancy between the first meeting of the Assembly on November 28 and the provisions of the constitution apparently requiring that such session be commenced no later than November 23. No reply has yet been received from Shepheard.

In the meantime, however, the opening of the Assembly went ahead on Wednesday as planned, in the presence of Britain’s newly-appointed Minister for the Overseas Territories in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mark Simmonds, who is making his first ministerial visit to the TCI.

Simmonds said he was delighted to be able to visit the TCI at such a key moment in its history.

“I also want to say that it is imperative to recognise the significant distance that has been travelled since 2009. And also the excellent job that the interim government did in successfully turning around the public finances and the economy, to put in place a framework for good governance and strengthened the public service. The interim government also put TCI on the right path to economic growth, with GDP growing by 4% in 2011,” he added.

Simmonds said in closing that he is very keen to build a constructive, positive, two-way working relationship to further the security, sustainability and success of the people of the TCI and their government.

In turn, Governor Ric Todd said this is a happy day for the people of the TCI.

“My thanks and appreciation go also to all who have brought us to this happy occasion. To the election workers for example, to those in business, in government, in civil society, whose hard work and dedication enable the objectives of elections to be met... It is not of course easy to navigate a country’s future in these uncertain global times. But I we all remember the first rule of navigation, which is to know where you are and how you got there,” he said.

By Caribbean News Now contributor

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