|Constitutional reform deadline extended||| Print ||
|Written by Richard Green/fp staff|
|Wednesday, 12 January 2011 18:14|
The Consultative Forum and Advisory Council spent the final days before the Jan. 14 deadline formulating their position on recommendations for changes to the 2006 Constitution and electoral process.
The two interim government- appointed bodies met in a joint, open session Jan. 11 to receive comments from several political and business leaders. Then they met together behind closed doors Jan. 12 to finalize their response to Constitutional and Electoral Reform Adviser Kate Sullivan’s latest round of suggested reforms.
After the elected government was suspended in 2009, Sullivan was hired by the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office to review the Constitution and election laws and make recommendations after public consultation over the last year. She was instructed to look at the balance of power between the governor and the elected Turks and Caicos Islands government, the political and electoral process, citizenship, residency, public finance and government integrity.
Both the Progressive National Party and the Peoples Democratic Movement refused to participate in the process, instead creating their own All Party Commission to draft recommendations for the Constitution and other matters. They also have demanded direct negotiations with U.K. ministers.
U.K. ministers have not said if they will have direct negotiations with TCI political leaders, but the ministers will be the ones who decide what changes are made.
The core difference between the two proposals is that Sullivan’s seeks to streamline elected government and give more power to the governor. The FCO and former governors have been criticized for not exercising proper oversight which led to suspension of the Constitution, and the FCO has said it will take a more active role in the future.
The All Party Commission recommends reducing the powers of the governor and creating more local government control and the addition of a new Senate.
PNP Leader Clayton Greene refused an invitation to appear at the forum’s meeting Jan. 11, saying he does not recognize the legitimacy of the forum or the council. Asked if he thought the meeting would make any difference in the outcome of reforms, Greene said, “I am hopeful that it does, but I am doubtful that it will.”
PDM Leader Doug Parnell appeared at the meeting, calling for an extension of the Jan. 14 deadline and a referendum on any changes, which should come with a timetable for independence for the British Overseas Territory, he said.
At 6 p.m. Jan. 12, the government announced that the comment period would be extended until Jan. 31.
“I welcome the responses I have already received to my revised recommendations from individuals and groups in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Sullivan said in a press release. “I am also grateful to the Consultative Forum for convening yesterday’s (Jan. 11) meeting. I would like to give some more time for reflection on the discussion in the forum, and to provide the opportunity for further comments on my revised recommendations.”
Carlos Simons, the former forum chairman who resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for leadership of the PNP, said the process needs to move forward as quickly as possible so that elected government can be restored. “We cannot continue to linger in this no man’s land of direct rule from the U.K.,” he said.
Simons said widening the governor’s powers will move the TCI further away from independence, which the U.K. should be encouraging.
Derek Taylor, former PDM leader and chief minister from 1995-2003, repeated a theme that has been at the forefront of the Constitutional debate: The government’s custodians are to blame for the country’s problems, not the Constitution.
“We cannot be treated as little children,” Taylor said. “There must be accountability on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Attorney General Huw Shepheard and council members noted all suggestions made at the meeting, including the governor’s powers, public finance, campaign finance and voting methods.Below are some of the recommendations by Kate Sullivan and by the All-Party Commission for changes to the 2006 Constitution.
All-Party Commission recommendations
Sullivan’s latest recommendations
Click HERE to read Sullivan's full report.
Click HERE to read the full All Party Commission report.
Click HERE to read the 2006 Constitution.
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