VOTERS in the Turks and Caicos Islands went to the polls yesterday to choose their new government in elections being touted by all sides as the most important in the British territory’s history.
The governing Progressive National Party (PNP) has campaigned that it has more than fulfilled its promises and is ready to take the territory to “the next level”, a view with which the opposition People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) naturally disagrees and with a newly-formed third party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA), calling for a new beginning.
Going to the polls, voters appeared to be split more or less equally between the two main parties. In the 2012 general elections, which the PNP won with a single seat majority, the PDM won the popular vote. However, this time many local observers consider the waters more muddied than ever.
In addition to the new PDA, there are ten independent candidates who could siphon off sufficient votes from their traditional party to affect the final outcome.
Among them is former premier Michael Misick, who is seeking to make a political comebacks despite being currently on trial for alleged corruption, fraud and money laundering. Misick, who had to be extradited from Brazil to stand trial on the various corruption-related charges, has not seen fit to run in his old constituency and some believe he realised that he would not have been accepted there this time around.
Another former minister running as an independent candidate is McAllister ‘Piper’ Hanchell, who is also currently on trial along with Misick, accused of similar corruption-related offences in an ongoing trial that could continue well into 2017 and is costing the taxpayers many millions of dollars.
What is therefore being closely watched is what the election result might show about the TCI people’s perception of the “systemic corruption” conclusion by a 2009 Commission of Inquiry, resulting in the eventual indictment of Misick and Hanchell along with three more former cabinet ministers. Those involved are all members of the PNP. It is not known how widespread the belief is that those charged on numerous counts of “systemic corruption” in PNP governments led by Misick between 2003 and 2009 have done nothing wrong.
Current Premier Dr Rufus Ewing told Britain’s Economist magazine that “the blame should be laid squarely at the feet of the British government” for failing in its responsibility for “maintaining and highlighting good governance”.
Another dynamic is the Haitian vote, counted upon in the past by the PNP, but now seems to not be as committed judging from their numbers at PDM rallies. Misick has wooed the Haitian support in his independent bid for an at-large seat, to the extent of bringing in former Haitian president and entertainer Michael Martelly, who openly endorsed him.
There have also been some defections from the PNP, most notably former minister Lillian Boyce, who is also on trial along with Misick and Hanchell. Her endorsement of opposition leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson was made during what many described as the largest campaign rally ever during this campaign season, held in Boyce’s old constituency and, incidentally, where the largest number of Haitian TC islanders reside.
Caribbean News Now