Everybody must agree on a paper to move forward.
The Turks and Caicos Islands have less than two years now before the electorate goes to the polls to vote for a new Government. This is also normally the time when the Government of the day will do its best to expedite policies and projects. This is also the time when the Opposition will become more visible making so many promises so that they can become the next Government.
I believe that there are people on both sides of the political field that have good intentions, but they don’t realize what they are getting into, until they are already in Parliament. I have had conversations with some members of both political parties and a big challenge is the operation of the cabinet.
The operation of cabinet
The cabinet comprises of the Governor, the Deputy Governor, the Attorney General, the Premier and the seven ministers who are appointed by the Premier. Each member of cabinet can present a paper, however, for the paper to move forward, all members must agree to the paper. This agreement of all members is known as consensus. Therefore, if the Premier and the seven ministers agree to a paper and the Governor, or the Deputy Governor or the Attorney General does not agree, then the paper cannot move forward.
The members of the cabinet are also “sworn” to secrecy. If there are disagreements in cabinet, the members agree not to discuss the disagreements outside of cabinet.
The tying of political hands
From the time we return to ministerial government in 2012, the politicians have been complaining about their hands being tied primarily since everybody in cabinet has to agree to the paper for it to move forward.
This must be an awkward position for some of the politicians to be in, especially since they campaign on so many promises. Maybe this is why the free tuition at the Community College is for Turks and Caicos Islanders and BOTC because a free tuition for Turks and Caicos Islanders in cabinet could not be agreed by everybody. Maybe this is why the stimulus was for Turks and Caicos Islanders and BOTC because a consensus could not be reached for a stimulus for Turks and Caicos Islanders only. Maybe that is why the Housing policy could not be restricted to Turks and Caicos Islanders only because they could not get a consensus in cabinet. Quite frankly, if I were a member of cabinet and a paper was presented for Turks and Caicos Islanders only and it was rejected, then I would withdraw the entire paper rather than amending it to include everybody.
Untie your hands.
I challenge the politicians to untie their hands by saying no to any revised paper that is different from what they wanted. I know I am not in politics, and it may be easier said than done, but the operation of cabinet should not continue to be the way it is. The elected members should have the final say.
With that said, I also challenge the politicians to push for a change in the definition of consensus. You should not continue to complain about your hands being tied if you do not have it on your agenda as part of your constitutional reform.
I think consensus should be the majority and not agreement by everybody. I have been working in the private sector since 1991 and consensus means majority. Ironically, I spoke with a few politicians who served in cabinet prior to 2012, and they said that consensus did not mean everybody must agree, it meant majority.
Really and truly, most people do not agree to everything in life and so why should this be the case for the cabinet of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The personality of the Governor
The personality of the Governor appears to be a big factor in the consensus. I know some successive governments have had many challenges in cabinet due to the attitude and personality of the Governors. However, Governor Dakin appeared to be one governor that both political parties were able to work with in cabinet to get their papers passed. However, I still believed someone other than our elected officials pushed to have the BOTC included with Turks and Caicos Islanders for the tuition and the stimulus.
I know the Governor presides over the cabinet, but I believe that the Governor should respect the wishes of the elected officials when they present a paper to the cabinet.
I hope I clearly and correctly explain how the cabinet currently works. I got this information from current and former members of the cabinet.
Our current government has 14 elected members of which 8 people are ministers and members of cabinet. Even though there are 8 of them in cabinet, if the Governor, the AG or DG disagrees with their papers, their papers cannot move forward.
I encourage all the politicians to understand clearly how cabinet works and if you know you cannot work under these terms, then don’t put your name up to run and if you put your name up to run, then do all what it takes to bring about a change in the operation of cabinet.
The House of Assembly does not require the agreement of everyone, it requires the majority to agree. Why shouldn’t the same apply to cabinet?