It was a surprise and sudden, but it is a start.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are one of the few remaining places in the world that are not politically independent. However, our first Chief Minister, The Right Most Excellent James Alexander George Smith McCartney (JAGS) was in the negotiation process with the UK to make Turks and Caicos an independent country by June 1982. Unfortunately, JAGS died in a plane crash in 1980 and the PDM lost the elections in 1980. I was only ten years old at that time, but I recalled at the time, PNP (formerly the PNO) made the independence talk a campaign issue as the PNP was against independence at that time. I believe that is one of the reasons why they won the election because most people at that time were against independence.
The ironic thing is many people in the PNP party are now pro-independence while the PDM has remained quiet about independence. In fact, since 1980, I have not heard anyone in the PDM talked about an independent Turks and Caicos. I also recalled during one of the PNP administrations, there was a team of persons from the United Nations at Williams Auditorium to educate the public about independence and the opposition was totally against that.
Hon. Edwin Astwood’s opinion on independence.
Due to the PDM not stating their position on independence for the Turks and Caicos, I was very surprised when I heard the leader of the Opposition, Hon. Edwin Astwood announced at the swearing in of the new Governor, that he wants to see an independent Turks and Caicos but of course he said it must be something that the people want.
I was surprised because Hon. Astwood has been the leader of the PDM party now for more than two years and he also served in the previous administration as the Minister of Health for four years and at no time have, I heard Hon. Astwood stated his position on independence. Of course, one can argue that there is always a first and he now made his position publicly,
While I support Hon. Astwood’s statement, but I am curious as to why he waited until the swearing of the Governor to make that announcement. Furthermore, I challenged Hon. Astwood not to just leave us hanging with his words but to coordinate and educate the public on the pros and cons of independence.
Also, we need to know whether this is just Hon. Astwood’s personal opinion or whether this will be the position of the PDM party.
My opinion on independence
There are a lot of people that do not think we are ready for independence. In fact, whenever independence comes up, one of the first things some local people like to say is that we do not grow our own food so how can we become independent. There are some expatriates in our community as Titus De Boer mentioned in his most recent article in the Turks and Caicos Weekly news who say they would leave if TCI became independent. There are also others who say that if we observed the other countries in the Caribbean that became independent, that they are not better off and so we should remain a dependent territory.
I disagree with all the reasons. I think it is time we have a series of discussions on independence and hopefully our mindset and understanding will change. I was able to start a conversation on independence with Dr. Carlye Corbin who is an international advisor on global governance. Please check out my youtube channel for this discussion.
Based on the knowledge that I received from Dr. Corbin, I believe that the Turks and Caicos is ready for political independence from the UK. We are already financially independent of the UK so why not become politically independent from the UK.
My understanding is that the UK will be willing to grant us independence if is the wishes of the people. However, the people need to understand what political independence means and then they can make the decision as to whether they want to be free from the UK.
I encourage individuals as they talk about independence, not get political independence mixed up with financial independence. You can be politically independent but still be financially dependent or financially interdependent like the Bahamas and most other countries.
It is time we started educating the public about independence. It should not be a topic that we run away from and that is why I like the fact that Hon. Astwood brought it up even if it was a surprise.
As I end this article, I want you to consider this. The PDM party did not win the election in 1980 but they won several elections since then and had JAGS McCartney not died and was still in politics, the Turks and Caicos would be an independent country by now.