Since the return of the elected local government in 2012, both political parties have stated publicly their inability to govern the Turks and Caicos Islands effectively with the current constitution and hence efforts were made by the both administrations to the UK for a new Constitution
It is 2020 and elections will be held either this year or early 2021. Politicians will make a lot of promises to the electorate but if the Constitution is the issue then how will radical changes take place.
I believe the request for the Constitutional changes need to be brought back to the front line. I know the UK had called elections abruptly which delayed the talks and then subsequent to that was the emergence of COVID 19. However, despite these issues we should not delay our talks on the Constitution. COVID 19 has taught us we can achieve a lot remotely. We do not have to travel to the UK physically to request changes.
Some Constitutional issues
It appears that the most contentious issue is the role of the Governor in cabinet and the meaning of consensus. As a result of this, a lot of conflicts take place between our premiers and the Governors. You see the Government of the day may want to formulate policies to make lives better for their citizens but if there are no consensus in cabinet, the Government cannot proceed. This can stifle the Government and make the electorate think they are neglected. It seems what happens in Cabinet must remain in Cabinet.
The 2006 Constitution seems to be best Constitution to date where the elected leaders had more authority. Our current premier is being quoted as wanting the reinstatement of 2006 Constitution.
Another big issue with the Constitution is the management of land which is no longer under the portfolio of a minister.
One big issue the prior administration had was the role of the Chief Financial officer who had to approve expenditure over a certain amount. The Chief Financial Officer had more power than the Governor in terms of approving matters that are financial. Thankfully this role is no longer in place and so our current Government does not have this issue.
Another issue is that both administrations had an issue with non- elected officials such as the Deputy Governor and Attorney General having rights in cabinet.
Of course there are other issues but I highlighted the contentious ones.
Governing in general is a challenge. However, it is more challenging when you are unable to carry out your agenda that you campaign on. One of the frustrating things for me in the last two years at Cable & Wireless was the fact that anything over $5000 had to go through about 5 approval levels event though it is already budgeted for. Therefore I can sort of relate to what TCIG go through. It is so easy to criticize the incumbent but when you get in Government you realize that you are in the same boat.
If the current Constitution interferes with the governance of our country then I challenge our Government if they have not done so already to engage with the UK for changes to our Constitution. I also challenge the electorate to pressure the Government to do likewise.
It makes no sense to elect individuals to represent you if they do not have the power to do so. Furthermore, it should not matter on the personality of the Governor. Our current Governor appears to have a friendly relationship with the Government and the Opposition and I hope this is not the reason there is a delay in the Constitutional talks.
We should have laws in place that allow our elected officials to make decisions and govern effectively. We cannot let this one go by before the next general election otherwise we will be in same boat after this election if indeed the Constitution is the obstacle in governing effectively.