The foreign office needs to do better.
On October 17th, 2023, an article was published in the Guardian titled “Turks and Caicos engulfed by gang warfare, says Foreign Office report.” I debated whether to discuss this article but after reading the article multiple times, I feel that a response is necessary.
First, the article is about events that took place in 2022. While we continue to face criminal activities like all other countries including the UK, they are not at the same level as they were in 2022. The article should have provided the readers with an update and let the readers know that criminal activity in 2023 is not at the same level as 2022. 2022 was an exceptional year for our country and what happened in 2022 does not happen every day in TCI. The report stated that gang warfare resulted in 31 murders in 2022 but it did not state that to date for 2023, it is 17.
This leads me to the next concern. The article is not only old news but also misleading. Some people will not even read the entire article but will look at the headline of the article and conclude that Turks and Caicos is indeed engulfed by gang warfare. We have gangs but we are not engulfed by gang warfare. The article implies that all our streets are taken over by gangs discharging rifles in the streets. Furthermore, remember TCI is not just one island, it is multiple islands that comprise TCI. I know we have issues, but the report is not balanced.
According to the article, the Foreign Office started the investigation in March 2022 and concluded in November 2022. It has been almost a year now and why were the findings of the report not presented to TCIG. I assumed it was not because we had not heard about it. Furthermore, if the Foreign Office was doing an investigation and has concluded that Turks and Caicos is engulfed by gang warfare, then what have been done by the Foreign Office to alleviate this “gang warfare.”
The report compared the Turks and Caicos to other overseas territories. However, no other overseas territory is experiencing the influx of illegal immigrants and the shanty towns like what is happening in Turks and Caicos. These are some of the issues that are creating criminal activities. I think the Foreign Office has failed in helping us to protect our borders. There is also a perception that this government and successive governments are under pressure by the UK to enlarge our franchise and in so doing, this is an incentive to attract more people to our shores.
Small boats from Haiti and Jamaica
While the report has acknowledged that illegal immigration is one the causes for the increase in crime, it is interesting that the report stated that the illegal immigration increased due to the small boats from Haiti and Jamaica. Of course, I believe we are all aware of the boats coming from Haiti, but who was aware of boats coming from Jamaica. Again, what efforts have been made to protect our borders if the Foreign Office is aware of illegal immigration and the impact it has on crime.
Royal Turks and Caicos Force
The report stated that there are several failures in the Royal Police Force. Isn’t this a reflection of the leadership of the Police Force. The Royal Police Force was headed by someone from the UK who gained the confidence of the Governor and our leaders. For years, many residents have been concerned about the alleged corruption and performance of the Royal Turks and Caicos Force. However, it appears no action has been taken other than the recent announcement that they are looking for a new Commissioner of Police.
Corruption across the TCI public service system
The report stated that based on the response from a survey, corruption is spread across TCI public service system, and it is the second criminal activity concern next to murder.
My concern is what role the Integrity Commission plays in addressing the alleged corruption. Is the Integrity Commission effective? After all, the mission statement of the Integrity Commission is “The Integrity Commission will lead in combating corruption, promoting integrity and increasing legal compliance amongst persons in public life so that public life resources are used fairly and for benefit of all TCI people.”
I think all of us should be concerned about the contents of the report. There is nothing wrong with the Foreign Office commissioning a report, however this report was concluded in November 2022, and we are now approaching November 2023. Are the issues in the report being addressed? How is it that this report got leaked? What is the Government saying about this report? What are the residents of TCI saying about this report?