When the list of 160 persons or so who applied for Turks and Caicos Islander Status was revealed, many persons reacted with shock, anger and amazement. Based on the expressions, it seemed that many were not aware of the content of the Turks and Caicos Islander Status Bill. Perhaps they were not aware because only 550 persons participated in an online survey and 305 people attended the public meetings.
Ironically though, the current opposition stated that the law should not be implemented in its current form. However, the law is already in place and if anyone does not want the law to be implemented, then a parliamentarian has to make a move in the House of Assembly to repeal the law and I don’t think anyone has made that move as yet. It should be noted though that amendments were made to some of the provisions of the law in 2018.
The main purpose of this article is to explain the process on how a bill becomes a law and how a law can be repealed.
How does a bill become a law?
A bill becomes a law through a number of steps. First of all, cabinet has to approve a bill proposal for an ordinance. Before cabinet approves the bill, there should be internal and external consultation. Once approved by cabinet, the bill moves to the House of Assembly for debate. It is debated for three readings and if the majority of members agree to the bill, the bill is passed and becomes a new Ordinance. The next step is that the Governor assents to the new Ordinance and it becomes a law. The law then comes into effect by a commencement notice.
It should be noted that any member of the Parliament can moved for a Bill to be presented to the House but if it requires expenditure from the Consolidated Fund, then the bill must be moved by a member of Cabinet.
How to repeal a law?
The steps for repealing a law are similar to the steps a bill becomes a law. A bill to repeal the original Ordinance or relevant provisions of an Ordinance has to be moved in the house and debated for three readings and if the majority of members agree, it is passed and become the new Ordinance. The Governor assents to the new Ordinance and it becomes a law. The new Ordinance is commenced by a Commencement notice and once commenced the original Ordinance is repealed.
The Turks and Caicos Islander Status Bill
The Turks and Caicos Islands Status Bill was debated in the House of Assembly in September 2015. The Governor assented the Ordinance on September 30th 2015 and the Bill was published in the Gazette on October 9th 2015. Apparently the only element that was left was the establishment of the Turks and Caicos Islander Status Commission.
Turks and Caicos Islander Status Commission
Recently the membership of that Commission was announced comprising of 5 members, the chairman, two members appointed by the Premier and two members appointed by the Leader of the Opposition.
The functions of the Commission are as follows:
- Review applications for the grant of Islander status.
- Make recommendations to the Governor for the grant of Islander status no later than October 31st of each year.
- Make recommendations for revocation of Islander Status to the Governor.
One of the main roles of politicians is to create legislations. However, if politicians (whether in opposition or government) realize some of the laws created were mistakes, there is nothing wrong with admitting mistakes. Repeal the laws or amend portions of the laws that you think are mistakes rather than just talking. Actions speak louder than words.
I know many people are upset with some of the names on the list but we really cannot blame the applicants for applying if they felt they met the requirements of the law. It will now be up to the Turks and Caicos Islands Status Commission to make recommendations to the Governor for the grant of Islander status.