In sunny Turks and Caicos, 'political amorality' forces Britain to retake control
Michael Misick resigned as prime minister of the Caribbean island on Mar. 23 amid corruption allegations. He calls Britain's return to direct rule 'modern-day colonialism.'
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Michael Misick, who until recently was the prime minister of this British overseas territory, has a lot to show for his nearly six years in government.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Providenciales, the commercial hub of this archipelago, 600 miles southeast of Miami, has gone from a sleepy tropical backwater to a sprawling suburban landscape of strip malls, five-star resorts, and red-tiled villas connected by a four-lane highway. Many outer islands have been turned into exclusive resorts attracting the attention of celebrities such as Bruce Willis, who got married at one last month.
But on Mar. 23, Mr. Misick resigned following the release of the initial results of an official corruption investigation which concluded there were clear signs of "systemic venality," "political amorality and immaturity," and "chronic ills collectively amounting to a national emergency."
The report, headed by retired British Lord Justice Sir Robin Auld, recommended the urgent suspension of the territorial constitution and the imposition of direct rule from London.
Misick has denounced the British plan as a return to colonialism and "a clear and present danger to the interest of our people," but many of his countrymen say it was time for him to go.
Lavish lifestyle at the people's expense?
Mr. Auld had heard five weeks of testimony at the Regents Palms Hotel here this winter, where witnesses described the prime minister's lavish lifestyle and questionable conduct in the sales of public land and the expenditure of taxpayer's money.
Misick's estranged wife, American model and sitcom star LisaRaye McCoy, testified that she spent up to $200,000 a month on clothes for her "first lady lifestyle" and that her husband, who was also the territory's tourism minister, arranged for the government to pay her $300,000 a month to be the face of an international tourism campaign.
She said they used a private jet to take personal vacations to Africa, Europe, and the United States and that she was led to believe the Gulfstream G-1159 belonged to them, and had even designed a family crest to be embroidered into its carpet. In fact, the public treasury of this territory of 32,000 people was paying for the jet, which was leased for $100,000 a month from a company owned by the country's US lobbyist, Jeffrey Watson, a personal friend of Misick who stayed at their $8 million Providenciales home.
After coming to power, Misick's salary and allowances doubled to $288,000 a year, which investigators pointed out was more than that received by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. ("I submit I have done more for Turks and Caicos than Gordon Brown has done for England," Misick responded at the inquiry.)
While in office, the prime minister, a real estate broker, continued to collect real estate commissions and, according to investigators, received $20 million in personal loans from banks, political appointees, and developers, many of which he conceded under questioning that he had not yet been required to make payments on.
"He was giving control of the country to developers," says Robert d'Arceuil, a Providenciales attorney who says the government had become "authoritarian and dictatorial," squelching opposition politicians' access to the media and "stealing" public land and resources.
British direct rule a necessary evil?