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.'
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Mr. d'Arceuil supports as a necessary evil the British parliament's plan to suspend the territory's constitution for two years, replacing its democratically elected legislature with direct rule by Gov. Gordon Wetherell, who is appointed by Queen Elizabeth. "The British [constitutional] guarantee of good government had to kick in," he says. "Every time we call Britain to assist us, we give them room to take away more of our autonomy, but the whole system of government had broken down." [Editor's note: The section heading in the original version suggested Mr.d'Arceuil had called the British plan a 'necessary evil,' which he did not.]Skip to next paragraph
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Misick, who denies breaking any laws, declined through his chief of staff to be interviewed for the article. In an address to the nation last month he condemned the British plan "in the strongest possible terms, for it silences the voice of the people, which is the voice of God." He said the action represented "the strong arm of modern-day colonialism" and called on the United Nations to intercede.
A spokesperson at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London said the action would be "a smart targeted intervention" that "would last no longer than it takes for the necessary reforms to ... take effect," hopefully ending prior to scheduled elections in 2011.
Most of the public support the suspension of the constitution, according to Gemma Handy, a reporter with the Turks and Caicos Weekly News who has covered the corruption hearings. "It's a shame to have had to come to this, but there really wasn't another option," she says.
Was Misick just misunderstood, underappreciated?
Mr. Watson, a self-described friend of Misick who served as an aide to former President Bill Clinton, said the prime minister was motivated by a desire to develop his country and had succeeded admirably. "In the region that the Turks and Caicos exists in, there are 32 countries, and 31 of them are all selling the same three things: sun, sand, and sea," he told the Monitor. "If you are trying to separate yourself from the others you'll be going to conferences and meeting investors all over the map."
"What one person may consider lavish may not be lavish to another," he said, adding that the developers and investors Misick courted live a jet-set lifestyle. Watson acknowledged that his firm did in fact lease a jet to the office of the prime minister, adding that Misick probably needed it "to beat [his] competition to the punch."
Misick testified that he regrets leasing the jet but that he – not the government – paid for personal trips.
Others question why Britain didn't act sooner, given the Turks and Caicos' deteriorating reputation and their governor's duty to ensure good governance.
"It's long been known as a lawless jurisdiction," says David Marchant, editor of Offshore Alert, a Miami-based newsletter covering offshore financial centers. "It's obviously been out of control, but if you're the [British] governor you have a choice between going there and having an easy life by turning a blind eye or to start doing your job properly and have a dangerous one."
The governor's office referred all questions to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office where a spokesperson said successive governors had been unable to investigate corruption allegations because "most people were previously unwilling" to come forward with evidence.
Auld is scheduled to present his final report by April 30, which will contain any recommendations for criminal prosecution. The British parliament is expected to suspend the constitution immediately thereafter.
"This has to be seen as an aberration," Mr. d'Arceuil says. "I firmly believe the people of the Turks and Caicos will make the right decisions once this corrupt administration is removed."