Turks and Caicos constitution suspended as UK resumes direct rule

[JURIST] Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Gordon Wetherell [official profile] issued an order [TCI press release] Friday suspending the British Overseas Territory's constitution [PDF text] and submitting to direct rule by the UK after being directed to do so by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website]. The FCO move follows a May 31 report [text, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] compiled by the TCI Commission of Inquiry [official website] led by Sir Robin Auld [Lamb Chambers profile] to Wetherell documenting widespread corruption among government officials, including former TCI Chief Minister Michael Misick, and recommending direct rule and the appointment of an independent prosecutor. Until Friday, the UK had not imposed direct rule on a territory since 1986, when it previously imposed direct rule on TCI [BBC report] over government misconduct. Ousted Premier Galmo Williams [official profile] decried [TCI press release] the UK takeover as a "coup" and claimed the "country is being invaded and re-colonized by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance." Martin Stanley [Civil Servants profile, PDF] has been appointed [TCI press releases] as TCI's new chief executive. Wetherell refused to call the imposition of direct rule a "takeover," and said he expects elections in the island nation by 2011, an expectation echoed by FCO Minister Chris Bryant [official profile].

Friday's order was made possible when, on Wednesday, London's Court of Appeal rejected [TCI Sun report] former Chief Minister Misick's claim that a proposed takeover would violate EU law. Misick resigned [AFP report] in March following the publication of an Interim Report [text, PDF; FCO press release] by the Inquiry Commission which accused Misick [BBC report] of corruption. The Inquiry Commission was established [Inquiry Commission press release] in July 2008 after media reports [BBC report] of corruption in TCI. TCI have had self-government since 1976, but plans for full independence have been abortive. Island politicians have several times considered and/or proposed union with Canada [CBC backgrounder]; the east coast province of Nova Scotia [JURIST news archive] most recently floated the idea [CBC report] in 2004.

 

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