Foreign Affairs Committee: Press Notice

31 March 2010

UK Government is risking its credibility in Turks and Caicos and therefore other Overseas Territories, says Foreign Affairs Committee

The Foreign Affairs Committee today publishes its report into the governance of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), the British Overseas Territory that has been subject to a Commission of Inquiry and subsequent suspension of its constitution and reimposition of direct British rule while investigations take place into allegations of systemic corruption discovered by the Committee in 2008.

Chair of the Committee, Mike Gapes, says:

"Despite the progress that has been made since we first became aware of the allegations of corruption, the future of the Turks and Caicos is still far from secure. It is essential that the issues identified by us in our 2008 report and by the Commission of Inquiry are resolved to secure the well-being of the territory, or there may be a loss in public confidence.

"The overriding aim of the current British administration of the TCI must be to restore democratic self-government as soon as purging of the corrupt and dysfunctional political system has been completed and entrenched. It has already been twelve months since the Commission's interim report and still no decisive action has been taken against those suspected of corruption.

"There are solid reasons for regarding the Government's preferred July 2011 date for the end of direct rule as unrealistic. If elections proceed on this timetable, there is a real danger that politicians against whom serious allegations of corruption are pending could liquidate their assets and put funds beyond the reach of the authorities or seek to use bribery and intimidation to engineer a return to office. The Government should reassure the people of the TCI that a new constitution will not be put in place, nor elections held, until there is absolute confidence that the necessary reforms have been fully embedded.

"We are very concerned that the Government has failed to put in place adequate funding arrangements for the work of the TCI Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT), which must rely on funds from the already financially overstretched TCI Government to carry out its work - funds which are desperately needed for healthcare and policing. The UK Government was culpable in allowing a culture of systemic corruption to develop in the TCI unchecked, and now that it is officially intervening it has a responsibility to follow through with the required financial commitment. It is unreasonable to expect the people of the TCI to fund investigations and prosecutions relating to corruption for which they were not responsible. The UK Government must fully fund the SIPT or risk undermining its own credibility in its use of reserved powers in not just the TCI but in the other Overseas Territories."

Notes for editors:

1. The Foreign Affairs Committee's Report on the Turks and Caicos Islands is published at 11.00 British Summer Time (BST) (GMT+1 hour) on Wednesday 31 March 2010. It is the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2009-10 (HC 469).

2. Read our conclusions and recommendations.

Media enquiries:

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