|Public meetings, live TV/radio consultation on Constitution||| Print ||
|Written by Richard Greenfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Tuesday, 10 May 2011 14:59|
Updated Friday, 13 May 2011 15:49
Turks and Caicos Islands residents will get a chance to voice their opinions to U.K. officials on proposed changes to the country’s Constitution during six public meetings, including one on Providenciales that will be televised.
The date and time for the on-air program with representatives from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have not been announced, but meetings will be held May 16-19 on Providenciales, South Caicos, Salt Cay, Grand Turk, Middle Caicos and North Caicos.
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Public meetings were not initially scheduled for Providenciales residents, but the FCO and the governor's office responded to public objections and announced today (May 13) that a public meeting will be held 7:30-10 p.m. Monday, May 16, at the Community Fellowship Centre on Leeward Highway. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and the meeting will be televised and broadcast on radio.
"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Governor’s Office have listened to the requests for the Providenciales community to discuss the draft Constitution with the FCO team at a public meeting; and have agreed that such a meeting should be held next week," the statement said.
Last year’s public meeting on Providenciales had to be canceled just after it started because a number of people in the crowd began shouting and interrupting. A handful of them burned copies of proposed changes in the parking lot of the Gustarvus Lightbourne Center. Meetings on other islands were held without incident.
The FCO group will be led by Ian Hendry, Overseas Territories Constitutional Adviser to the FCO. He will be joined by Helen Nellthorp, Deputy Director of Overseas Territories at the FCO, Susan Dickson, FCO Legal Counsellor and Matt Thoume, FCO Press Officer.
After the elected government was suspended in 2009, the FCO hired expert Kate Sullivan to review the Constitution and election laws and make recommendations after public consultation. She was instructed to look at the balance of power between the governor and the elected government, the political and electoral process, citizenship, residency, public finance and government integrity.
She held public meetings across most islands, gathering input from residents, then published a first draft for review in public meetings in September. Sullivan went back to the drawing board and made some minor changes, reflecting some objections and recommendations that she heard, and published a revised draft in November.
After further comments were received, she published a final draft in March that will be the subject of upcoming consultations.
The completion of a new Constitution is one of several requirements set by the FCO for a return to elected government.
Several proposals in the last draft have been controversial, including setting conditions for becoming a Belonger. No longer could ministers and the governor grant Belongership to whomever they like.
New conditions would be that an applicant must be a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen who has held a Permanent Residence Certificate for at least five years, or who has been a legal resident for at least ten years. The procedure for enforcing those conditions would have to be created in new legislation.
Another of Sullivan’s proposals that has drawn criticism is removing the traditional election method of first past the post for all assembly members. She said it gives lopsided victories to those winning by barest of margins and has the potential for intimidation of voters.
Sullivan suggests keeping first past the post voting to select one member from each of the six major islands, one each from Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos (including Ambergris Cay, Little Ambergris Cay and East Caicos), North Caicos (including Parrot Cay, Pine Cay and Water Cay), Middle Caicos and Providenciales (including West Caicos).Then nine more representatives would be selected country-wide on a “compensating proportional” basis to ensure overall proportional representation.
On May 5, more than two thirds of U.K. voters decided to keep the first-past-the-post system in what was the first U.K.-wide referendum in 36 years. The FCO and Parliament will make that decision for TCI voters.
The method proposed in the U.K. was different from what Sullivan proposed for the TCI. It would have let voters rank candidates for one office in order of preference. If the first preference candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, that candidate wins.
Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their second choices are allocated to the remaining candidates in a second round of counting. This continues until one candidate has 50 percent or more of the vote in that round of counting.
Click HERE to read the 2006 Constitution.Click HERE to read the All-Party Commission’s full report on the Constitution.
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