Archive for May 18th, 2011

East End port EIA released

| 18/05/2011 | 67 Comments

(CNS): The developer proposing to build a commercial sea port in East End has published the results of a privately commissioned environmental impact assessment, in full, on his website.The EIA reveals potential risks to the water lens, the need to remove six acres of coral reef and the destruction of more than 500 acres of land habitat which is home to some of Grand Cayman’s unique flora and fauna, including the endangered silver thatch and indigenous orchids. The report points to a number of other negative impacts on the local community and the country at large as well as hazards and dangers. But because the authors claim the developer can mitigate the negative impacts it dismisses a number of issues, likely to cause controversy, as negligible.

However, all of the details of the report are in the public domain and the developer is inviting those who are interested to contact him directly for copies of the appendices, which include the water flow charts and other data.

The full EIA, written and conducted by Hesperides Group, of Florida is over 240 pages long and examines the impact of the proposed development on the land and marine environments, the ground water supply and the local community.

It looks at potential dangers from the hazardous materials that will pass through the commercial port, should it become a reality, and the danger of spills, as well as the impact of noise, construction, transport and myriad other points.

In each case, however, even where risks have been clearly noted, the report’s authors have dismissed them by proposing mitigation, have said the losses are outweighed by other beneficial issues or have suggested moving plants to the Botanic Park, live corals to other reefs or replacing lost habitat somewhere else.

The report reveals that the terrestrial habitat that would be destroyed “supports the highest vascular plant diversity of all the island’s vegetation zones” and went on to reveal that there are several rare tree species “along with a variety of epiphytes (orchids), including a number of imperilled taxa.” The EIA states that there has (until now) been limited invasion by exotic species and the habitat value was described as “quite high due to the maturity and diversity of the native plant community.”

The authors state that during the observation period no imperilled vertebrates were seen, though officials here have previously indicated that there are possible signs of blue iguana inhabiting the area. The EIA did admit that the critically endangered and iconic blue iguana may inhabit the area, along with the country’s national bird. The Cayman parrot is already locked in a battle for survival as a result of over development, and because of the loss of wild habitat the national bird has been forced into further conflict with farmers as it searches for food.

The report also points out that the Vitelline warbler and the West Indian whistling duck, along with a wide range of flowers, including endangered indigenous orchids, as well as other unique plants and trees are in the 500 acre location, which will be ripped out in order to excavate a port basin.

The report states that the impact will be significant to the natural resources but suggested that the developers could “offset impacts to these habitats and plant formations” by collecting endangered plant material for preservation.

“Select trees and shrubs may be removed and transplanted offsite wherever possible. Epiphytes such as orchids may be harvested and transplanted or propagated to enhance genetic diversity,” the authors stated. “Seeds will be collected and propagated to enhance native plant populations. If possible, the Development Corporation will use materials originally harvested from the project site for EES landscaping and buffer creation.”

When it came to the ocean environment, aside from the obvious and significant impact on the reefs that will be destroyed, the report said that turtles would also be at risk. It suggested that the developer could help re-sand Half Moon Bay beach, which was a nesting site damaged in Hurricane Ivan, as a way of offsetting the impact the port would have on their environment. The report also spoke about moving corals that would be otherwise destroyed to create the channel that would be required for the port.

One of the most controversial issues surrounding the project has been the potential threat to the area’s fresh water lens. The report stated that the proposed development would bring seawater further inland and overtime would increase salinity of levels. The authors said that groundwater modelling was performed as part of the EIA to evaluate potential impacts. “Predictions based on themodel show that excavating the EES basin may cause the southwest boundary of the lens to migrate further inland and the thickness of the lens to decrease within a small area of the lens,” it warned and suggested that the situation would have to be consistently monitored.

Meanwhile, the report by Deloitte focuses entirely on the financial aspects of the development and came up with a total direct impact on the Cayman Islands’ economy of US$133,300,000. This included US$108,200,000 on materials and services from local suppliers, US$13,100,000 on payroll for persons employed by the developer and US$12,000,000 on royalties, stamp duties, and work permit fees paid to government.

The consultants also said pre-excavation expenditure, including the purchase of land and design, engineering, legal and other professional fees, have already had a total direct impact of US$12,500,000. Indirectly, Deloitte said, the excavation phase would benefit the economy by almost US$50 million.

The project would create 204 jobs during the seven year excavation period, Deloitte claimed, 179 of which the consultants said would go to Caymanians. While indirectly, it said an average of 86 jobs will be created each year between 2011 and 2017,

“This estimate is based on calculations made by Deloitte of the average ratio of additional number of employed persons to additional GDP between 2005 and 2009. The ratio suggests that for every US$1 million invested in the economy, 12.24 more persons are employed in the Cayman Islands,” the report states. The report also anticipated a direct boost to the construction sector and money for government coffers if the project was to go ahead.

The EIA is available in full here and anyone who wants a copy of the appendices is asked to email: info@eastendseaport.com

The Deloitte survey is available here

All reports and documents relating to the East End Seaport are here.
 

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Lawyers face gruelling pedal for charity

| 18/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A group of amateur cyclists from Walkers' Cayman Islands office are in training for a 100-mile endurance charity bike ride around Lake Tahoe to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This will be the third year running that some members of 'Team Walkers’ have taken on the charity challenge. So far the team has raised over US$100,000 in the battle to defeat leukemia and blood cancers. This year's ride takes place on Sunday June 5. The team is more than half way to their sponsor ship goal of $40,000 but is looking for public support to help them reach it before the race.

Team captain Nancy Lewis (Chief Executive Officer) and Mark Lewis (Walkers' Managing Partner) are preparing for their third ride. Wade Tamasa returns for his second appearance and three new team members – Pete Slocock (IT Group), Laren Gillespie (Management Services) and Jonathan Tonge (Managing Partner) all join the team for their first ride.

"We would like to thank everyone in the community that have already supported us financially or encouraged the team in other ways. It is truly appreciated," said Nancy Lewis, Chief Executive Officer of Walkers Management Services.

"As we get older we find that cancer in all its forms seems to spread its insidious tentacles and touch people we love. The six of us are all riding in memory of, or in support of different people and our mission is to raise funds through this ride to help eradicate this disease, or at least help bring better treatment. Anyone in the Cayman Islands unfortunate enough to require treatment for blood cancer will more than likely need to travel to the US so we believe the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is an important charity for those of us living in Cayman to support."

Team members have been riding over 100 miles each week as they prep for the challenge. Conditions at Lake Tahoe will be very different to the high temperatures, humidity and wind that 'Team Walkers' is currently dealing with in Cayman. In Tahoe, 'Team Walkers' will face the challenge of riding at altitudes of approximately 6,300 feet above sea level. Numerous and demanding switchbacks and mountain climbs add over 2,800 feet of vertical elevation gain, and riding conditions, at least in the early hours following the 6am start, will be near freezing point. More than 3,000 riders will take part in this year’s Lake Tahoe ride, hoping to eclipse the near to US$ 9 million total sponsorship raised for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2009.

To support 'Team Walkers' and donate to this worthy cause, either access the link on the 'Professionals' page of the Walkers website www.walkersglobal.com or visit the Walkers 'Team in Training' webpage
http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/ambbr11/TeamWalkers. Those interested in obtaining more information on 'Team Walkers' and sponsorship opportunities for the Lake Tahoe ride should contact Mark Lewis at Walkers on 345 914 4223 (mark.lewis@walkersglobal.com).

 

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IFC critics lack evidence claims Cato spokesman

| 18/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(Royal Gazette): There is no peer reviewed evidence to support most of the accusations of tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing levelled at International Financial Centres (IFCs). That is according to Dan Mitchell, of the Cato Institute, a US-based think tank, who addressed the audience at the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference at the Fairmont Southampton (Bermuda) yesterday. In his speech Mitchell sought to debunk some of the myths about IFCs. He said that most of the statistics relied upon by the critics were “make believe” numbers and unveiled where some of the more dubious figures came from.

Starting with the issue of harmful tax competition, he said that no facts have ever been presented to prove that tax competition was harmful, despite the “exogenous” theory espoused by the Capital Export Neutrality (CEN).

Similarly, Mr Mitchell added that the so-called evidence against tax evasion $100 billion of which has been attributed to IFCs was at best uncertain. He said that the number of $70 billion in individual tax evasion quoted by Jack Blum, chairman of the Tax Justice Network USA, turn out to be a “gut-feeling” according to Mr Blum when pressed for an answer on how he had arrived at it bythe Congressional Research Service. The other $30 billion, he said, was an Internal Revenue Service estimate for legal tax avoidance by companies in IFCs.

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Hedge fund reports conflict on industry’s fortunes

| 18/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(MarketWatch): Hedge-fund leverage is down, but equity managers have the highest stock-market exposure in four years, according to two industry reports released Tuesday. Average standard leverage decreased across all strategies from 1.27 to 1.10 times investment capital in the past year, according to Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research Inc. Meanwhile, average margin to equity declined to 16.98% from 17.13% year over year, HFR said. The percentage of funds that do not usually use leverage climbed to about one-third of the industry — an increase of 4% from last year, HFR also noted.


Leverage is the use of borrowed money to magnify investments. The strategy is an integral part of the way hedge funds are run, but too muchleverage can increase losses and sometimes lead to fund blow-ups. Falling leverage suggests the $2 trillion hedge-fund industry is taking on less risk. However, another report Tuesday suggests the opposite.


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Cops arrest suspected machete wielding robber

| 18/05/2011 | 11 Comments

(CNS): Update   Police say they have arrested a 20-year-old man in connection with a robbery at a Crewe Road mini-mart this morning. A spokesperson said the man was currently in police custody while enquiries continue. According to an earlier police report, the small local grocery store, which has been subjected to numerous robberies, burglaries and break-ins in recent times, was targeted by another robber at around 10:10 on Wednesday morning. Although no one was injured, the masked robber was armed with a machete and he took an undisclosed sum of cash from the register before fleeing towards the general direction of Palmdale Drive. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

As well as the cashier two customers were inside the shop at the time The man was said to be dark skinned, around 6 feet in height and of stocky build. He was wearing three-quarter length dark jean pants, a dark hoody, a red baseball cap and had dark cloth material covering his face.

Detectives would still be keen to hear from anyone with information about this crime. Information can be passed by calling George Town police station on 949-4222 or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477(TIPS).
 

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Gunshots damage home in Spotts

| 18/05/2011 | 19 Comments

(CNS): Police have confirmed that a home in the Spotts Newlands area was damaged by gunfire last night but no one was injured in the incident. According to the RCIPS, at about 9.15 pm on Tuesday, 17 May, police received a report that shots had been fired in Orchid Heights, Sunblazer Drive off Shamrock Road, nr to the Spotts Dock. When the police arrived it was found that the outside of a house had been damaged by three shots. The occupants of the house, who had been inside the premises at the time, were not injured. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Police are appealing for anyone who was in the area at the relevant time last night and witnessed the incident to contact George Town CID on 949-4222, or the confidential Crime Stoppers number 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Teen part of conspiracy in Duran murder, says crown

| 18/05/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Scientific evidence, such as DNA, as well as telephone records and false statements are the key issues which the crown says will lead to the “irrefutably and irresistible conclusion” that Jordan Manderson is guilty of the murder of Marcus Duran. The crown claims that the teen defendant was part of a conspiracy to rob the Ecuadorian, who sold illegal numbers, as he left a customer’s apartment in West Bay on 11 March 2010. There are no eye-witnesses to the shooting on the balcony at an apartment block in Maliwinas Way, and the crown is presenting a circumstantial case. In her opening statement Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards QC told the court that Manderson had denied being at the scene of the murder but later admitted his presence and said Damion Ming had shot him (Manderson).

The eighteen-year-old, who was only sixteen at the time of the crime, was shot in the leg on the same night as Duran was murdered and his blood was found at the murder scene, as well as the bullet that is believed to have passed through his leg. At first the defendant told police that Andy Barnes, the father of 5-year-old Jeremiah Barnes who was shot and killed in a West Bay Gas station one month before the Duran killing, had shot him from a car as he (Manderson) walked along Birch Tree Hill. However, he later admitted that he was at the murder scene, and that was where he was shot by Ming (who was also shot and killed two weeks later) but that Barnes was also at the scene.

Setting out the crown’s theory behind the murder, Richards told Justice Charles Quin, the presiding judge who will hear the case alone, that they believed the accused had been shot during the struggle with Duran when the robbery went wrong. Duran, however, was at some point shot in the head and his body discovered by the customer he had visited only minutes before, right outside her apartment door.

The crown states that, along with the bullet and blood left at the apartment, a hat which contained the DNA of both the deceased and the defendant was found at the murder scene and that the clothes of the accused were found very close by.

The crown says that telephone records will show that the crime was plotted with Razial Jeffers, who was believed to be near the murder scene at the time and, although also charged with the killing, will not stand trial until a later date. The crown has also charged Craig Johnson with accessory to murder as they believe he was also part of the robbery conspiracy and that he had picked up Manderson from the scene after the shooting.

During the first day of the trial the crown called two witnesses, the first was the woman who discovered Duran’s body and who, it was revealed, was also arrested by the police in the wake of the killing as a suspect in the conspiracy.

The witness said that she knew Jeffers as he was the father of her grand-niece, for whom she frequently babysat. However, she had categorically denied any involvement in the crime, though she said she believed the police still considered her a suspect. She added that although she had been told she had to give evidence for the prosecution, she was expected to appear to answer polcie bail next month in connection with the conspiracy to rob Duran. (Authorities confirmed on Wednesday however that she was no longer under investigaiotn)

Speaking about the night in question, she told the court that Duran, whom she had known for several years, had visited her house to collect money in connection with the local illegal gambling, known as ‘numbers’. The deceased had been at her apartment for only around ten minutes, she said, and that they had spoken about her having no luck in the game. After she paid Duran he left and she returned to watching TV, ironically, as it turned out, an episode of Law and Order.

She told the court that she was hard of hearing and it was a windy night. The witness said she had the TV on quite loud but she suddenly heard a thump against her apartment door several minutes after Duran had left and realised something was wrong. It was then that she discovered Duran’s body lying in front of her door having been shot in the head. She told the court that she had immediately dialled 911.

Before they arrived, however, the second witness in the crown’s case had also arrived at the scene. An ex member of the US military, this witness, who took to the witness box in the afternoon, told the court how he had heard two gun shots, which he believed were of different calibres as a result of the sounds, while in his house close to the apartment.

As he heard the first, he said, he grabbed his phone to begin dialing 911 as he knew immediately it was a firearm; the second shot rang out a few seconds later. He said he then heard a woman screaming and as he came outside he saw a fleeting glimpse of a figure disappear behind the apartment building. He said he recognised the shouts and cries of the woman and headed towards her apartment. As he walked up the stairs he saw the body of Duran lying on the balcony. The witness said it was very clear that he had been shot in the head and was dead.

The witness told the court that when the paramedics arrived, several of them, as well as the police, ran up the stairs to attend to the man. He said they immediately flipped the body over and put him on a gurney and took him into the ambulance. The witness said he wassurprised they had moved the body so quickly before taking pictures and examining the crime scene but he said the emergency personnel said they had detected signs of life  and so had to try and save him.

The case continues in Grand Court one at 10:30am Wednesday.

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The tipping point?

| 18/05/2011 | 21 Comments

Something has been bugging me for quite some time, but I really couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was until recently when somebody told me about a favor they “called in” which resulted in this individual being able to short-cut the usual red tape to get results more quickly than if the standard procedure and process would have been followed.

So here we are complaining in one breath about the lack of regulations, rules and law enforcement, but bending the rules and ignoring the law when it suits has become a way of life for all of us. Many seem to even have refined the art of “short-cutting” or ignoring the law and pride themselves accordingly. The list of “short-cutting” or “law ignorance” is endless and runs rampant amongst all walks of life. Surely it would be nice to eat conch all year round (who needs a season?) and not be bothered with those pesky little speed signs or build a house however and wherever – why need planning approval and all that?

But are we prepared to deal with the consequences of making our own rules and only follow the law occasionally? It now seems evident more than ever that all the favor giving and taking and ignoring the laws has resulted in a lawless society (except if we are talking about murder or drug dealing, of course). Otherwise, we are truly spinning out of control.

No, I haven’t been living on the moon, and yes, I am aware that we have been provided with some shockingly embarrassing and sad examples when considering the majority of the current elected officials and some high ranking civil servants, but my letter is not really about them (plenty is written about this issue on a daily basis already). This letter is truly about US!

There have been so many loud calls for the laws to be upheld and processes to be followed, but are we also willing to do our part and follow those regulations and laws even on those days it may be inconvenient? Can we resist the lure of taking a short-cut and ignoring the law, especially when we are provided with so many examples in the public eye every day how to do it, or do we continue to throw it all away to immediately satisfy a want or need or for the short lived feeling of having gotten ahead? We obviously have reached a “tipping point” and decisions will need to be made.

A tipping point can be described as a point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a new, different state. I guess it could be a better or a worse state. Clearly, we are not “objects” but we are obviously no longer in a stable equilibrium and we need to decide whether we want to revert to this stable equilibrium, or do we want to continue on the path we are on?

Surely, individually considered, the “offense” of harvesting conch outside the season or parking in a handicapped parking spot doesn’t stack high when compared to many of the other offenses taking place, but it does breed a certain disrespect for the laws, authorities and especially for each other. Chances are that our children are learning by our bad example to ignore the rules and law and therefore there doesn’t seem to be much hope for changes in the future.

Before people get upset, I want to clarify that I am not trying to say just because you are ignoring the speed limit you are a bad person or a criminal all around, but you are certainly not helping to make things any better, are you? Overall, it does make me wonder how time after time people continue to expect a different outcome if they are not prepared to change what they put in.

I am sure some of you are quick to point to the Government and several high ranking civil servants and some of the associated recent headlines. However, we need to reverse this mentality of “What is good for the goose is good for the gander” and consider any and every action taken and hopefully decide that the ethical high road is the better one to travel on. 

For example, a lot of folks were recently upset that the Government paved private driveways or business parking lots in the Brac.  I, however, believe we should have been upset with those individuals who accepted those favors to begin with as we all know by now we really can’t expect any morals from the current Government anyway. The majority of people quickly pointed to the Government and blamed them for this clearly wrong action, but what about those people who accepted those favors? Did anyone give them a little piece of their mind? The Government can’t give  favors if the favors are rejected or not accepted, but seemingly too many of us are still eagerly taking the favors and hand outs because it was seemingly free of charge – but was it really free of charge?

I don’t want to portray myself as a goodie-two-shoe person and in no way am I an expert on the laws of these Islands. Obviously, I haven’t lived the last 40 something years always taking the ethical high road, and I also have been caught speeding on occasions, but I am trying to have some basic knowledge of the various laws and if all fails, I apply an ethical principle my parents taught me 40 odd years ago:

“Would it still be ok to be doing something if everyone else who is living in these Islands would be doing the same”?

I imagine what these Islands would look like if EVERYONE would throw their garbage out the car window, or if EVERYONE would park their ‘for sale’ vehicles along the shoulder of public roads or if EVERYONE would expect and accept handouts and favors. I wonder what would happen if we all ignore the set-back requirements when building our home or if EVERYONE would rush to the planning department or immigration department asking that our applications are processed ahead of everyone else’s. I am sure many would be quick again to point out that if the Government would do better and if planning and immigration wouldn’t be so inefficient you would be inclined to follow proper process, or has planning and immigration perhaps gotten so inefficient because so many people are pushing for favors?

I admit, it is somewhat of a “chicken vs the egg” situation and it is frustrating to see how others seemingly get ahead by ignoring the laws or banking on favors, but where is it getting us all in the long run? Well, it has gotten us to where we are now. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it. We want SOMEONE to uphold the law and rules, but any given day we are not prepared to follow them.

Perhaps if in doubt apply the principle I set out above, and I am certain that the majority of us would come to a conclusion that rules, regulations and laws do exist for a reason. (Well, in the majority of cases anyway – we all know there are always exceptions!) We cannot, however, expect that those rules, regulations and laws are just for others and not for us – even on those days when it is inconvenient. I am prepared to put in what I want to get out. Are you?

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Budget delayed again

| 18/05/2011 | 38 Comments

(CNS):Government will be delivering the 2011/12 budget statement on Monday, not Friday, according to a release from GIS. Last week officials revealed that the previous plan for government to deliver its spending plans and anticipated earnings for the next financial year on Tuesday 17 May had been changed, and the ceremonial opening of the Legislative Assembly’s budget meeting would instead happen on 20 May. However, in the latest release the government’s information service has said the opening will now happen on Monday 23 May. No official reasons have been given, but government departments are currently engaged in a battle to shave $20million off this year’s spending in order to deliver a budget surplus for the 2010/11 year end.

With the new financial year starting on 1 July, McKeeva Bush has ordered that the projected surplus that government was expecting in February becomes a reality, despite the most recent figures pointing to a deficit. The premier has stated publicly that he is not prepared to accept the $5 million gap between spending and earnings that the financial officers revealed last month and that he wanted to end the year with a $15 million surplus.

The premier has said that the $15 million would be split three ways, with $5 million being used to pay down some of the past service liability on public sector pensions, $5 million to pay into general reserves and $5 million to carry over into the next fiscal year, which under the terms of the local government’s agreement with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office must not be in deficit.

With government stating that there will be no reductions on fees introduced over the last two budgets, but no indication thatthere will be any new ones, all eyes will be on the reduction of spending. The internal civil service spending review has been completed on a dozen entities and a review of a further six is expected to be completed next month, which gives the government the option of making specific and targeted cuts. So far the Portfolio of the Civil Service has revealed cost cutting options amounting to $17 million across the first four agencies assessed. What cuts have been identified in the eight reviewed under the second phase have not yet been revealed.

However, one of government’s major stumbling blocks when it comes to making real savings on public spending is a lack of audited government accounts. Government has not completed an audit of how tax-payers money has been spent for seven years. Moreover, where annual reports have been completed, the significant lack of information makes the results meaningless. With no up to date accurate financial statements, it is difficult for government to assess whether budget allocations to specific departments are offering value for money, are excessive, or are underfunded.

Although the UDP made a commitment to sort out the problems associated with the inability of government entities to comply with the Public Management and Finance Law, early efforts have now waned. Despite millions of dollars being invested in a task force and the efforts of the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, although some entities have managed to catch up with the backlog, the current financials are still being neglected.

The ceremonial opening of parliament will take place at the Legislative Assembly building in George Town at 9:35 on Monday morning. Members of the public wishing to attend are asked to be seated by 9am.

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TCI kicks back over ‘regressive’ constitution

| 18/05/2011 | 63 Comments

(CNS): The draft constitution drawn up by the UK government for the Turks and Caicos Islands has been rejected by the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), and the Progressive National Party (the party that the now digraced Michael Misick led as premier) has called for a referendum on what are seen as the many controversial aspects in the proposed document. PNP Leader Clayton Greene has written to the United Kingdom Government saying the proposal is a blatant disregard of the wishes of the TCI people. The PDM's position paper described the draft constitution as an attempt by the UK to move the country back to an era of colonialism.

“The FCO cannot simply look at the last 8 years and try to impose a constitution on the people based upon this period but it must look back and honestly assess its own failings, gross neglect and incompetence in administering its constitutional obligations to the Turks and Caicos People and our territory, obligations that is has agreed with the world to uphold and move towards,” the party stated.

The UK imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos Islands after an inquiry found evidence of government corruption and incompetence.

See Clayton Greene letter here

See PDM position paper here

See draft constitution document here

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