By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- In a one-hour interview that aired on local television on Friday, former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) premier Michael Misick blamed the British government at length, while at the same time proclaiming his innocence of the various corruption-related charges that have been brought against him.
According to Misick, nearly everything that has happened to cause the TCI to suffer is due to the actions of the British government.
“I will not rest until our country is independent,” Misick said.
In particular, the closing of the insolvent TCI Bank was not necessary said Misick. However, in late 2009, only five months after Britain imposed direct rule, then Governor Gordon Wetherell decided to move an additional $5 million from the national pension fund to shore up the bank, which after just five years of operation was on the verge of insolvency. A short time later, three large depositors withdrew the entire $5 million and thousands more. The bank was then forced to close.
Misick also claimed that the controversial National Health Insurance Plan was not implemented according to his plans. At the time, Governor Wetherell told the public that the plan had to be implemented because the 8,000 page contract carried a $125 million cancellation clause. The contract was negotiated by current Premier Rufus Ewing and the former deputy premier Floyd Hall.
Misick claimed that, when he left office, the TCI was only $70 million in debt. When asked about the unpaid bills he left behind, Misick said the British failed to give an accounting for the bills and that it was the British who “found” $45 million in additional bills hidden in desk drawers. However, it was then deputy premier Royal Robinson who claimed he found the unpaid bills.
Misick’s brother, current finance minister Washington Misick, who during the interview Michael Misick said was clearly one of the brightest men in the TCI, has previously contradicted this assertion on local television, telling the former premier face to face that the current remaining loan balance of $170 million was caused by the need to pay down the unpaid bills.
Nevertheless, former premier Misick continued to claim that the British interim government ran up $260 million in debt and that Britain borrowed the money from itself and now wanted to pay itself back.
“They brought in hundreds of people to displace Turks and Caicos Islanders,” Misick added.
“Britain does not have the people of the TCI's best interests at heart... they do not like us and we do not like them,” he said.
Misick also claimed that it was his earlier call for independence that brought in the 2008-2009 Commission of Inquiry.
“We now have four governments in the TCI... the elected government; the Integrity Commission, who can interfere in the actions of parliament; the SIPT [special investigation and prosecution team]; and the Governor’s [Business] Group,” the former leader asserted.
Misick spoke at length of his disdain for the Integrity Commission.
Misick said he continues to respect current Premier Ewing as a medical doctor and as premier.
The former premier said that his stay in prison in Brazil was surreal but it brought him closer to God.
“They [the British] could have brought me home in a couple of weeks but they left me in prison to break me... however, it has only made me stronger,” he claimed.
In fact, it was Misick who fought extradition from Brazil, hiring local attorneys and, after losing the right to stay in Brazil, went on to appeal the ruling.
Misick also spoke at length against the proposed payroll tax, which he said would eventually rise to 20% and would punish single mothers and other low paid residents.
He also claimed, falsely, that it was the currently opposition Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) that introduced tax on gasoline when the party was in power prior to 2003. However, contrary to Misick’s assertion, it was his government that imposed this tax, which is now 75 cents per gallon.
It was also Misick’s then finance minister and deputy premier who warned in two successive budget addresses that an income tax and a property tax were being seriously considered in order to fund the Progressive National Party (PNP) government’s out of control spending and spiraling debt, even after his administration increased business licence fees, car licences, work permits and several other taxes.
Asked about his marriage to Hollywood starlet and “B” movie actress Lisa Raye McCoy, Misick said that the marriage failed because of their separate careers. In fact, McCoy filed for divorce when she learned that Misick had fathered a child in Miami shortly after they were married. Misick said he did not know what Lisa Raye was doing at the present but he wished her well
During the interview Misick claimed he had spent $30 million on scholarships, built two stadiums and paved roads. However, when asked about the bills he left for these improvements, Misick claimed they were bills created by the three-year British interim government between August 2009 and November 2012.
Misick claimed that, if direct rule had not been imposed by Britain, an election would have been called.
“Maybe the PDM would have won,” he said.
Misick went on to claim that certain failed developments would have gone forward.
“The Shore Club was a development the British are taking credit for, which we brought forward in my administration,” Misick said.
However, this development was stalled due to civil actions over a least two land flips, which benefited the former planning director Clyde Robinson and Misick's pilot Ritchie Arthur. Both received over $1 million for Crown land earmarked to be sold to the Shore Club. The civil recovery team claimed that these millions should have gone into the national treasury.
Misick also claimed that a failed West Caicos development would have also been finished, apparently oblivious to the fact that the development in question came to a halt after the high profile failure of Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank that was financing the construction.
Further, a large development in Salt Cay would have been finished, Misick claimed, again ignoring the fact that allegations of corruption resulted in Czech Republic developer Mario Hoffman surrendering the land and paying a huge fine.
“Middle Caicos would now have a hotel,” the former premier continued.
However, the Miami-based developer, which acquired the land in question with only 50% of the purchase price paid using borrowed money, filed bankruptcy in a US court within a few months of the purchase. In this deal, which is regarded as the largest ever land scam in the TCI, $5 million in borrowed funds remain unaccounted for.
Misick said he could not talk about his forthcoming trial on corruption-related charges and cautioned the interviewer against questioning him. He did say, however, that he believed an unbiased 12- or 14-person jury could be found in the TCI.
Asked what the future holds for him, Misick said that he intends to clear his name and see where life takes him.
“Perhaps I will become a preacher,” he said. “Every day it seems someone comes up to me to say thank you.”
Misick gave an example of a young Haitian who thanked him for bringing him to the TCI and giving him a life changing scholarship.
“It is good to have friends like Bishop Coleta,” Misick said, apparently on the verge of tears.