By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- It is clear from last Friday’s court pleadings in the Turks and Caicos Islands that the territory’s Integrity Commission provided each political party, including Premier Rufus Ewing, with detailed guidance notes on their filing obligations leading up to the March 22 by-election in the Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill electoral district in Providenciales and each party acknowledged receipt thereof.
One local weblog sympathetic to Ewing and the Progressive National Party (PNP) described the subsequent failure to file the required notice of interests in government contracts by Amanda Misick, the party’s candidate in the by-election, as “a mind boggling act of carelessness and incomprehensible stupidity.”
Another well known PNP supporter has described those involved as acting as though they are kindergarten drop-outs who cannot complete a simple declaration.
On February 28, 2013, the Commission sent e-mails to the leaders and treasurers of each of the parties requesting them to confirm that they had delivered the guidance notes to their respective candidates standing for the by-election. The treasurers of each party confirmed that their respective candidates were in possession of the guidance notes.
However, by the March 1 deadline for filing notices under section 49(1)(f) of the constitution (interests in government contracts), the Commission had received only one such notice – a “nil return” from Oral Selver, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate for the by-election.
On March 4, three days after the deadline, the Integrity Commission received a faxed notice from the PNP candidate Amanda Misick, along with an emailed copy of the same notice from Dawn Perry (Ewing’s wife).
Premier Rufus Ewing
Later the same day, the Commission received a series of emails from Ewing himself, the last of which, late at night on March 4, attached a copy of Misick’s notice. However, apparently realising that “a mind boggling act of carelessness and incomprehensible stupidity” had been committed in relation to the late filing of Misick’s notice, Ewing tried to enlist the support of Supervisor of Elections Dudley Lewis in effectively covering up the omission.
“Please be advised that Ms Amanda Missick's (PNP Candidate) declaration for qualification as provided for by section 50 (1) of the Constitution stating that she is qualified to be elected to the House of Assembly under Section 46 and that nothing under section 49 (1) disqualifies her, was submitted to the Supervisor of Elections on Nomination Day. This was also confirmed by Mr Lewis as been (sic
“Please disregard any other submission today on this matter. Mr Lewis advised that your office should have received such declaration at 4:30pm today.”
Then, at 11:33 pm on March 4, Ewing apparently had second thoughts about telling the Integrity Commission to disregard all previous submissions and resent Misick’s notice to the Commission.
“Please consider the following attachment as an addendum to all documentation that was received as part of the declaration of Ms Amanda Missick PNP By-election Candidate,” Ewing said in his late night email.
However, all of this activity on the part of Ewing and others on March 4 appears to have been in monumental disregard of the simple fact that the relevant filing deadline was three days earlier on March 1, as repeatedly drawn to their attention by the Integrity Commission.
Now, PNP supporter and acting attorney general Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles is apparently trying to come to the rescue of the party by filing legal challenges long out of time to some of the results in the November 9, 2012, general elections, targeting predominantly PDM members of the House of Assembly.
Given that Braithwaite-Knowles had five days in which to file such challenges after nomination day on October 25, 2012, her failure to do so then, but nevertheless attempt to do so four months later, has also been equated to a mind boggling act of carelessness and incomprehensible stupidity.
The process of “investigation” that took place in the Attorney General’s Chambers during the course of the day on Friday of last week could just as well have been completed and challenges filed against the candidates in question between October 25 and 30 last year during the constitutionally mandated time limit for making such challenges.