By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- A change in the positions of the two Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) political parties vis a vis Britain is being seen as the fallout from an invitation issued to the two party leaders to attend the summer Olympics in London. The invitation was also scheduled to include meetings with British Department of State and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials.
The leaders of the Progressive National Party (PNP), who have been advocating their position of taking the TCI independent of Britain, have now welcomed the offer of an all expenses paid trip to attend the world event.
However, PNP leader Dr Rufus Ewing is not taking his deputy leader, attorney Carlos Simons QC, with him, deciding instead to be accompanied by Royal Robinson, a former member of the Michael Misick-led PNP government.
The Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), led by Oswald Skippings, decided to decline the invitation to attend the Olympics.
In a television interview, Skippings said that he did not receive the itinerary on time to make the decision to attend. He was scheduled to be accompanied by his deputy and former member of the Consultative Forum, Sharlene Cartwright Robinson.
However, Governor Ric Todd has denied that the PDM was issued the travel itinerary late and released a summary of the correspondence between the Governor’s Office and the PDM officials. Nevertheless, the PDM maintains this is not true.
During the Skippings interview, the party leader said that he did not feel the meetings with British officials would be productive because they would be distracted by the Olympic events.
After taking over as PDM leader recently, Skippings was asked if he agreed with Britain’s suspension of the constitution and of the elected government. Skippings responded, “We had no choice and if we had to make that decision again, we would do the same thing.”
It was former leader of the PDM, Floyd Seymour, who sent evidence of widespread corruption to Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) in late 2007. This evidence, used by the FAC, forced the FCO to call a Commission of Inquiry, which resulted in the imposition of direct rule by Britain in August 2009.
After Seymour stepped aside and returned to private life, new PDM leader Douglas Parnell led several missions to London, where they met with FCO officials, members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, officials of the Westminster Foundation, as well as other persons and entities interested in the TCI and regional issues. Parnell has now followed Seymour into private life, not contending for any party position at the June convention in Grand Turk.
Former PDM leader and former Chief Minister Derek Taylor, who lost to Skippings at last month’s convention, reported he was working with members of the interim government.
Two days before leaving for London, PNP leader Ewing said he was looking forward to meeting with the British officials. “Even if we agree to disagree this will be productive,” he said.
The PDM, under none of their leaders, has ever favoured independence and has expressed disappointment that the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT) has not moved swiftly enough in its corruption enquiries. The party has, however, favoured earlier elections and a return to democratic rather than direct rule.
Supporters of both parties now report disagreements with their respective leader’s positions on the London trip.