At the time of the UK inquiry into TCI and the subsequent suspension of self-governance there I was a little preoccupied with my academics, so I neglected to comment much on it. However, with the article ‘Dr. Brown Blasts UK Intervention In TCI’ in todays RG, this issue is now back in focus for Bermudian perspectives.
First off though, I want to say that I found the RG article, at least its headline, overly sensationalist and a little misleading. From the headline I assumed it would include excerpts from a speech or statement given by the Premier Dr. Brown explaining his perspective on the issue in great depth. Instead, all that I saw of Dr. Brown’s position was this:
“The UK handling of the Turks and Caicos situation was unusually harsh and heavy-handed, drawing deep concern from countries throughout the region,”
I’m sorry, but I hardly think this justifies the headline, of ‘blasting’ UK intervention in TCI. And the fact that the bulk of the article focused on a general report on the recently concluded Fifth Summit of the Americas makes the headline misleading. I could understand a sub-heading concerning TCI, but not the overly sensationalist headline that was used. As for Dr. Brown’s obvious fetishism for US President Obama, well, its not like he’s exactly the only Bermudian or PLP member who is definitely a fan of Mr. Obama. In fact I think you will find many who would almost argue that Bill Clinton was the ‘John the Baptist’ preparing the way for the ‘Messiah’ Barack Obama. My position on Mr. Obama should be clear by now, that I see him as just a superficial change, but it cannot be denied he has quite a fan club in Bermuda – Dr. Brown being no exception. Having said that, I would have thought there were much more important things to report back on than that – say, how the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba may further impact our tourist industry, how the ‘War on Tax-Havens’ will impact us, and on more general hemisphere concerns (like developments with the Barbados Plan of Action +10).
Anyway, back to TCI…
My own thoughts on the debacle are that the suspension of self-governance by the UK was wrong, and in fact hypocritical. The UK has been, of late, championing the cause of democracy worldwide, and has been prominent in condemning the suspension of democractic forms of governments from Guinea, Madagascar and Fiji. That this has never stopped them also dealing with great affection with less-than-democratic regimes historically and at present depending on their national geopolitical and corporate interests is another matter altogether. But for the UK – which I might add does not even have a constitution (!) – to suspend the constitution and self-governance of the TCI is quite brazen and indeed should lead to many questioning such an action.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am no supporter of the former TCI Premier Mr. Misick. I certainly think that he was in the wrong in many of his actions down there. He should be roundly condemned and shamed for his actions. But I do not think this justifies the suspension of self-governance.
As has been pointed out on the BIAW forum, the Premier had already tendered his resignation, and he had lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence. His time was done. It may be argued that others in the TCI parliament were also tainted and thus untenable – and whats new in that for any parliament anyway? – but there exist constitutional checks and balances designed for such occassions, and the suspension of parliament and immediate elections would have been more preferable than suspending TCI democracy. And beyond the ‘constitutional’ checks and balances there exist extra-parliamentary ones that could also ais in washing the stain of corruption from TCI democracy.
I think it is true to say that throughout the small island states that make up Bermuda and the Caribbean our democracies are influenced by patron-client relationships that deform the ideals of democracy. I don’t see how this can be avoided under the prevailing socio-economic system and inherited Westminster-style government. What is needed instead is a more revolutionary democracy based on grassroot independent social movements and both social and economic justice.
I do think that the TCI issue can be of immense benefit in adding to our discourse on Bermudian democracy and our future. The actions of the UK have and will continue to spark debate, especially in TCI, but also in the remaining UK colonies, about what form of democracy we want and how, as well as our relationships with UK metropolitian power.
In Africa to, right now, there is a wide-ranging debate about democracy, between strong and weak democracy, and what democracy means. Just as in the past it was Caribbean intellectuals who greatly contributed to the struggle in Africa, perhaps its time that we learned something from them for our own struggles.
I have found the writings of the Tanzanian Issa Shivji very interesting, and I think his insights could contribute greatly to our debates. Its kind of hard to find some of his writings online, but this one is a good place to start ‘The Struggle for Democracy’. His ‘Globalisation & Popular Resistance’ is also worth reading.
Finally, it may be worth repeating the statements of the disgraced Mr. Misick in reaction the UK suspension of TCI democracy:
“Democracy must be allowed to grow and mature, despite trials and errors.
The suspension of both the executive and legislative branches of our Government by the colonial masters are draconian measures and every well thinking Belonger and resident should be outraged.
It is wrong in the 21st century to have an entire population re-colonized in this fashion, with the executive, legislative, judicial and all other powers lying in the hands of the colonial masters, but vested in one person, who himself, in this case, is not a citizen.”
Again, I am in no way excusing the actions of Mr. Misick, but nor can I excuse the suspension of a whole peoples democratic rights by an alien power which itself has no constitution.