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Turks and Caicos Islands: UK Suspends Part of Constitution

(Apr. 8, 2009) The Turks and Caicos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom with a Constitution that gives its ministerial government and its House of Assembly jurisdiction over most internal affairs, but reserves to the British Government authority to provide for its defense and to conduct its external affairs. (Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2006, S.I. 2006/1913, British and Irish Legal Information Institute website, (last visited Apr. 6, 2009).) The dependency has a population of approximately 22,000 and lies south of the Bahamas. (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, WORLD FACTBOOK,
(last visited Apr. 6, 2009).)

The Turks and Caicos Islands has long been an offshore tax haven and the government has been widely accused in recent years of being highly corrupt. In 2008, the Governor of the Islands appointed a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Commissioner Sir Robin Auld, to investigate allegations of dishonesty by Members of the House of Assembly. The Prime Minister was a particular target due to reports of his lavish lifestyle. On March 16, 2009, the Commissioner published an interim report in which he stated that the Commission had found abundant evidence pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption or serious dishonesty. The Commissioner found that there were “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and general administrative incompetence” and recommended the suspension of the Constitution. (Turks and Caicos Islands: Governance (16/03/2009), Foreign & Commonwealth Office website, Mar. 16, 2009, available at

The Foreign Office Minister in London immediately announced that the U.K. government would suspend the parts of the Constitution that give the Turks and Caicos Islands internal self-government, for an initial period of two years once the Commission's final report is released. The constitutional guarantees respecting civil rights will not be affected, but self-government will be replaced by a form of direct rule from London shortly after the April 30 deadline for the final report. During the period of suspension, the Government of the United Kingdom will work to restore good governance before the next scheduled elections in 2011. (Id.)

It has been reported that “most of the public support the suspension of the constitution” of the Turks and Caicos Islands and feel that there is no other option. (Colin Woodard, In Sunny Turks and Caicos, 'Political Amorality' Forces Britain to Retake Control, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, Apr. 5, 2009, at 6, LEXIS/NEXIS, NEWS Library, 60 Days File). In the meantime, the Prime Minister who was the subject of much of the investigation has resigned from office, but still faces possible criminal charges. (Id.)