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Transparency after the Turks and Caicos Islands scandal

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Wednesday July 22, 2009

By Shaun Malcolm (The TCI Journal)[1]

Transparency. It is a necessary condition for a civil society.

Yesterday, I was encouraged by two events.

The events unfolding in the Supreme Court of the TCI, and the transparency associated with the awarding of contracts for reconstructive work by the Disaster and Recovery Board.

During the two days of hearing focused upon the unredacted Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, which is now out in the public domain, Chief Justice Gordon Ward had to rule a number of times against attorneys who wished to prevent the public from hearing about the proceedings.

Justice Ward ruled a number of times that the public had a right to know what was occurring in their very own Supreme Court.

This is such a fundamental right of the public that it seemed almost bizarre that there were so many attempts to abridge that right.

The events at the Courthouse were also an example of the value of what various editorials and recent articles have commented upon; the need for other actors, the press, civil society NGOs, etc., to come forth and work for the necessary protection of public and individual rights. In this case several media outlets made submissions in support of the public’s right to know.

My opinion is that the public is realizing that we all have a responsibility in protecting our rights and if we do not do so, no one else will. Leaving the protection of our civil rights to the Attorney General’s office is a mental mistake that we must never make again.

The Chief Justice ruled that the unredacted Final Report was so widely distributed, that it was essentially now in the public domain. He lifted the injunction that had prevented TCI media from discussing or pointing the public to locations where the unredacted report could be obtained.

The irony of recent events of course is that the redacted parts of the Final Report, when revealed, contained very little that anyone who read the transcripts of the Oral Hearings from January and February of this year, did not already know!

One wonders if the various developers who have worked to block publication know something we don’t know, and thus feared something more being in the final report.

I guess only they know a 100% of what they have done and with whom. Perhaps publication of that is what they feared. Time will invariably reveal all.

Their advisors have not served them well. The legal attempts to hide the Inquiry’s findings has only resulted in their actions, and the attempts to hide their actions, now receiving a level of world-wide publicity that would never have occurred otherwise.

Now, as we turn our attention to the rebuilding of our Country and its institutions, I am also encouraged by the release of information from the Governor’s office on the contracts awarded for reconstructive work.

The press release announced the details of the awarding of 9 contracts, valued at close to a million dollars. It spoke of 3 invitations for tendering going out on Monday July 20th, and described work underway to prepare for repairs on 36 other buildings.

The transparency on the issuing of these contracts is a welcome move.

It sets a good example. And as more of Sir Robin’s recommendations are followed, with a greater access to information occurring, the transparency will have many other benefits beyond helping us getting value for our money.

It will help engender respect for one another and hopefully assist us in building a country based upon merit and not upon cronyism.

Transparency. A necessity in order for life to flourish in these islands.

God bless.

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