Demonstrators shut down Turks and Caicos airport

Former premier Michael Misick taking part (or perhaps taking a rest) at a protest demonstraion at the Providenciales Airport in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Photo credit: Kazz Forbes Photography

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — On the first anniversary of last year’s organised march for people’s rights in the Turks and Caicos Islands, another demonstration was mounted on Tuesday, this time organised by the Progressive National Party (PNP).

By 8:30 am on Tuesday, the airport road in Providenciales was shut down preventing all traffic from accessing the international airport. Cars and trucks were parked crosswise, blocking the road. Devon Williams, who heads Blaze Radio, was heard on a loudspeaker demanding elections. Several other close associates of former premier Michael Misick were engaged in the shutdown of the road.

Also reportedly involved in organising the demonstration was Ron Higgs, who headed the failed United Party.

At the head of the demonstration was Michael Misick himself, who was seen carrying a placard. Reportedly he also arrived with pre-printed tee shirts.

Electrical outages were caused by utility poles being set afire.

Robert Hall, a former PNP minister turned radio talk show host, apparently flew down from his residence on Grand Turk on Monday or early Tuesday morning and set up a facility to broadcast on Radio Turks and Caicos, interviewing demonstrators and some passersby, who seemed confused as to the purpose of the demonstration.

At 11:30 am reports were coming in that the crowd had diminished and it was hoped the road would be opened allowing free passage for tourists.

It appeared by that time a large portion of the crowd were curiosity seekers not demonstrators. Taxi drivers had also started using an unpaved back road to access the airport.

Reactions from locals varied from outright condemnation of any demonstration headed by members of the Misick inner circle to confusion as to what they were attempting to accomplish.

It appeared, however, that the Misick-led demonstrators were playing on the delays in achieving the principal milestone of prosecuting those suspected of corruption in government, claiming the British have no case and are just enforcing a return to colonialism.

As of 7:00 pm, it appeared that a crowd had reformed with upwards of 100 people, as Radio Turks and Caicos reported that the demonstrators were fighting with police and some may have been arrested. One name mentioned as arrested was Devon Williams.

Earlier in the day, Ewonka Selver, known as the author of numerous newspaper articles with an anti-British slant, seemed to be challenging police to arrest her, saying, “Look, I am blocking the road and breaking the law and I don’t care.”

Police at that point said they were not interested in arresting anyone; however, a total of five people were reportedly arrested during the course of the demonstration.

An American Airlines flight to Providenciales was cancelled as a result of the unrest and some arriving passengers were turned back at the airport and returned to their point of origin.

Many people were inconvenienced by the blockade of the Airport Road and felt that the demonstrators’ actions were misdirected. Many others felt that the time has come for the British occupation to end and for elected to resume its rightful place in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“We want our country back!’ shouted one of the scores of demonstrators who blocked the entrance road to the country’s gateway airport. “It’s Time for the Brits To Go!” shouted another.

Acting governor, Mark Capes, could not initially be reached for comment but reportedly told another local resident that the demonstration was unfortunate in that it discouraged the tourists arriving on the new JetBlue flights.

However, by mid-afternoon, Capes, who is also the chief executive officer of the public service, issued a release saying, “The Interim Government was notified on Friday 4 March by a group called Turks and Caicos United for Justice and Equality, that unless an announcement was made by 4 pm on Monday 7 March setting a date for general elections to be held in the TCI, a ‘sustained campaign’ would begin. They will have known that this request was unrealistic.

“UK government ministers published a statement on 9 December 2010 specifying the milestones that have to be met before elections can take place. Broadly, these address the TCI’s deep crisis in public finance and need to achieve a fiscal surplus, and the need to significantly strengthen the governance of the Territory to prevent a repeat of the widespread mismanagement seen under previous administrations. Ministers were clear that they hoped elections could take place in 2012.

“Like the governments of many countries, we have had to take difficult decisions made against the backdrop of the continuing world economic downturn that has further damaged the local economy. Nevertheless, the Interim Government appreciates the general support it receives from the wider TCI population.

“We have been informed by the police that today’s demonstration in Providenciales attracted approximately 30 protestors who deliberately blocked the airport road. In doing so, the protestors frustrated access to and from the airport by tourists, Turks and Caicos Islanders and others going about their work. The demonstrators present a distorted and negative impression of an otherwise friendly and hospitable people. Their actions show no respect for the right of law-abiding people to go about their legitimate business.

“Although protestors have a right to peaceful demonstration, ultimately, targeting the tourist industry is self-destructive. It risks damaging the TCI’s reputation as a top destination and represents a serious threat to the jobs of many hard working Turks and Caicos Islanders employed in the tourism sector.

Co-incidentally, and said by some to be related in some way, Providenciales’ sole electricity provider PPC and the leading telecommunications provider LIME both reported acts of vandalism to the police.

A PPC press release said, “At approximately 2:00 am on Tuesday, March 8, 2011, PPC Ltd received a report that two utility poles located opposite the Power Plant on Leeward Highway were on fire.

“The fire caused intermittent outages to occur throughout Providenciales from 2:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. Service was restored to all affected areas by 11:45 a.m. on the same day.

“An official report has been filed with the TCI Royal Police Force and their CID team is currently investigating the matter.”

While PPC’s customers started experiencing outages of electricity, LIME customers began experiencing disruptions in cellular and landline services.

A LIME press release said, “LIME advises that a cabinet and a cell site were vandalized early this morning in Providenciales, resulting in degradation of services. Technicians are working diligently to restore these services.

New Police Commissioner Colin Farquhar has not yet issued a statement.

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  1. Gabriel Messenger
    March 22, 2011

    These folks are retarded. The entire western world is facing cutbacks, limited funds, resources etc. If the Brits were not there. The place would sink into lawless anarchy in about fifteen minutes. Then the Hatians and Dominicans, who do most of the work in TCI would go home. The former Government rode the wave of good economy but they were greedy fat bullies that conduct their business with a nod and a wink.

  2. Upset
    March 10, 2011

    It was in no way humdreds of people protesting possibly 30 and a few stray dogs. Some of the people leading the protest are known criminals,including former corrupt politicians under investigation. Bishop Colletta Williams one of the key leaders owes the National Insurance Board thousands in unpaid contributions and still he has not paid former teachers at his school thousands of dollars in salaries.

    They are a bunch of idiots who are all in it for their pockets!!

    I hope the Brits give them independance tomorrow, take back all British passports granted to locals and recall the loan. Let’s see how corruption and greed will sustain the nation!

  3. J.I.S.Peak
    March 9, 2011

    Gordon Wetherhall is a hero for remaining in the Turks and Caicos Islands for more than a minute. If Britain sent me there – I would feign sickness to return as it if those people cannot see Michael Missick and his cronies got them into the mess and the cut in salary and the taxes are because of his impropriety and are natural consequences of his wrong doing, then why would I need to be there? They should be protesting against Michael Missick.

  4. Billyblueyz
    March 9, 2011

    We are in this mess thanks to Mr. Missick. The majority of Turks Islanders are ashamed and appalled. These are Mike’s cronies. Little thugs.
    God help us!

  5. loveTCI
    March 9, 2011!/profile.php?id=100000743231521&sk=wall

    this is a link to the real story because report is made of lies fabricated my the interm goverment(brits) the protest has no ties with the PNP party or its former primier Micheal G Missick.
    the was and act by the people a group called “Turks and caicos united for justice”
    hundreds came to rally against to poor leadership of the governor…..he all has power to ass he was in our country….that iz not a democracy !!!

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