Turks and Caicos Islands Government - Political Dynamics
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies
Politics in the Turks and Caicos Islands differed from the situation in the Cayman Islands in three notable ways. First, the Turks and Caicos had two defined political parties. Second, independence was a salient issue and a determinant in party identification. Finally, the political landscape in 1980s had been shaped by government corruption.
The first elections in the Turks and Caicos under the revised 1976 Constitution took place that year and were won by the proindependence People's Democratic Movement (PDM). Independence appealed to many in the Turks and Caicos, who were influenced by the Jamaican independence process in the early 1960s. In early 1980, Britain agreed that if the governing PDM won elections later that same year, the islands would receive independence and a payment of around US$21.6 million. However, the PDM chief minister, J.A.G.S. McCartney, was killed in an accident that May. Lacking his strong leadership, the PDM lost the November 1980 election to the Progressive National Party (PNP), which supported continued dependent status. At the next general election, in May 1984, the PNP, led by Chief Minister Norman Saunders, won eight of the eleven elective seats. During that campaign neither party raised the issue of independence, largely because citizens had become aware of the value of regular British financial aid. Both parties were committed to free enterprise and to the development of the Turks and Caicos through tourism and offshore financial services.
The PNP's 1984 election victory could be explained in part by growing economic prosperity over the preceding four years. Government revenues had risen; more banks had established offices in the islands; the airport on Providenciales had been finished; and tourism had expanded dramatically.
In 1985 the Turks and Caicos were rocked by a major drug scandal. In March, Chief Minister Saunders, Minister of Commerce and Development Stafford Missick, and another PNP member were arrested in Miami by DEA agents, in cooperation with the islands' own governor and police force. During the trial, the prosecution showed a videotape of Saunders receiving US$20,000 from a DEA undercover agent. The DEA said that Saunders took the money in return for promises to protect drug shipments from Colombia as they passed through his native island of South Caicos on their way to the United States.
Saunders and Missick were found guilty of drug conspiracy charges by a Miami court on July 21, 1985, although Saunders was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. Missick was convicted of the additional charge of cocaine importation. Saunders and Missick were subsequently sentenced to prison terms of eight and ten years, respectively; each was fined US$50,000.
Data as of November 1987
NOTE: The information regarding Turks and Caicos Islands on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Turks and Caicos Islands Political Dynamics information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Turks and Caicos Islands Political Dynamics should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.