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Foreign ministers to visit TCI

6/27/2013, 2:12 p.m. | Updated on 6/27/2013, 2:12 p.m.

A team of Caribbean foreign ministers is on a four-day visit to the British dependency of the Turks and Caicos Islands to determine how the colony has settled down since London moved to impose day-to-day rule in the wake of serious allegations of corruption, mismanagement and malfeasance involving authorities in government in 2009.

Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell is leading the team of ministers, which includes colleagues from St. Kitts, Jamaica and Haiti, on what an official announcement said was a “fact-finding mission about the status of the TCI,” though it gave little additional details.

The TCI, like some of the other British colonies in the region, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, has associate status in the 15-nation regional grouping and regularly attends key meetings, including head of government conferences. Last year, it asked CARICOM to send a mission to determine the situation of the group of islands after the British had ordered its representative to take over its management in the wake of allegations of corruption in government.

Last November, the islands held fresh elections that returned power to the same governing party that the British had deposed, but the ministers say they want to get a first-hand feel of the political situation and have lined up meetings with a British representative, Premier Rufus Ewing and civil society groups. They have already met Opposition Leader Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson.

About 31,000 people live in the group of islands that is about an hour by air from Florida and near Haiti.

Its recent political history has been dogged by allegations that previous jet-setting Premier Michael Misick and a close circle of friends and family had illegally sold off state or crown lands to investors and had pocketed much of the money, sparking outrage. Misick reportedly had access to two private jet aircraft for personal use and was accused by friends and enemies alike of being under pressure to maintain a lavish and fancy lifestyle to keep pace with his former wife, who was a Hollywood actress.

The allegations peaked around 2009, when Britain suspended the government, sent in a representative from London and imposed direct rule, arguing that it had needed to restore order. Misick fled the country and was jailed in Brazil, where he was hiding out, fearing arrest. He has said that he wants to return home to face any charges.

Last November, the Turks and Caicos held elections that ended Britain’s three years of direct rule, but islanders still want CARICOM ministers to assess the situation and act as a kind of independent voice in the event of any negative situation in the future.