Turks and Caicos elections postponed

An election to return self
governance for Turks and Caicos Islands has been postponed, a British Foreign
Office minister announced Tuesday, extending London’s direct rule over the
island dependency.

Henry Bellingham, the minister for
overseas territories, said that elections set for July 2011 would be delayed to
allow time for anti-corruption and good-government reforms to take effect in
the islands some 500 miles southeast of Florida.

Britain imposed direct rule on
Turks and Caicos in August 2009 after a government probe into allegations that
local leaders misused public money and profited from the sale of
government-owned land to developers.

The U.K. suspended the government
and legislature and put the London-appointed governor in direct charge.

“We want elections to take
place as soon as practicable. But I have concluded that more time is
needed,” Bellingham said in a statement from the U.K. Foreign and
Commonwealth Office at the close of a short visit to Turks and Caicos.

In a radio address to islanders,
Bellingham said he would announce the “remaining milestones which will
have to be met before elections can take place.” He said the vote should
be held “as soon as practicable.”

“Ultimately, we all want to
see TCI stand on its own two feet,” he said.

The islands’ former opposition
party called the decision an insult and a “blatant attempt to further
separate Turks and Caicos Islanders from our fundamental and inalienable rights
to full democracy.”

“We demand, here and now, for
a return of power to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands!” said a
statement from the People’s Democratic Movement, which previously welcomed the
British effort to clean up politics in the territory.

An interim government led by
London-appointed Gov. Gordon Wetherell was created after Britain appointed a
panel to look into allegations of corruption against former Premier Michael
Misick and other officials in the islands of 23,000 inhabitants.

Public hearings revealed Misick
spent lavishly after taking office in 2003. His estranged wife, actress
LisaRaye McCoy, described using private jets to commute from Los Angeles and
other luxuries including a leased Rolls-Royce. Misick has denied any wrongdoing
and described the British corruption probe as “modern-day
colonialism.”

Earlier this year, the former
premier put his 11,000-square-foot beachfront estate on the market.

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