Governor must go, say defiant islanders

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The Independent Online
Local politicians in the Turks and Caicos Islands have accused Britain of threatening the Caribbean islands with military intervention and reiterated their demand that the British Governor, Martin Bourke, be recalled.

At a meeting on the island of Grand Turk, the local government and opposition, united against the Governor, told visiting Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Sir Nicholas Bonsor, they would refuse to work with Mr Bourke.

In a letter handed to Sir Nicholas, Chief Minister Derek Taylor and opposition leaders criticised Britain for reportedly sending a warship off their coast after portraying the islanders as "violent and lawless".

"We ask that all threats of military intervention be called off," the politicians said, adding that Britain should pay compensation for any money lost in tourism or investment as a result of recent negative publicity, which they blame on the Governor.

The crisis broke in February when Mr Bourke, a 49-year-old career diplomat who has been Governor of the British dependent territory since 1993, spoke in an interview of drug-trafficking, police corruption and growing crime. The local government and opposition, uniting for the first time, accused him of damaging tourism and investment prospects and demanded he be recalled.

It was Sir Nicholas Bonsor who rejected that demand earlier this month, when a Turks and Caicos Islands delegation visited Whitehall.

Reiterating their demand, the local politicians told Sir Nicholas: "We were left utterly dismayed by Her Majesty's Government's handling of the people's petition and more so by HMG's actions in this matter, including attempts at portraying the leadership and people of the TCI as violent and lawless, resulting in the deployment of a British warship off the TCI."

Sir Nicholas reportedly insisted that the vessel, believed to be the frigate HMS Brave, was in the area for reasons unconnected with the crisis over the Governor. He also repeated Britain's position that Mr Bourke would not be recalled.

Governors generally stay a minimum of three years but their assignment is open-ended "at Her Majesty's pleasure". The previous governor was in the TCI for six and a half years. Mr Bourke's three-year minimum, with holiday time, will be up in September and there are rumours in Whitehall that his assignment will end soon after.