11 March 2010

The Governor

His Excellency The Governor Gordon Wetherell (as he is called) was on South Caicos tonight. Such a formal title, however, did not impress the unruly mob that turned out. They were angry with an array of issues, and they let the Governor know it. They shouted at him, talked loudly over him, and pressed him over and over when he gave answers they did not like (all the while at least one inebriated man walked around the room with an open container). Since the British deposed the elected Premier, overturned the government, and suspended the constitution of the TCI last summer, things seem to have only gone downhill.

Anti-government rallies have been in the news recently.

The top issue (by far) was a recent decision to cut the pay of all government workers by 10%. This measure was taken in an attempt to reduce the country's deficit, and (I suspect) is a major reason for the recent anti-government protests. The people in attendance were relentless in their attacks about issue. Person after person stood to challenge the government officials on this, and with each one the whole community in attendance shouted in support. At a couple points it seemed as though the whole thing was going to break out into a riot. People were shouting from the back "get out of this country!" and one man told the Governor over the microphone that his administration was worse for the people of South Caicos than Hurricane Ike had been (the crowd exploded in cheers over that one). Eventually the member of the administration who was fielding the pay cut questions starting to respond simply by saying, "I'm not sure there's much more I can say on the topic."

This seemed to diffuse the situation. After they had gotten it all out of their system, the mob calmed down and more sensible questions were raised. They asked about the depressed fishing industry (of particular concern here on South Caicos). The Governor responded that low market prices for seafood in North America were the cause of the struggling industry and that they were looking into expanding exports to European markets where prices remain higher. He gave no indication whether or not they were addressing the issue of low catch due to environmental degradation.

They asked about assistance for families still displaced since Hurricane Ike nearly two years ago, to which the Governor responded with a promise to look into assistance. And they asked about development of the South Caicos airport (which will be necessary if the two tourism developments are ever to go into operation), to which they responded that they are looking into restoring a plan that was put on hold during the transition.

I had half a mind to raise the question of whether or not the TCI would sign a financial transparency agreement with the United States to crack down on tax evaders. Had I known the this townhall was taking place, I might have come prepared to do so. But I wasn't even aware the Governor was going to be here. I only found out because I was jogging by and recognized him standing at the podium. I was sweaty and thought I'd look a little funny addressing the highest government official in the country that way.

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