Address by HE the Governor at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education following the murder of four young men, during a weekend, in Providenciales
Speech by His Excellency the Governor at a joint press conference with the Honorable Prime Minister and the Honorable Minister of Education in reaction to the unfortunate events of the weekend.
Good evening Turks and Caicos.
For those who listen to the radio, I am talking about the Prime Minister’s Office. I have with me: the Prime Minister, the Honorable Charles Washington Misick; Commissioner of Police and Minister of Education, the Honorable Rachel Taylor, in whose constituency the tragic events of this weekend took place. Many cabinet members are with us in the room.
The tragic events of the weekend which the Commissioner will discuss in detail at this time need no further description from me than to say that this weekend the historic community of Five Cays, at the hands of a small number of criminals, degenerated into a place of lawlessness rife with gang and gun violence and deadly reprisals. Fear has taken hold of a community where citizens should be able to live their lives feeling safe on the streets where most grew up.
The Prime Minister, the Commissioner, the Honorable Taylor and I were in Five Cays this morning speaking to residents, business owners and school children. It didn’t take them long to tell us they were scared. We promised them we would take care of it, and we promise you. We do this against the backdrop – and we must not hide the fact – that we know there are those who are determined to continue this cycle of violence and that for some they are beyond reason. .
So we are united as one team determined to face this. We have different responsibilities and overlapping powers, and those powers are best deployed in concert – whether it’s operational command of the police, the ability to fund different branches of government and pass laws, the ability to provide international support and monitoring and must work closely with the community.
Along with all Cabinet and NSC members, we also have the ability to bring together multiple branches of government – often convened through the NSS. When she speaks, the Honorable Taylor can talk about longer-term initiatives that she champions in her crucial role as Minister of Education. Either way, a meeting of the National Security Council is convening tomorrow that will develop and reinforce the immediate response that we will collectively describe to you now.
Before I say anything more, let me say this. Those who bully an entire community are few. They cannot think beyond their ego, their reputation or their wallet. While they seemingly live in the moment, with no thought of the consequences for themselves or others, all that will eventually happen, and faster than many imagine, is that they will die at the hands of of a rival or will be imprisoned.
One of our media talked about these young men walking with a metaphorical target on their back and it’s true. It is not a question of “if” but of “when” one of these two results occurs. We all have enough evidence, in terms of what happens to young men who choose this lifestyle, to know that this is true.
For today however, I will be brief and outline the immediate action that is underway to provide strategic support to our overall law enforcement posture.
I will end with an action you can take that may well be more important than anything I am saying today. I thank the Beckles and Cox family for alerting the territory to this, in their advocacy, over the weekend, a weekend that saw them bury Justin. Channeling the voice of the families, of a completely innocent victim of a crime committed with a firearm, is where I want to end my intervention.
Firstly, lest there be any doubt, and speaking particularly to the residents of Five Cays, there will be only one way out of the immediate problem we face – it is going to be dealt with – firmly – because it needs to be dealt with. If not, chaos reigns. This result is not discretionary – it has to happen.
Second: The police tactical unit was in Five Cays in the early hours of the morning. They were there again around noon. Over the next few days they will be making arrests against a list of individuals we believe are responsible for this chaos. If that’s ‘you’, I strongly suggest that if and when the tactical unit confronts you, you immediately lie down with your arms outstretched showing no doubt that you are unarmed. If a Police Officer fears for his life, or that of another, his rules of engagement are very clear and unfortunately very final. They are well trained, well armed and you will not win.
Third: Police resources are currently being reconfigured to ensure that the thin blue line separating the public and the criminals prevails. More police will be visible. The commissioner can say more about this, but this operational planning has been done and is being implemented.
Fourth: I requested helicopter support – from the Cayman Islands – with night surveillance capability. This can provide surveillance for police operations and for the community. I am grateful to the Governor, Prime Minister and Commissioner of Cayman – and to my colleagues in London that this was very quickly supported. He will arrive shortly and he will be in direct support of our police force. The surveillance it can provide (near or far) is a very significant force multiplier for law enforcement.
Fifthly: I was in a senior officials meeting this morning with colleagues from the UK Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, setting out the challenge we faced the TCI this weekend. As far as overseas territories are concerned, this will be one of the first things new UK ministers will be told. The officials know the context anyway because many have visited it.
The UK has built ranges of capabilities within our police forces. But since my meeting today with UK officials, we are now thinking about how we can make a much more significant improvement to direct UK support in terms of forming a ‘gang-focused’ unit, firearms and drugs”. The preparatory work was done thanks to a report which the commissioner and I had already asked the British police to prepare. In agreement with the Commissioner, a senior British police official will shortly make recommendations on which the UK can act. My goal would be for them not only to get results quickly, but also to build the capacity of local forces while being under the direction of local police.
Sixthly, and this is somewhat longer term, the purchase of a sophisticated surveillance aircraft by the UK – with advanced collection capabilities, day and night, but with great perseverance is now well advanced with suppliers expressing interest. This will make a huge difference in securing our borders not only from the big sloops of people smugglers – which we are now adept at intercepting – but also from the fast boats that bring weapons, drugs and ammunition. These fast boats won’t know they’re being watched until they’re banned, and the maritime branch of the police are doubling their numbers with three new vessels purchased this year. Such an aircraft can also provide the kind of surveillance to our communities and police operations that the helicopter we are bringing in from the Caymans will quickly perform.
Seventh, we now have the agreements and the technical capacity in place to enable us to intercept, track and analyze those involved in gangs and serious organized crime, including smugglers and those who bring weapons, ammunition and drugs. To enable it, we have the legislation – the best of breed in the Caribbean – in terms of democratic legitimacy and judicial oversight – being drafted, coming soon to Cabinet and the House, and then that will enable that kind of capacity to protect the islands not only from those who believe they have free will on our streets, but also believe that they can command, communicate and coordinate their illegal activities internally and internationally with impunity across the globe digital and telecommunications.
Eighth: The Director of Public Prosecutions has been asked to ask the UK for the support he feels he needs to tackle these complex crimes. The UK Ministry of Justice, I was told today, will provide support.
Beyond these eight actions, there is much more to say about how individuals can support the police. Much of this has already been said and perhaps others will repeat it. There is, however, one thing you can do within your family, right now, wherever you are in TCI, that does not involve the authorities, and in the long run, that may be the most important thing. effective that you can do.
If you are the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the cousin, the uncle, a friend, of a person whom you love and of a person whom you think is at risk of being on the margins of this activity, then tell him something very clearly, preferably tonight.
In other words, if you continue on this path, you are going to be drawn into a world where you either die or go to prison. If, for example, you’re found with a weapon, it’s a mandatory sentence of seven years in prison. It may well increase and it will be part of our discussion at the NSC. If you kill someone, it’s thirty years in prison. If you kill two people, you will die in prison.
If the person you love as a family member or friend has come into possession of a gun, tell them to return it. Nothing good will come of it. The perfectly decent young man, Justin, whose funeral I attended on Saturday, would be alive today, had not a gun been so readily available. A trivial argument degenerated beyond reason.
So, as the ninth action – carried out in memory of Justin Cox-Beckles – we will bring back the gun amnesty in the hope that the tragic events of the weekend, together with common sense and the love of family members, can now prevail over those who are at the beginning rather than the end of this journey. A press release will follow on this, with details, after the national security meeting.
I now turn the floor over to the Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Premier Misick…