Until recently, if someone had asked me if the TCI was ready for independence, my standard answer would have been No, with the caveat that we could be made ready within eight to ten years once we properly set ourselves on that path. However, it occurred to me that independence of the TCI is simply a state of mind. Some would say we have so many more institutions to build, to diversify our economy, etc. But I now say that, as a small country, we have as stable an economy and majority of institutions needed to be a functioning independent country.
I wholeheartedly believe there are two main reasons for most people that don’t support independence for the TCI, whether they say it or not. The first is lack of trust in the leadership of our country and the second is an unwillingness to sacrifice.
In the first instance, at no time has any leader of this country been able to get two-thirds of the population to trust in them to take us to independence. The closest person may have been Hon. Derek Taylor but TCI independence was not on his agenda though it is a significant pillar of the PDM’s constitution.
At the height of his power, having won 13 of the 15 available seats in 2007, Hon. Michael Misick (PNP) only got 58% of the overall votes cast.
Contrary to popular belief, my first thoughts on TCI independence came in the early 2000s, when my uncle, Hon. Clarence Selver, then minister of health and education, met with some of the returning university students in his conference room. He said to us at that meeting that he prays for the day that we no longer have to sing ‘God save the Queen’. From that day to this, independence for the TCI has always been a part of my conscience and subconscious.
So until we have leadership that most people will follow regardless of political affiliations, independence will be out of our reach.
I now turn to the second point, which deals with sacrifice. We have been colonized to the point that we think there is only one way to be an independent nation, which is the way of Western industrialized nations. If we look at independence in its simplest form, it is the ability to take care of our needs.
When our ancestors were left on these islands “for dead” by slave masters fleeing, were they not independent in their survival? Before Christopher Columbus so-called “discovered” a land that had inhabitants, were the Taino Indians not independent? Before Britain colonized nearly half of the world, were these tribal communities, countries or kingdoms not independent?
I say we are looking at this independence thing the wrong way. We will never be a fully industrialized nation and nor should we try to be as we would be chasing ghosts.
We can figure out what best covers our basic needs while maximizing our wants. Case in point, does an independent TCI really need embassies all over the world? No. We can start with countries that have high concentrations of Turks and Caicos Islanders overseas or that we are likely to have a trade or strategic relationship with. Examples would be the Bahamas, USA, or Canada.
What about a Defence Force? Who’s trying to invade us? With the strengthening of border control and support of OPBAT type agreements, we would be good to go.
Anyone ever notice that most of our Caribbean neighbours may be the first to tell us reconsider independence in one breath but have the biggest parades and parties worldwide on their independence days in another. Ask them next time if they could go under Britain, would they, and see how many would say yes. My guess is very few would even though many may lack faith in their country’s leadership.
I will end where I began, independence is simply a state of mind and with trusted leadership and a willingness to sacrifice and take on responsibility, we are closer to independence than we think.