The decision to postpone the governing Progressive National Party (PNP) annual convention is not surprising, shocking or alarming. For the Turk and Caicos Islands (TCI) it may be best deemed “business as usual”.
The reasons are not clear but it seems that the party’s rank and file, the current chairman, delegates cannot seem to weather an onslaught from former leader Michael E Misick. So the best they can do is to postpone the annual convention, run for the hills and for no apparent reason other than to prevent “Mike” from becoming chairman.
This really exposes something about how that party is run and provides a further look into Caribbean politics and why the region is still trapped in neo-colonial economic traps.
A few probing questions may be asked though. Is it possible that the PNP and its behaviour is symptomatic of Commonwealth Caribbean political parties? Could the assertion be made that Caribbean political organisations are really managed by emotion, those who see a higher purpose in obtaining wealth for themselves and not really to ensure there is wealth for all?
Until now, many in the TCI have advocated that one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of one’s peers. Alas, at the moment TCI does not enjoy a fundamental right to trial by jury. Nonetheless, Misick was given “equal” treatment by the Turks and Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA) when he reapplied to re-join its membership after returning to the islands. This is private, non partisan body. Not a political party.
The PNP has been around for a while, since 1976, not as old as most Caribbean political parties but long enough to develop functioning governance structures, practices, traditions and a disciplinary model that would enable that party to deal with its issues. It seems that no real progress has been made in this direction.
The question is really this: If the PNP has a problem with Mike Misick or his supporters, they should face him and deal with him under their party’s constitution. What are they afraid of? Possibly the same thing that most Caribbean leaders fear. That celebrity and emotion are greater forces than established rules.
It is undeniable, a rebuke to the British iron hand that Misick returned home to a hero’s welcome, in some sense seemingly mature and contrite. Kissing the ground, comparing himself to Mandela – though unpardonable – but a really forgivable slip of the tongue. His uncanny knack for finding the upper hand and gaining the momentum are ingredients that the PNP may face.
How about if they develop a commitment to understanding their own constitution, a resolve to enforce it, a boldness to face Mike and his supporters? Maybe they will get somewhere with simple issues like planning a convention. Perhaps the greater fear is that he knows where the ‘skeletons are buried’ and not all of them have clean hands – living in the same glass house.
It would be revolutionary perhaps, if the current national chairman would actually convene a convention to discipline Mike, address his tenure in office and why he wants to be national chairman at this time. Wouldn’t that be a major show of leadership, a commitment to finding the issues and the truth? Any other decision would be an insult to supporters of that party, disrespect for its constitution and the principles, if any, for why that party was founded.
It could be a soul searching exercise and may set a regional trend for political party management and the enforcement of discipline, if they would do actually that. More than anything else a convention at this time would perhaps give the supporters greater control over their party. It is Caribbean crisis that very few parties are committed to enforcing their constitutional mandates. It seems that outside control, forces and factors always seem to crop up. Really, the supporter and voter are not in control.
One suggestion would be that, in addition to dealing with the Mike Misick issue, for them to really go on a course of soul-searching to find out why and how their supporters lost control of their party. Postponing the convention is one clear sign of that loss of control.
Allegations have been made that politics in the TCI, like many Caribbean nations, is controlled by actors such as Michael Ashcroft, debt structures, unregulated banks, graft and money that goes everywhere. Sir Robin Auld in his 2009 Commission of Enquiry Report touched on this, did not go any further and the islands must face a billion dollar debt for ever.
What if, just what if, a PNP convention would address some of these issues? It would meet opposition demands in some needed way for a commission and the critical need for an investigation. One of the credibility factors facing them is that they, despite being the government of the day, consistently refuse to stand up and face the real issues that confront the people. The decision on the convention is really symptomatic of that problem and their lack of leadership.
Running away from Mike and the real issues that confront these islands is not the solution. Owing largely to this refusal and inability for our leaders to stand-up, lead, face the music, we suffer not only a democratic deficit but long-term systemic problems.
One thing is certain, is that the issue of Mike Misick, his return, his bid for leadership as the PNP’s national chairman will not go away. What he did while in office will not and cannot be addressed from the courts because there is no one in London, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT), the asset recovery team, big enough to address any of these issues.
The reasons are many, but most of all, if touched on, will expose too many others up there. So like this PNP chairman and executive, they cannot face him. So the rebuke to the British theory is more tenable than anything else. Misick is more popular, more relevant, more possible than any of them. So they run for cover.
It is better they face the music and the reasons Mike is still here. Running away from him exposes systemic weakness, weak governance structures in that party, a certain level of cowardice and a refusal to deal with that man where he is. It is still a Caribbean problem and, again, their weak approach to issues must in some way explain why the Caribbean itself suffers from a deep leadership crisis.
People are crying out for leadership and the fear factor to dealing with Mike makes him more and more possible on that side. Whether they allow a convention and for Misick’s nomination to even be seconded is their problem. Yet not dealing with him, his bid, running from the inevitable sets and cements a terrible trend and tradition of Caribbean leaders never ever leading at all.
So history must record a neo-colonial leadership reality where others, money, other ideas always get to lead. Is there anyone big enough to break this mould and face the music?