The Paula Arthur Rigby show, which airs on PTV 8 on Wednesday night and which is on occasion rebroadcast, took a serious turn last week from its usual light-hearted format.
Addressing a number of issues, Rigby started with a call for unity. However, instead of supporting the calls from the Progressive National Party (PNP), she said they -- the PNP supporters and government members -- need to stop what they are up to and unify with the majority of Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Her first issue, and one that was mentioned over and over during the show, was independence.
Rigby pointed out that Caribbean nations that have taken the independence route have experienced lower standards of living for their poor and disadvantaged people.
“We need to stop considering this call for independence and right now,” she said.
She then revealed a scam that is taking place relative to the national health tax on wages. In was recently announced that service fees (assessed gratuities) charged to visitors by the resorts will be subject to the 6 percent tax shared by the resorts and workers. However, in the last few days, resorts have reportedly deducted the tax from wages retroactive to December of last year.
After the deductions were made, letters were issued by the resorts explaining that this was implemented by the current PNP government, which took office the previous month. While the example Rigby gave was the Palms resort, it appears this accumulated health tax, and also possibly pension fund contributions, has been deducted from employees at all the resorts.
Neither PNP Premier Rufus Ewing nor Finance Minister Washington Misick ever announced the tax would be retroactive to last year and right after they took office.
What Rigby brought to light on her show was that the PNP sat on the collection of the tax until after the by-election that took place in late March.
“They did not want the little people, the workers to know what they had done prior to the election,” the talk show host said.
A caller to the show highlighted the low wages being offered by the resorts, saying that it was only the minimum wage -- $5 per hour.
Rigby said that value added tax (VAT) was also mentioned and the contributions collected retroactively were described in the written notices as an alternative to VAT.
Rigby then attacked the job fair practices. She gave an example of the job fair conducted by the Labour Department, which had not been previously announced.
“They had LIME broadcast a text message the morning of the job fair,” she said.
She went on to explain that those showing up for the fair found that, if they were not registered with the Labour Department, they were simply not allowed to apply. This was despite needed skill levels. According to Rigby, the same level of disorganisation was apparent at the Beaches job fair.
Rigby then chided young Turks and Caicos Islanders for their method of dress and failure to network for existing jobs.
A second caller said that the recent problems at Clement Howell High School were because of the change in the principal of the school. The former principal, a Jamaican national, was open to the media and explained how he exercised discipline, including corporal punishment which, the caller said, obviously prevented what has been happening in recent months.
Rigby also addressed the recent bulldozing of the illegally constructed residences primarily in the Five Cays area of Providenciales. These are generally flimsy shacks that sprung up under the watch of former PNP representative Lillian Boyce.
According to Rigby, the problem was with the Planning Department that seemingly failed to stand up to Boyce and “within 60 days from start-up the people moved in and cannot now be chased from their illegal houses built on the people’s land.”
She then referred to the practice of the former PNP governments in granting of hundreds of belongerships to Haitian nationals, who have now been responsible for returning the PNP to power.
Her last statement at the end of the show was, “This is serious and people need to pay attention... remember you voted these folks in and you can vote them out!”