Turks and Caicos Airport Shut Down by Demonstrators

According to a Caribbeannewsnow release, the demonstration was held, “on the first anniversary of last year’s organised march for people’s rights” and this time, it was organised by the Progressive National Party (PNP).

By 8:30 am on that morning, the airport road in Providenciales was shut down preventing all traffic from accessing the international airport. Cars and trucks were parked crosswise, blocking the road. Devon Williams, who heads Blaze Radio, was heard on a loudspeaker demanding elections. Several other close associates of former premier Michael Misick were engaged in the shutdown of the road.

Electrical outages were caused by utility poles being set afire.

Robert Hall, a former PNP minister turned radio talk show host, apparently flew down from his residence on Grand Turk on Monday or early Tuesday morning and set up a facility to broadcast on Radio Turks and Caicos, interviewing demonstrators and some passers-by, who seemed confused as to the purpose of the demonstration.
 
At 11:30 am reports were coming in that the crowd had diminished and it was hoped the road would be opened allowing free passage for tourists.
 
It appeared by that time a large portion of the crowd were curiosity seekers not demonstrators. Taxi drivers had also started using an unpaved back road to access the airport.

Reactions from locals varied from outright condemnation of any demonstration headed by members of the inner circle of former Premier Michael Misick to confusion as to what they were attempting to accomplish.
It appeared, however, that the Misick-led demonstrators were playing on the delays in achieving the principal milestone of prosecuting those suspected of corruption in government, claiming the British have no case and are just enforcing a return to colonialism. 

As of 7:00 pm, it appeared that a crowd had reformed with upwards of 100 people, as Radio Turks and Caicos reported that the demonstrators were fighting with police and some may have been arrested. One name mentioned as arrested was Devon Williams. 

Police at that point said they were not interested in arresting anyone; however, a total of five people were reportedly arrested during the course of the demonstration.
 
An American Airlines flight to Providenciales was cancelled as a result of the unrest and some arriving passengers were turned back at the airport and returned to their point of origin.

Many people were inconvenienced by the blockade of the Airport Road and felt that the demonstrators’ actions were misdirected. Many others felt that the time has come for the British occupation to end and for elected to resume its rightful place in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Acting governor, Mark Capes issued a press release concerning the incident and indicated that, “The Interim Government was notified on Friday 4 March by a group called Turks and Caicos United for Justice and Equality, that unless an announcement was made by 4 pm on Monday 7 March setting a date for general elections to be held in the TCI, a ‘sustained campaign’ would begin. They will have known that this request was unrealistic.
 
“UK government ministers published a statement on 9 December 2010 specifying the milestones that have to be met before elections can take place. Broadly, these address the TCI’s deep crisis in public finance and need to achieve a fiscal surplus, and the need to significantly strengthen the governance of the Territory to prevent a repeat of the widespread mismanagement seen under previous administrations. Ministers were clear that they hoped elections could take place in 2012.
 
“Like the governments of many countries, we have had to take difficult decisions made against the backdrop of the continuing world economic downturn that has further damaged the local economy. Nevertheless, the Interim Government appreciates the general support it receives from the wider TCI population.
 
“We have been informed by the police that today’s demonstration in Providenciales attracted approximately 30 protestors who deliberately blocked the airport road. In doing so, the protestors frustrated access to and from the airport by tourists, Turks and Caicos Islanders and others going about their work. The demonstrators present a distorted and negative impression of an otherwise friendly and hospitable people. Their actions show no respect for the right of law-abiding people to go about their legitimate business.

“Although protestors have a right to peaceful demonstration, ultimately, targeting the tourist industry is self-destructive. It risks damaging the TCI’s reputation as a top destination and represents a serious threat to the jobs of many hard working Turks and Caicos Islanders employed in the tourism sector.”

 

(Parts of this article were written with content submitted in a Caribbeannewsnow release).

 

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