Opposition Leader Hon. Edwin Astwood said he would like to see an independent Turks and Caicos Islands but would only support such a move if the people are prepared and safeguards made for the country finances.
Dialoguing with Leo Lightbourne, host of ‘Bourne To Lead’ on the FLOW In the Morning Radio Turks and Caicos platform, Astwood argued that it makes sense to get the minds of the people to prepare for such eventuality, rather than to enter into a premature fashion.
He recalled on the twilight of the Interim Administration that milestones were set before returning to elected government. He said that a similar pathway should be charted on the road to independence.
“That is something that I want to push, saying, these are the things we want to accomplish for us to reach independence, and let’s start working on that,” he argued.
He said several ambitions should be factored into planning for independence, such as diversifying the local economy.
“We need not just the tourist industry, we need a few more industries, check. We need to educate the population, check. We need a lot of Turks and Caicos Islands entrepreneurs…Turks and Caicos Islands business owners, check.
“Let’s go down the line and check, check, check. And now that we have everything in place to go independent, we now know what our model is going to look like…healthcare, our defence, all those things, check,” he asserted.
Astwood, who listed some of his political idols as JAGS McCartney, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan, said after all those boxes have been checked, then the government should take it to the people to find out whether or not they are ready.
“And if the people say yes, then let’s do it, let’s pull the trigger,” he urged.
He said, while some people would still be cagey to make the independence leap, their doubt would not be as a result of the country not being ready, as all the checks and balances would have been in place.
The Opposition Leader told Lightbourne that the founding fathers of TCI Politics, including JAGS McCartney and Louis Astwood, would have loved to see an independent Turks and Caicos, and would wonder why the country had not reached that goal.
“They wanted an independent Turks and Caicos Islands. They wanted the Turks and Caicos Islands to be united,” he said, noting that it was the earlier leaders who stemmed a great deal the divide between what was known as the ‘Turks Islands’ and the ‘Caicos Islands’.
“You hear people talk about ‘west of the buoy’…they had to sink the buoy because they said they don’t want the people of the Turks and Caicos to be separated. They want us to be one country. They wanted to see our people rise up and be strong and take our place in the Caribbean,” he affirmed.
He continued: “They were there in the Bahamas when it became independent, and they said, let’s take that to Turks. They wanted to move us to internal self-government, that was in the 70s, and if you would have asked them, they wouldn’t think that 2021 we would not be there,” Astwood lamented.
He surmised that the reason the Turks and Caicos has not reached internal self-governance has to do with the politicians not getting the people mentally ready.
He said the founders had started the process of black education, doubt whether the politicians after them had the same fire in their collective bellies.
Astwood recalled as a child the older folk would congregate at a neighbour’s house, and at times travel to Salt Cay with their video cassettes, to show black liberation movies, such as the Alex Haley book turned blockbuster series – ROOTS.
He said showing the series was designed to educate the populace on the journey of black people in general.