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Peter Beckingham

Former governor in Turks and Caicos Islands

Part of UK in Grand Turk

19th February 2016


Building closer and more productive relations with other countries is the key part of many diplomats’ work,  and it is also vital for many Overseas Territories. Turks and Caicos Islands is no exception, and there have been two examples recently of how our Territory can benefit from working to enhance our relationship with neighbours.

In February I visited the Dominican Republic  with our Permanent Secretary for Border Control and Labour, Clara Gardiner, to meet with Ministers and officials there. Our main aim was to highlight to the DR some of the issues and developments between our two countries, and to look at ways to strengthen and widen our links.

There are of course major differences between our two countries, not the least of which is size: DR has a population of over 10 million, dwarfing TCI’s approximately 35,000, and culturally it has closer affinities to other Hispanic countries.  But despite these David and Goliath- type opposites, the DR could not have extended a warmer and more businesslike welcome. The Foreign Minister, Andres Navarro, greeted us, and we had wide-ranging discussions with two of his Vice Ministers, the Head of the Navy and officials – all ably abetted by the British Ambassador and his small team.

There are now some 5,000 registered DR citizens living and working in Turks and Caicos, so their contribution to our economy and way of life is sizeable. Less happily we have suffered in recent years from an increasing number of DR fishermen encroaching in TCI waters, and there have been a number of well-publicised arrests by our police and the Department for Environment and Maritime Affairs staff. There are also reports of human trafficking between our two countries.

The Foreign Minister and I agreed that it would be productive for DR to open a full-time Consulate here to help look after its citizens, and to initiate contacts between the DR Navy and our police to curb fishing incursions. We also want to use the proximity of our two countries to expand trade and investment, and use the great network of links which TCI’s InterCaribbean Airlines has quietly been transforming and building with DR and the region recently. The airline is an important ambassador for TCI.

None of these proposals will happen overnight, but I’m hopeful that our initial contacts – the first for many years – will bring some real benefits to TCI-DR relations. It’s great that the Foreign Minister plans to visit us – an indication of our growing importance, although we will never have the political influence regionally  of the bigger countries like the DR, Cuba and Jamaica.

A different sort of relationship was also highlighted  in February with the visit of a group of Canadian parliamentarians to Providenciales and Grand Turk. I was delighted to welcome them in both centres, and to show them some of our history with a visit to the Governor’s residence, “Waterloo”, in Grand Turk. As the Speaker of the House skilfully reminded us we share a good deal in common with Canada, including of course the same Monarch.

I was familiar with the strategic aim of this  visit from my time in Australia, where the Government set out to develop closer links, especially at parliamentary level,  with its numerous South Pacific neighbours. The Canadian parliament is deliberately setting out to emulate the Australian model in the Caribbean.

As many of us know TCI already has deep and valuable links with Canada, especially in our tourism sector. The frequent flights to Providenciales by Westjet and Air Canada attest to that, and the Canadian developer Stan Hartling’s Sands, Palms and Shore Club resorts are a major sign of the importance of Canadian, and overseas, investment. Fortis and most of our retail banks are a daily reminder of the significance of Canada-TCI relations.

I hope that the visit of the Canadian parliamentarians will contribute to closer links, possibly by introducing particular ties with Prince Edward Island which I gather shares a number of commonalities with TCI – apart from the climate!

Both the Dominican Republic and Canada, in very different ways, have an impact on our daily lives in Turks and Caicos, so anything we can do to strengthen and enhance those links is going to benefit all of us. The trick for TCI is to ensure that not only do we thicken those ties, but also look at building our relations with other important neighbours in the region, including Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, and further afield with countries in Central/South America and Europe.

Welcoming Canadian parliamentarians to TCI
Welcoming Canadian parliamentarians to TCI
With DR Foreign Minister Navarro in Santo Domingo
With DR Foreign Minister Navarro in Santo Domingo

About Peter Beckingham

Peter was the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from 2013 to 2016. Before this, he was British Deputy High Commissioner to India, based in Mumbai, the commercial capital,…

Peter was the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from
2013 to 2016. Before this, he was British Deputy High Commissioner to India, based in Mumbai, the commercial capital, where he had a responsibility for developing UK-India trade and investment. His earlier appointments have
included Consul-General and Director-General of Trade and Investment in
Sydney, and British Ambassador to the Philippines, where he initiated
the UK Government’s involvement in a peace process with the Philippine
Government and Muslim rebel groups.
Peter is married to Jill, a teacher of special needs, and they have
two grown up children. His outside interests include cricket, golf and