Turks and Caicos Islands is an overseas territory of the United
Kingdom consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the
Caribbean, southeast of the Bahamas, at 21°45'N 71°35'W.
The territory is geographically part of the Bahamas islands,
but not politically. The thirty islands total 166 sq. mi.
(430 km²), primarily of low, flat limestone with extensive
marshes and mangrove swamps. The weather is usually sunny
and relatively dry, but suffers frequent hurricanes. The islands
have limited natural fresh water resources; private cisterns
collect rainwater for drinking. The primary natural resources
are spiny lobster and conch. The United Nations Committee
on Decolonization includes the Turks and Caicos Islands on
the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands is Cockburn Town on Grand Turk. The islands
were under Jamaican jurisdiction until 1962, when they assumed the status of a
crown colony. The governor of the Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With
Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although
independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands
are presently a British overseas territory. The islands adopted a constitution
on August 30, 1976, which is Constitution Day, the national holiday. The constitution
was suspended in 1986, but restored and revised March 5, 1988. The territory's
legal system is based on English common law, with a small number of laws adopted
from Jamaica and the Bahamas. Suffrage is universal for those over 18 years of
age. English is the official language.
As a British territory, Queen Elizabeth II of the United
Kingdom is the sovereign, represented by a governor. The head
of government is the chief minister. The Executive Council
consists of three ex officio members and five appointed by
the governor from among the members of the Legislative Council.
No elections are held; the monarch is hereditary, the governor
appointed by the monarch, and the chief minister appointed
by the governor.
The unicameral Legislative Council consists of 19 seats, 13 popularly
elected; members servefour-year terms. Elections were held March 4, 1999, and
again in 2003. The Progressive National Party, led by Hon. Dr. Michael Misick
holds eight seats, and the People's Democratic Movement, led by Derek H. Taylor,
holds five seats. The United Democratic Party, led by Wendal Swann, received a
small fraction of the popular vote, but not enough to earn a seat.
The judicial branch of government is headed by a Supreme
Turks and Caicos participates in the Caribbean Development
Bank, is an associate in Caricom, and maintains an International
Criminal Police Organization - Interpol sub-bureau. Defence
is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. In December of
2004 the Turks and Caicos Islands sought to become a new associate
member to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) article.