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Turks and Caicos government dissolved

By
DARSHAN RAMDHANI

GRAND TURK, Turks and Caicos Islands -- Chief Minister Nathaniel Francis and his ministers resigned Thursday after the British Parliament moved to dissolve the colony's government because of alleged corruption.

British Gov. Christopher Turner, in a broadcast on Radio Turks and Caicos, assured the 8,000 residents of the self-governing colony that he had assumed full authority and their rights would be protected.

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'For an interim period, government will be carried on with the help and advice of Turks and Caicos islanders especially selected for their standing in the community and their known ability to serve the country with honor, dignity and impartiality,' Turner said.

There were no disturbances despite earlier threats from Francis that any move against him would provoke a reaction among his followers.

The British action came 16 months after Francis, 74, assumed the post of chief minister. His predecessor, Norman Saunders, was forced to resign after being arrested on drug charges in Miami.

Earlier this week, the British Parliament approved a commission of inquiry report accusing Francis of corrupt behavior and malpractice in incidents dating back to 1980, when he was public works minister.

News of the parliamentary action was embargoed until Thursday to allow British authorities to assess the political climate on the island and select possible candidates for an interim government.

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The commission also recommended that the ministerial form of local government be scrapped in the islands, which are located some 90 miles north of the Dominican Republic and 575 miles southeast of Miami.

The 37 islands, eight of which are inhabited, once served as pirates' bases.

The commission report said there was evidence of corruption in several government departments and the burning of a public building last December was an act of politically motivated arson.

Francis resigned after he met for more than an hour with Turner. The resignations of his three ministers were automatic, in line with the constitution.

'I have quit with much protest because I have no option,' the British Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted Francis as saying.

'These charges are highly inaccurate and unfounded. Britain is just a damned second-rate puppet to the Americans who told them to do this to their little black colony here.'

Turner said in a radio broadcast the ministerial posts had been abolished and he would appoint an advisory council.

Minister of Works Alden Durham and Minister of Social Services Robert Hall were also implicated in the report as guilty of ministerial malpractice.

Tourism Minister Emmanuel Missick was not named in the commission report. His predecessor had resigned along with Saunders in March 1985.

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