Getting to Know

A Journey of Purpose and Responsibility

Her Excellency Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, Governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands

By Davidson Edens Louis ~ Photos By Elemento Photography

I was eager to meet the country’s first female governor, not only because of her impressive track record and swift achievements but also because I wanted to encounter the true, authentic self beyond her title.

HE Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam is the Turks & Caicos Islands’ first female governor.

Ms. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam took up the role of governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands in June 2023. Born in Shropshire, UK and descendant of a line of lioness women with strong family ties, Governor Daniel-Selvaratnam stands as the first female to take on the role in the Turks & Caicos. With roots in Sri Lanka, she exudes a stern yet charismatic demeanor. As she sat next to me, relaxed and composed, our open conversation was inspiring and enlightening. She shared anecdotes and reflections, offering insights into her personal background and professional ethos, from childhood memories by the sea to addressing complex issues like youth crime. Our discussion delved into the essence of identity, purpose, and resilience, revealing a life shaped by diverse experiences and unwavering dedication.

Growing up in the West Midlands countryside, far from the sea, Her Excellency fondly recalls childhood holidays in Sri Lanka, where the beach and island lifestyle instilled a sense of safety, joy, and calmness. No wonder she feels at home here in the TCI. Repeated vacations in the tropics as a child, surrounded by lots of cousins, have helped refine her character. She grew up in a colorful family, filled with debaters, steeped in love, care, and of course, the occasional bragging rights. She found the perfect balance between tradition and self-purpose, which lays the groundwork for her affinity towards island living and career. She is a simple soul, a cook, and a passionate enthusiast for spicy food. She swims laps in the morning, I assume only after she makes sure nothing has emerged overnight across our Islands. She oozes self-control and poise, and I do wonder how she does this so effortlessly.

When we dove into it, I couldn’t help but notice a profound sense of self-fulfillment and genuine joy in serving the public. Perhaps this is what motivates her to persist and affect lasting changes. She spearheaded the set-up of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, a significant undertaking following the tragic fire in London that claimed the lives of 72 individuals. This initiative provided compelling reasons to persevere. It entailed driving purpose by addressing bereavement and distress, facilitating a legal process, and fostering public trust. From her tenure as governor in Anguilla to her current responsibilities, she stresses the critical importance of safeguarding and supporting communities, particularly during times of vulnerability.

Navigating challenges and complexities of leadership, Her Excellency shares her approach to decision-making amidst uncertainty and anxiety. Grounded in humility and strategic thinking, she emphasizes the importance of staying focused on preventing harm and earning trust through responsible actions. “How do you bring yourself to the core when you’re dealing with complex issues?” I asked. “Always keep sight of your responsibility,” she answered. “It’s not about plaudits. At its core, I think that staying humble in that moment and staying calm is so important. Avoid shooting from the hip and really allow yourself to react not when on a whim but on a focused analysis of the issue at hand.”

Having the responsibility to protect the country, Her Excellency encourages young individuals to embrace diverse opportunities and find their path authentically. Rejecting the pressure to have life’s trajectory figured out early, she advocates for exploring experiences that foster resilience, adaptability, and self-awareness.

In addressing youth crime, Governor Daniel-Selvaratnam highlights the allure of gang life for vulnerable individuals seeking identity and status. She emphasizes the importance of preventive measures, community engagement, and providing support to at-risk youth to steer them away from criminal pathways. Starting with education, Her Excellency emphasizes the need for curricula that prioritize self-awareness and critical thinking. She underscores the role of mentorship, community support, and holistic approaches in nurturing confident and empowered youth. A heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the local establishments and persons who are dedicated to tackling the root cause of the issues, including the Edward Gartland Youth Centre, the Felix Morley Community Centre, and the ongoing initiatives from TCI Minister of Education Rachel Taylor

I pondered how to encapsulate the interaction in a single word. Without hesitation, “humility” came to mind. Her Excellency’s insights serve as a testament to the power of purpose-driven leadership, compassionate decision-making, and embracing one’s unique journey. Through her words, she inspires a deeper reflection on identity and the pursuit of self-purpose. To all girls who need inspiration, Her Excellency Dileeni serves as a testimony that hard work and commitment go a long way.

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Aysha Stephen is Grand Turk’s newest artistic sensation, renowned for her iconic “Cool Donkeys” paintings. Her creations are quite the hit with visitors to TDB Fine Arts Gallery. It recently opened within the Turks & Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk and is dedicated to showcasing art “Made in TCI.

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