Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bamboozled (apartheid in Cayman?)

Every year or two, our local politicians and their cronies go through the solemn ritual of examining Cayman’s foreign-labour rules and changing them. Oh dear, employers still don’t want to hire ethnic Caymanians because they’re not up to standard or because they are impossible to fire. Huh. Who do these employers think they are? We are the masters now. We will tell them who to hire and who not. And if our latest fiddling doesn’t work, we’ll come back in another year or two and do some more.

This quaint ritual has been going on since the first Caymanian Protection Law in 1973, nearly forty years ago. Hasn’t anybody in authority had the brains to wonder why it’s taking so long to get it right? Yes, yes, we can all point to true-born Caymanians who have made the grade. But some of them would have made it on their own, if the protection hadn’t been there. The trouble is, we don’t know which ones. It takes new immigrants a while to figure out whose promotions and appointments were deserved, and whose were made to appease the Work Permit authorities.

In any case, it’s reasonable to wonder: how come, after forty years of effort, tokenism and protection is still needed for ethnic Caymanians to succeed in business? What’s gone wrong? Does the failure reflect incompetence of a very high order, or was it all just a sham from the beginning?

Maybe it was a sham, you know. As I’ve written in this week’s CaymanNetNews, the United Nation’s CERD Convention (the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) requires all its member-states to ensure “the adequate development and protection” of all members of identifiable ethnic groups. The 15,000 or so true-born Caymanians are one such group; Britain has supposedly been developing and protecting them for the past forty years. The fact that so many of them are still not able to compete on equal terms with newcomers to the Islands is bizarre. Forty years? Fifteen thousand people? Are you kidding me? Nobody could be that incompetent.

But wait... The CERD Convention goes on to forbid UN member-states from continuing special privileges for any protected ethnic group beyond the moment when adequate development has been achieved. That would be apartheid, if you think about it; and many people at the UN do think about it sooner or later. So a cynic might suggest that Britain’s failure to achieve “adequate development” for Caymanians was a deliberate ploy to delay independence- not incompetence at all. Hmmm.

I have never believed the theory that Britain wants to get rid of Cayman. To me, it wouldn’t make sense for the FCO and its agencies to give up control of such a strategically valuable site in the Caribbean region. That would not be in Britain’s national interests.

Keeping the locals under-educated and under-developed would be a clever way to delay the evil day more or less indefinitely. I suspect that’s exactly what has happened. You’d think the UN might have twigged, sometime during that forty years; but apparently not. The native Caymanians themselves didn’t twig. If they had done, they might have demanded a decent education system instead of demeaning themselves by accepting the patronising protection that locks so many of them below the glass ceilings.

Over the years, the Caymanians have watched billions of dollars being wasted on state bureaucracies (Immigration, Education, Labour Office) that could and should have educated the people to the point where they could compete on equal terms with middle-class expats. Sorry, boys and girls: it looks very much as though you’ve been bamboozled all these years. Wakey, wakey!