Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rolling Over (Cayman's expats)

How intriguing it is, that some of our not-in-power politicians have declared that the Rollover Policy has “served its purpose” and can be put back on the shelf for a while. What purpose did it serve, exactly? Well, it was a successful ethnic-cleansing exercise, that’s for sure.

A couple of thousand domestic servants and labourers were sent back to Jamaica despite having established domicile in Cayman. Some domiciled immigrants from other countries were also deported to their original homes - even some white people. Yes! Their removals provided handy cover for getting rid of lots of unskilled and unmoneyed black Jamaicans. Anti-Jamaican sentiment is the driving force behind most of our immigration “reforms”, isn’t it?

Most ethnic-cleansing exercises replace settled immigrants with newcomers, often transient migrants. Was that part of the purpose of Cayman’s Rollover? Presumably so. Quiet, law-abiding individuals and families with years or decades of residence in their established homes were replaced by persons of unknown quality. Most of the latter were good people too, but not all.

Immigration is always a risk. Every village and town in the world of our size can confirm Cayman’s experience with newcomers. The sensible thing to do with them is to encourage them to settle - to put down roots and think of themselves as belongers. The worst thing a host community can do is erect barriers to integration - to keep reminding them how unsuitable they are to hold any stake in the community’s future. “This is NOT your home, you bastards. Don’t even think about it.”

Presumably, the PPM Team is hoping that its Party’s anti-immigrant reputation will be forgotten by immigrant voters in the next elections. And maybe it will be - who knows? Somebody posted on the CNS website the other week, “A lepper [sic] doesn’t change his spots.” But there is a first time for everything. Maybe the PPM “lepper” can indeed change its spots. We shall see.

Its leaders have a wonderful chance to improve its image among immigrants (if they want to) by taking a stand in favour of the latest United Nations human-rights Convention. The ILO Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted on 16th June (two weeks ago), and of course it has great relevance for Cayman. Its contents are the stuff of nightmares for householders who exploit their migrant helpers - and for the politicians who support that exploitation.

The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Article 3) - BOO! Fair terms of employment (Article 6) - COMMUNISM! No exemption from overtime rules (Article 10) - HOWL! The same protection as other workers (Article 14) - SAVE US, JESUS!

Mind you, our authorities take no notice of any other human-rights Conventions, so why should this one be favoured? Our new Human Rights Commission is already too cowed by the politicians to even bring this new Convention to the public’s notice. Good God! How pathetic is that?

However, hypocrisy is the backbone of our local politics. Will somebody from the new-image PPM cross fingers behind his back and say something positive about the new Convention? Maybe welcome the remote possibility that migrant helpers will actually come under the full protection of the Labour Law one day? Come on, one of you chaps! Be a devil.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Island Watch (catching criminals)

The concept of a “neighbourhood watch” is well established in Cayman. A friend of mine has suggested extending the concept to an island-wide community-alert program: “The Island Watch”, using mobile phones and texting. SMS texts are already used by LIME to notify hundreds (thousands?) of subscribers - all at the same time - of special events.

The Police have said repeatedly that the active participation of the general public is essential in the fight against crime; combining the speed of mobile telecommunications with an island-wide “neighbourhood watch” might be very useful in this regard. The aim would be to mobilise IW members in the vicinity of a reported crime to observe and identify suspected burglars, robbers, muggers, attackers or drugs-sellers – and maybe catch them too, if that could be done safely.

At the moment, witnesses to crimes in progress can phone 9-1-1. The operators there first authenticate the calls as best they can, and then connect the callers to the appropriate unit of the Police. The caller receives no feedback. You make your call, and the Police take it from there at their own pace.

An Island Watch communications base would receive SMS messages from IW members reporting a crime in progress or shortly afterwards, and relay the messages first to the Police (or to 9-1-1, if that service can receive texts) and second to all IW members. The relaying could be virtually instantaneous, unless heavy monitoring or authentication were required: texts in, texts out, texts in, texts out. Photographs would be a bonus.

A question arises, relating to liability in respect of libel, in the event that a message carried the name or other identifiable description of an innocent person. Would some lawyer please advise on this?

The communications base could be provided by Crimestoppers (an independent volunteer committee), or the Chamber of Commerce, or one of our local telecom companies, or even one of the service clubs. (Not the 9-1-1 organisation, I think. Cayman doesn’t need to be adding to government services, at this stage of the game.) I know nothing about Twitter or how it operates; could IW open a Twitter account and give its members access to it? Answers by email, please.

Who might IW’s members be? All residents of Grand Cayman by default would be best, if the telecom companies would allow it. That might deter a lot of crime as well as help the Police identify and maybe catch those whom it didn’t deter. I’m not talking special constables, here, just plain old public-spirited residents of Grand Cayman.

Of course it’s one thing for people to receive incident-alerts and quite another for them to be pro-active in feeding information to the base. Would it be possible to guarantee their anonymity? Maybe not. Calls from cellphones are famously traceable. It would be a foolish expat security guard who put his name out there to be picked up by someone who resents his presence on the Island. An anonymous and untraceable denunciation to Immigration might have him deported in a flash.

Indeed, any expat without Status would be foolish to allow himself or herself to be identified in relation to any incident that might carry the risk of deportation. Is there a way around this problem, or would an Island Watch just have to get by with the citizenry alone?

Any reader with a constructive suggestion to make on this topic, please email it to barlow at candw dot ky. I will forward it to the Brains Trust. The more, the better. Updates will follow here, when there’s something worth reporting.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Absent Fathers (juvenile crime)

This week my column in Cayman Net News deplores our community’s failure to tackle the root causes of juvenile crime and ignorance. Generally speaking, the young wastrels are those who are raised by incompetent and/or irresponsible parents. Their mothers can’t cope with them financially, educationally or socially; their fathers often aren’t in the picture at all.

We tend to concentrate on the mothers more than the fathers. Well, these sweet-talking Caribbean men, you know; what can you do? They are what they are, and they do what they do, and the culture has been around since slavery times. And anyway, it’s up to the women to take care of birth-control, right? The men don’t care, and never will care. That’s just the way of the world.

Bob Dylan once wrote a cynical song in defence of male arrogance -

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You coulda done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right*

He also wrote what must surely be the theme song of all bachelors -

But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe**

Middle-class morality requires that men who sire children take some responsibility for their upbringing. There is a comprehensive body of law relating to families and to parents’ duties to their children. In marriages, fathers and mothers are legally obliged to share those duties. Usually, the main burden falls on the mothers; that’s the way of the world, too. And, more often than not, it is the fathers who contribute most of the money needed to ensure that the children are properly prepared to cope with the world. When parents divorce, their responsibilities towards their children don’t cease. The justice system is there to ensure that both parents continue to contribute fair shares of the children’s care until they are old enough to care for themselves.

It is usually outside the middle-classes that the social problem exists of children with mothers who can’t cope financially, educationally or socially, and fathers who often aren’t in the picture at all. Those children are currently posing a very serious problem to our community here in Cayman. Many of them are running wild, and we don’t know what to do about them. The mothers are often working, instead of being at home caring for the needs of their children. The fathers are often uninvolved to the extent that they don’t even contribute money.

Oh, dear: these young girls! Surely they know how to stop babies coming, even if they don’t seem to know how to stop their boyfriends. It’s their own fault if they end up with four kids by four different men. Let them sort out their own mess.

But it’s not just their mess, is it? It’s the entire community’s mess. It’s our homes the out-of-control kids are burgling, and it’s we whom the kids are looking to rob, and it’s our kids whom those other kids are trying to get addicted to illegal drugs. So: if it’s our mess too, what are we doing about it? Not a lot, as far as I can tell. We (as a community) pay one of our bloated Civil Service empires to ensure they don’t starve, but that’s about it. There is only a token effort to make fathers pay for the maintenance of their children. The rest of the time we all sit around and kiss our teeth whenever somebody mentions how silly it is for young girls to get pregnant.

But why do we take it out on the children themselves? Surely they deserve better from us than that.

* Don't Think Twice, It's All Right Bob Dylan, 1962
**It Ain't Me, Babe  Bob Dylan, 1964

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Tourism Idea for the Brac (Cayman tourism)

It’s always puzzled me why so many people on the Brac want the place to become like Grand Cayman. “More hotels!” “More jet planes!” “A dock for cruise ships!” Maybe Brackers aren’t as laid-back as they pretend. Maybe they dream of getting among the big tourism dollars like GCM.

While Manager of the Chamber of Commerce I was once thrown out of the Director of Tourism’s office for suggesting that the Brac should aim to attract budget travellers by opening the Island to a Youth Hostel and camping ground. The reaction was hostile. Why should Brackers aim for anything less than Grand Cayman was achieving? Hmm... how has that strategy worked for them, these past 24 years?

The International Youth Hostel Association is still going strong, although overtaken now by generic backpackers’ hostels. In my travelling days, official IYHA hostels were spread over most of the world. In Europe only USSR, East Germany and Albania didn’t have any; Poland had hundreds. Some were fairly grand, some very simple; some were attached to fancy hotels. All were cheap.

I recall paying a pittance at one basic-but-comfortable place beside a lazy river in a small town in France. The hostel’s warden was also the town’s mayor; he admitted the town lost on the venture. “It’s a long-term investment”, he explained. “Of course we lose money on you. But when you’re older and in a good job, you might remember us kindly and want to come back with your family. Then, we’ll make a profit.” “I might not come back,” I said. “Maybe not, but most of you will.” He was full of confidence.

That’s what I had in mind for the Brac- a long-term investment in the form of a cheap hostel and camping ground, listed in every budget-travel book in the world, in forty languages. It was a big mistake for our Tourism man to rubbish the idea. Young backpackers in 1986 would be around fifty today- ready to come back with their families and rich enough to spend real money.

There are plenty of places where the idea has worked. In 1973 there were a hundred of us staying beside Kuta Beach in Bali, paying a dollar or two a night for simple rooms. Despite its fame as a hippy hangout, Kuta wasn’t much of a beach. Unless they’ve brought some clean white sand in since, it still isn’t. But now, there are 114 hotels listed, priced up to $200. The local tourism people knew what they were doing, back in 1973, and weren’t too proud or greedy.

As soon as we got back from Kuta to our home on an island near Fiji, Linda and I turned our backyard maids’ quarters into a simple, informal (and slightly illegal) hostel. We charged a buck a night (about $10 in today’s money) for a bed, toilet, cold water shower and basin, and no cooking facilities. The word spread gradually on the travellers’ grapevine. Hey, it was worth flying into Vila after all; there was a place that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Before, Vila was not on the backpackers’ list of places to go.

Embarrassingly, the situation was getting out of hand by the time we left. One night we had two in the tiny room, six in tents, and three in our house. That’s when we got rumbled for doing business without a licence. “Come on! A buck a night is a hobby, not a business!” Well, okay. So ruled. Case dismissed!

Would the concept work on the Brac? I don’t see why not. It’s not as though anybody has a better plan.