Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Standards in Public Life (in Cayman)

Having Cayman as a colony is not all fun and games for the British Government. The poor old FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) goes to all the trouble of designing a framework to contain bad behavior by our local rulers, only for the framework to be ignored or subverted.

Bad behavior is supposed to be monitored – and, ideally, curtailed – by three politically appointed Commissions, as well as by the FCO-appointed Public Auditor. A couple of other public officers are supposed to keep the Civil Service in line – an ombudsman (Complaints Commissioner) and a Freedom of Information Officer.

Nothing works the way it was intended. Each member of the Commissions was chosen because he or she was reckoned to be “a safe pair of hands”. The Anti-Corruption Commission has uncovered two or three of the most blatant of thousands of daily illegalities within the Immigration Department, but any trials will have to wait two or three years. After all, why hurry? There’s plenty of cash in the kitty to keep the suspects’ salaries and perks paid in full while they sit at home and attend to their private businesses.

The Human Rights Commission wastes its time on legal technicalities, and avoids taking official notice of the longtime exploitation of unskilled migrants, indentured (without the slightest supervision) to their employers. “Near slavery”, the Jamaicans call it, sometimes with good reason. The HRC also ignores Cayman’s treatment of our boat-people – Cuban refugees, many of whom die on the way from Cuba to Honduras via Cayman waters. The HRC doesn’t seem to regard refugees or poor migrants as human, within the terms of its responsibility.

The Standards in Public Life Commission does nothing at all, as far as we can tell.

Last week one of our Cabinet Ministers, responsible for Health, Culture, Youth and Gender Affairs, lost his rag when invited by his Chief Officer (the most senior Civil Servant in any Ministry) to provide evidence to support a dubious expense-claim before submitting it for reimbursement. The Minister – an arrogant bully at any time; he “has form”, as the English say – cursed out the unfortunate CO in the hearing of the entire staff. "How dare you!! I am a born Caymanian and you are just a piece of fucking driftwood! Get the fuck out of my office! Go on - fuck off!" Or words to that effect.

Our Premier backed his crony, the bully. The Chief Officer was transferred to another Portfolio. The Minister lost a couple of responsibilities, but retained Culture – which gives us lots of hope for the future…

Never mind the cursing. The word "driftwood" – and its tolerance by our Premier – is what will cost his Party the next election. That the Chief Officer was a highly respected immigrant of longstanding (foreign-born, but with bloodline-Caymanian children by her bloodline-Caymanian ex-husband) indicates the profound contempt for expats that flourishes in the leadership of our ruling party.

Ever since I began this blog in 2010, I have bewailed the anti-expat attitudes of many bloodline-Caymanians. Not all of them: probably not even a majority: but many. And most of the “many” voted for this present ruling party, which has always had a bit of a name for being anti-expatriate. This latest incident removes all doubt, and it is way too much for any of our expat communities to accept.

Our votes are gone, and they won’t be coming back. British and other European, North American, Latino, Jamaican, Asian, African… we’re all well represented on the voting lists these days, and we will probably vote as a bloc next time. Come back, McKeeva – all is forgiven!

Where does Cayman go from here? Into further tribal divisiveness, unfortunately. And further corruption. When Linda and I came here in 1978, Caymanian Status (citizenship, in effect) could be bought for $30,000, paid under the counter to the right person in high office. The “marl road” – our grapevine – reports that it has been available for only $20,000 recently. Ah well: it’s good to know some prices have escaped inflation.