Archive for December 28th, 2009

What’s in a name?

| 28/12/2009 | 117 Comments

It’s confusing when a word means one thing in one context and something else in another.  “Caymanian” and “expat” are two such words that we use every day. Who and what is a Caymanian?  It can mean a native ethnic Caymanian, or someone born here, or someone who used to live here a hundred years ago. 

Sometimes it covers all legal Caymanians, including “paper” Caymanians.  Sometimes it means a Cayman Islands passport-holder. 

There are several legal categories of Caymanians, and they don’t all have access to the same civil rights.  That’s an issue not addressed by our new Constitution, by the way.  How many classes of citizenship will the FCO allow in these Islands?

Some overseas Caymanians have a “right of return” by virtue of their ancestry.  In order to claim their birthright they have to settle here.  Not all Islanders approve of this loophole.  When you hear a Cayman-born Bodden or Ebanks spoken of as “not a real Caymanian”, it usually means he or she was born and/or raised somewhere else.

Recently, Britain granted all Caymanians a similar right of “return” to Britain – based on the romantic fiction that it is our ancestral home, since we are all subjects of the Queen.  Cayman Islanders can no longer claim they have nowhere to run to if Cayman collapses into poverty.

Who or what is an “expat” locally?  Largely, it depends on the user and his context.  Native Caymanians who say “these expats taking jobs from Caymanians” mean skilled workers, usually from North America or Europe.  They certainly don’t mean domestic helpers.  “These expats clogging up the infrastructure” usually means Jamaicans or Latinos doing less-skilled work – and, recently, Filipinos and Indians as well.

Interestingly, Caymanians never use “expats” to refer to their own expat ancestors.  Perhaps it is too insulting a term in their ordinary usage. In the mouths of expats themselves, “expats” means all transient migrants and long-term immigrants currently living here. 

Most of us take it personally when any expat nationality is disrespected by our local authorities.  Strangely, very few native Caymanians seem to be aware of this feeling of solidarity.  There is a sort of freemasonry of the victims of immigration injustices. 

Sadly, it’s always “us” and “them” on both sides of the great divide.  Even the longest of long-term immigrants only ever say “we Caymanians” as a rueful joke. 

It’s hard for first-generation immigrants to feel Caymanian when we aren’t equal before the law.  Relatively few of us can vote, and virtually none of us can run for elective office.  Vassel Johnson did it once – but I was present at a public meeting where one of his native-born opponents ended a tirade against him with the muttered words, “Get back to India!”  Yes, indeed.

It’s extremely rare for expats – no matter how capable and committed – to be appointed to politically sensitive boards and committees.  How stupid it is for the political establishment to stubbornly insist that nobody outside the tiny native gene-pool is trustworthy.  Where is the sense in refusing to utilise the experience and expertise of newcomers?

A word that a great many native Caymanians don’t like using among themselves is “immigrant”.  An immigrant is a resident who has an emotional stake in his community – and, if he can afford it, a financial stake.  He wants to belong and to contribute to his new home.  As such, he is anathema to the native Caymanians’ political leaders.  If Cayman is to avoid economic catastrophe, this attitude had better change soon. 

The word “expat” ought to be limited in its usage to transients, sojourners, birds of passage – people who don’t want to put down roots and will happily move on when they feel ready to go.  There is no disrespect in my saying this.  I was a transient in half a dozen places before I came to Cayman; indeed, I came here as a transient, as so many others have done.

Even transients bring skills that are useful and needed.  Many of them are glad to help in areas that interest them, though they don’t always receive due credit for it.

It’s a strange and rather sad society that doesn’t want transients to ever identify their interests with their hosts’; and it’s a cold-blooded one that doesn’t welcome the prospect of transient migrants becoming long-term immigrants.

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Airport tightens security

| 28/12/2009 | 35 Comments

(CNS): Air travel is set to be even more stressful this week as security is beefed up around the world following the Christmas Day terrorist alert. In response to the heightened security requirements from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in the US the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) has also warned of increased security measures and is asking passengers to arrive at Owen Roberts International Airport at least three hours before the departure time of their US flight in order to undergo extra security searches before boarding.

 “Airlines at the Owen Roberts International Airport have implemented increased security checks which will require that passengers, on flights to the USA, be hand searched at the boarding gates prior to boarding,” the CIAA said in a statement. “In order to accommodate these additional measures and to avoid delays, passengers are encouraged to arrive at the airport and commence their check-in processes earlier than usual. A minimum of three hours before flight departure time is recommended.”  
  
CIAA explained that the additional security measure will not apply to passengers on flights bound for the Sister Islands, Kingston, Montego Bay, Cuba, the UK and Honduras. “The additional security measure that has been implemented is in respect to the security check to be conducted by individual USA bound carriers and will impact passengers as they prepare to leave the departure hall for boarding” CIAA stated.  

Once passengers have been checked in they will be encouraged to proceed to the security check point immediately after check-in to allow for the extra time that will be required for boarding. It is expected that this TSA directive will remain in place until at least Wednesday, 30 December.

The botched attempt by a 23 year old Nigerian student to ignite explosives on a Northwest Airlines plane carrying 290 people to Detroit from Amsterdam has reportedly caused travel chaos around the world. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who was overpowered by a passenger has been charged with attempting to blow up and a second Nigerian man was arrested for “suspicious activity.”

Airlines are undertaking individual body searches and passengers are being restricted to just one item of hand luggage and are being limited in their ability to move about a plane. US authorities said passengers should not be allowed to stand up or even go to the toilet an hour before landing. The crackdown could also signal the widespread use of in-flight air marshals on transatlantic routes to counter the terrorist threat.

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No free bus for drinkers on New Year’s Eve

| 28/12/2009 | 25 Comments

(CNS):  Owing to a lack of funding the National Drug Council (NDC) will not be providing its free bus service on New Year’s Eve to help people who are drinking during the celebrations get home safely. Over the past few years the NDC has provided the Purple Ribbon Bus but the Executive Director, Joan West-Dacres, told News 27 that there will not be a service this year. Some bars are however, participating in the designated driver programme and will give free soft drinks to those who are driving groups of friends home. Drinkers who are not part of a group with a designated driver will need to find a taxi to avoid getting netted in the police road blocks.

 

Go to New 27 video.

 

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