Archive for December 8th, 2008

Accountability for all

| 08/12/2008 | 3 Comments

It took HE the Governor, Stuart Jack, more than five weeks to respond publically to Sir Peter Cresswell’s damning ruling over the way the Special Police Investigation Team (SPIT), led by Martin Bridger, handled the circumstances regarding Justice Alex Henderson’s arrest – for which he had ultimate responsibility.

Although admitting mistakes, the Governor has not apologised to Henderson for the searches of his home and office, which were ruled unlawful by Cresswell, or given any explanation as to why such poor decisions were made and then acted upon.

It is clear, however, that Henderson is now likely to be awarded significant damages. Given that integrity is everything to a judge, Cresswell’s extensive ruling that the SPIT actions were unlawful, the fact that Henderson has been cleared from the investigation and now this public admission of mistakes by the Governor – this is something of a slam dunk for Henderson’s legal team. Those damages and any other successful claims made by Stuart Kernohan and John Jones will all come directly from the public purse and add to an already heavy bill currently running well in excess of $4 million.

Despite protests from the elected politicians who say they will not approve more funds regarding this investigation, the Governor will simply force the Cayman government to cough up. And that means ultimately it will be the man in the street that will pay the price for the errors of those involved in this investigation, which appears to have been an expensive road to nowhere.

From the very beginning it has been shrouded in secrecy and silence. Despite persistent questioning by all the local media, the Governor’s office has revealed nothing of any significance even though it is the public who are paying for it. While Bridger was adamant, once he emerged form his undercover operations in March, that every move he and his team made and every dollar spent would be documented and accounted for, not a single cent has been explained and no evidence of any crimes has been revealed after almost 15 months. (Even the charges against DC Rudolph Dixon are not criminal but civil.)

If the investigations were being conducted under the supervision of the elected officials, the politicians would be forced to answer to the people on a regular basis. However, because these enquiries are being supervised by the Governor’s office, there has been no accountability — and it is worth noting that this silence is not an isolated example.

While the politicians, manipulative as they may be, meet the press every week, appear on radio talk shows and face the people directly, the Governor and his non-elected ministers, who are not just a part of the country’s government but essentially its most powerful element, never have to answer for their conduct. They rarely, if ever, respond to submitted questions on any issues regarding policy or the decisions they make.  Questions submitted to the office of the Governor are routinely ignored and the appointed members avoid all contact with the press unless they’re involved in some staged event.

Of course come 1 January we, the press, will have an alternative route for unanswered questions under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, this complete and utter disregard by the office of the Governor and non-elected ministers for public interest and the right of the people to know what is going on in their ministries, how public funds are spent, why policy decisions are made, makes, to use a rather corny but nevertheless apt phrase,  a mockery of democracy.

The people of the Cayman Islands may well be able to oust their elected officials on Election Day but as has been noted on many occasions by the current Education Minister, Alden McLaughlin the electorate can do diddlysquat about the Governor and his appointed officials.

While many have criticised McLaughlin for his opinions and suggested he is attempting to ‘power grab’, whether he is or he isn’t does not alter that fact that his point is valid. The Governor is simply not accountable. We in the media can call and submit questions till the proverbial cows come home to no avail. He is simply at liberty to ignore us and by implication the Cayman people. After all he does not need your vote. He is there at the behest of the UK government and it is only the UK government, one which the Caymanian electorate has no democratic access, that decides which governor will come or go – good or bad. 

As the constitutional talks re-start in the New Year, the people of the Cayman Islands have an opportunity to address that democratic imbalance, and the voting population would probably do well to consider whether they think it is acceptable for the most powerful person in government to carry on regardless without ever having to explain himself or his actions. In the end, is it really acceptable to educated andintelligent people that when those in non-elected office make mistakes, the consequences are felt by the community and not the mistake-maker?


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