The Governor’s mistakes

| 17/12/2008

The Governor’s interventions during the last year (Clifford, Kernohan, Henderson etc.) have done real harm to nearly all of this country’s vital institutions, those which protect our society from chaos – the judiciary, the police, the government, and indeed the Governor’s own office.

Confidencehas been eroded at home and abroad, and our police force still has no permanent head. Obviously, this is not what the Governor had in mind. So what has gone wrong?

The idea that seems to have taken possession of the Governor is that, if anyone alleges any kind of misconduct in high places, the Governor’s response should be to make a public announcement, put the alleged wrongdoer in the public stocks, and call on someone from the UK to conduct an investigation.

But this kind of “nuclear” response should be a last resort, precisely because it is sure to cause the kind of fall-out we have seen. The media may be thrilled by the drama and controversy, but it does the country real harm. The nuclear button should only be pressed after careful consideration and advice, and only if there is no other way to go.

In all our cases the allegations or suspicions could and should have been dealt with in other ways.

I am not suggesting that anything should be swept under the rug. But when a doctor suspects that there may be something wrong he does not immediately cut open the patient. He looks for less invasive ways of investigating. The body politic requires the same care.

In our cases it appears (from what has been concluded by Sir Richard Tucker, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, and Sir Peter Cresswell) that the doctor could have discovered quite quickly and easily by following normal channels that there was nothing wrong – or nothing requiring surgery.

The irony is that the Governor’s UK team of police investigators has conducted itself in amanner worse than the allegations it was investigating, with scant regard for our laws and institutions. If you doubt that, take a look at Sir Peter Cresswell’s astonishing judgment.

Bridger should be sent back to the UK, along with his unqualified legal adviser. The rest of the team can finish anything that still needs to be done. It is not good enough to say that Bridger acted in good faith. Is good faith all that we require of the police? Has anyone suggested that Kernohan did not act in good faith? If anyone needs to be held publicly to proper standards, it is the policeman brought in to enforce proper standards.

Though the Governor’s interventions have had no good outcomes thus far, there may be a silver lining to this cloud. People who previously had doubts may now see why we need to modernize the Constitution, as the elected Government has proposed.

The Governor is the Queen’s representative but he is only human. He is not an infallible super-hero. Intellect, political neutrality and good intentions are important but they are not enough.

Now that the days of Empire are over, the UK does not have a pool of experienced colonial officers who have worked their way up the ranks. So now we are given Governors who have no prior experience of government – and, of course, no local knowledge. The people in London are no better placed. So our Constitution needs to make sure that they receive reliable local information and wise advice before important decisions are made.

But let us criticize the Governor reluctantly. Consider that this public servant was parachuted into unfamiliar territory to hold high office and high responsibility for things in which he has no experience, under the eye of local politicians and media. Why would anyone take on such a task? Surely it requires a strong sense of duty and service. And surely this person deserves respect even when we think he has erred.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

About the Author ()

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    the article may be right that the governor made a few mistakes. But that is only part of the problem. the article misses the whole point of the role of the politicians in this.

    I am not a big fan of the Governor to be honest, but i feel that most of these issues are the fault of the various ministers. What happen to the days when our leaders use to stand up to the Governor and put him straight. There was a time when they would put so much pressure on him and the UK that something was bound to change. Time for leaders with kahunas again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agree with the response to this article. we are quick to place the blame on the Governor as if he is the only one in this picture. But if we look deeper the elected ministers have a lot to answer to as well. I really like the idea of looking at political incompetence rather than looking at the Governor’s constitutional role. This distinction should be made more in the public domain so that all politicians realise that they are still ultimately accountable to the people of the Cayman Islands.

    Talking about the Governor is easy because he is not elected by us. Lets spend a few minutes talking about what our elected politicians did to contribute the problems and also what they should have done when it all started to go wrong….

    • Anonymous says:

      Both of the two posters are trying to turn what is essentially a constitutional issue into a party political issue no doubt because they believe they can gain political mileage from it. Mr. Duckworth is right. Out of frustration we are always ready to have a go at our local elected representatives and blame them even for things outside their control. Even more eager are aspiring politicians wanting to find a grievance in order to build a political platform five months before an election. On the other hand, many of us seem to have imbibed the old colonialist mentality that the Governor as an Englishman and the Queen’s representative is above criticism and are therefore very easily manipulated under a ‘divide and rule’ strategy. Talk about the Governor is therefore not "easy" for most people.

      Clearly, the elected Ministers were fully aware of the facts which were used to launch a commission of enquiry against Mr. Clifford and were therefore in a position to criticise the kangaroo court which ensued. Equally clearly the Ministers would not have known the full facts surrounding Operation Tempura and would therefore have given the investigators the benefit of any doubt until such time as it was clearly revealed by the Rulings of the Chief Justice and subsequently by Sir Peter Cresswell that things had gone radically wrong.   Had they complained any earlier no doubt these same two would be saying it was because they wanted a cover-up – again because that would be politically expedient.   

      On the other hand there are clear cases of real corruption which occurred in the 2001-2005 era for which the Governor has not initiated any grand investigations and such investigations as were begun have died a quiet death. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    This article is written with a careful tone to suggest objectivity, but it is written by the Chairman of the PPM and I am afraid it reads more like an attempt to deflect/soften the very dark cloud which now hangs over the PPM Government’s head.

    Of course there is the issue of constitutional responsibility and the Governor must be held accountable for "pre-mature surgery" if that is indeed the case. But is the Governor’s fault that "Cliffordgate" occured or is that the due to the deliberate actions of the Minister of Tourism? And where were the outcries from the PPM’s elected ministers of cabinet from the outset when things started to go wrong. Why did they not come out as strongly on the potential issues relating to the other investigations as they came out intially when they were trying to stop the Governor from investigating Mr Clifford?

    This article addresses the core of the debate on the Governor’s role well, but we cannot continue to discuss that role as if these isues are in a political vacuum. There has been and will likely always be a relationship between Cabinet ministers and the Governor. There is both a  formal and perhaps more importantly an informal aspect of this relationship where discussions are held openly on various issues. Contrary to what is often pushed out there by politicians, the ministers and the Governor DO speak regularly on many matters and they are rarely as in the dark as they often claim to be.

    We must not only talk about the constitutional/technical aspect of the Governor’s role. We must acknowledge the very long standing ability of cabinet ministers to influence things that are happening around them. Ministers with the will and who recognise that they are still accountable generally to the people of this country have always made not only their dissapointment known publicly but have also often put immense public pressure as well as via correspondence to the FCO when they feel strongly about an issue.

    This is what the current PPM administration should have done from day 1 if they felt they had valid concerns. Instead they sat watched it all go by and it appears may even have relished slightly in the ongoing fiasco so that their point regarding changing the Gopvernor’s constitutionsl role could be supported via public dismay at "the Governor".  What has occured is only partly the Governor’s fault. The rest (the vast majority) has to do with political (not constitutional) incompetence of the current PPM administration.

    Where was the elected cabinet leaders in this picture?


    • Anonymous says:

      I must say it is amusing that you hope to challenge the validity of Mr. Duckworth’s points not by reasoning but by merely appealing to the fact that he is the Chairman of the PPM, while at the same we are apparently supposed to assume your objectivity notwithstanding the fact that you have not disclosed your identity! You could equally be (and are likely to be) a UDP politician.  

      "There is both a  formal and perhaps more importantly an informal aspect of this relationship where discussions are held openly on various issues. Contrary to what is often pushed out there by politicians, the ministers and the Governor DO speak regularly on many matters and they are rarely as in the dark as they often claim to be".

      We simply cannot afford to upon rely the personalities, personal styles and good graces of the incumbents of the office of Governor and elected Ministers for effective accountability. Wemust have a system that brings accountability no matter who is in office.  The issue is plain: the Governor is directly responsible for these investigations and the persons subject to these investigations, but he is not accountable to us for the proper exercise of his functions. Our current system allows him to make decisions while we are simply required to pay for them.  No amount of obfuscation can change that.