Cayman at the crossroads

| 02/01/2009

Recent Constitutional developments have brought Cayman to a crossroads. There are three road-options before us, each leading to a different future. We have to choose one of them.

Actually, it is the native Caymanians who get to choose, since they comprise a clear majority of the electorate. It is they who have the political power, not the immigrants. Despite all their grumbling about being pushed around by Britain, it is the natives whom Britain is anxious to appease, not the immigrants.

So, what are the three choices on offer?

The first – Option 1, let’s call it – is to keep going in the direction we’ve been going the past forty years. This is not an attractive option for progressive Caymanians, or for immigrants, because there is too much social strife in it. It will be a permanent-Rollover culture. The bulk of native Caymanians will continue to fight a defensive war to withhold full civil rights from long-term immigrants, and proper human rights from transients. The bulk of immigrants and transients will continue to be united in this war, striving to achieve those civil and human rights.

This is not the time or place to delve into the rights and wrongs of the matter; all we can do here is to recognize the plain truth, that the two sides are irreconcilable.

We should all fear that the mutual resentment will soon explode. That would destroy the gritted-teeth tolerance that exists between the two communities. An explosion would blow many expats and their capital off the island, and blow Caymanians into the second of our three options.

Option 2 is a Cayman with a permanent voting majority of bloodline Caymanians, and the permanent exclusion of first-generation immigrants from serious participation in government.

While the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) waffles about what to do with Cayman, the bloodline-Caymanians have a narrow window of opportunity to force the FCO’s hand. If they leave it until after the next election, it may be too late for them. So if they are ever going to choose Option 2, they’d better do it now.

Choosing this option would be to choose political independence, and freedom from all Britain’s Orders-in-Council. No more pretending to accept international standards of human rights, no more forced disclosure of our offshore clients’ affairs. An independent Cayman would have full authority to negotiate with the US and the OECD on its own account, instead of being merely part of a British delegation. National dignity at last…

No more nagging from Britain about the mistreatment of Cuban refugees or the exploitation of migrant workers. No more governors once Cayman has an elected President. (It doesn’t have to be Miss Sybil, but she would be an obvious choice.) No more scratching around for government revenue. Foreigners could be taxed on their local houses and land, and their salaries and investment-incomes too. Their cars could be taxed at higher rates; maybe they could even be made to pay higher import duties.

Britain would no longer be appointing the Financial Secretary, so our MLAs would be free to tax all transfers of money passing through Cayman’s banking system. Lots of Caymanians have been urging that for years; this will be their big chance. A tenth of a percent would yield ten billion dollars a year, more or less (US Dollars, but still…). It could be doubled at any time if government needed more.

Government borrowing would be free of British-imposed restrictions. Work permits could be auctioned off to the highest bidders. Citizenship could be withheld from persons owning foreign passports. All Status grants could be revoked. The voting lists could be trimmed of all immigrants.

There might be a few disadvantages to Option 2, but no solution is perfect. There are many influential Caymanians who believe that the benefits of independence would far outweigh the costs. There is little point in shilly-shallying around the issue of independence any longer. A few more years of godless prosperity is simply not worth the wait. If the driving forces in Caymanian politics want it now, why not let them have it, for goodness sake?

The writing is on the wall for Cayman’s expats, and its offshore clients too. Our islands’ Old-Testament Christians need no reminder of the Bible story of Belshazzar’s feast and the words written on the palace wall by a ghostly hand. The prophet Daniel warned Belshazzar in terms that today’s bloodline Caymanians could use against the expats who live amongst them.

Paraphrasing slightly, this is the message for all expat residents. “God hath numbered thy financial dominance, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided, and given back to the Boddens and Ebankses.”

There is a third option at our constitutional crossroads but it can be dismissed out of hand. It is the direct opposite of Option 2. In the light of the prevailing sentiment it is a forlorn hope, scarcely worth mentioning. It would require that Cayman become a non-tribal democracy with full civil and human rights for all and no discrimination of any kind. Too bad it’s just an old dead dream.
 

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Crossroads…. I think Cayman has passed the crossroads, there are less Caymanian’s on that island from what I can see.  There are more Jamaicans, Philipino’s and Hondoranians on Grand Cayman especially.  It appears Cayman immigration has less problems granting work permits to these people than people from the EU or the US.  Strange that I am a US Citizen, but if I want to move there I need over $1million US to invest, but if I am from anywhere else, even if I can’t speak English, I can go to work for Fosters, KFC, Wendy’s or even MacDonald’s, and I would not need over $1million Dollars.  Have not quite figured that out.  I would love to live in Cayman, I am a talented IT professional, but don’t have $1million and work permits for someone like me are far and few between.  But I bet if I was fluent in Spanish, had broken English, I could get a job ASAP with the Cayman government!

    Don’t get me wrong, it annoys me to no end that when I return to the US from abroad, that person working in immigration can’t even speak proper English to me but they work for the US Government.

    You have a greater connection with the US than any other country for all of you imports, you rely on the British Navy as Well as the US Navy and coast guard for additional protection, why doesn’t Cayman just apply for Commonwealth Status with the US.  Puerto Rico has a very nice existence in that status, Puerto Rican’s don’t pay Federal Income tax unless they move to the mainland and work.  Puerto Rican’s are by birth US Citizens and travel the world freely.  Puerto Rico is pretty much free to run the island the way they see fit, the US government has very little terms and conditions on them.  The elect their own governor, they are not appointed, they are allowed non-voting members in the US House. 

    Even apply for statehood.

    Well, maybe the last two are not good options, because half the island would probably leave to get past the corruption of the government agencies, and go shopping at Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Sears.

    Good luck with your decision, it’s something that not only you but the assimilated non-Caymanian race will also in the coming years.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear U.S. citizen,

      You are welcome here too. You have been badly advised. You don’t really need US$1m unless you are applying for permanent residency as a person of independent means. If someone wishes to employ you they can get a work permit for you in the same way as for Filipinos, Jamaicans etc.   In fact , it may be easier as I don’t think most employers have US citizens as a majority of staff. Also look at the big plus unlike the Filipinos, Jamaicans and Hondurans you don’t need a visa to come visit. 

      Since the U.S. would clearly love to see our demise as a financial services centre – what they would term a tax haven – I don’t think there is much incentive for seeking Commwealth status and still less statehood with the U.S.   We would be replacing one colonial master for another.        

       

  2. Sounder says:

    You only have to read some of these comments to realise that while Gordon’s words are deliberately provocative, the underlying sentiment is not so far off the mark.

    "Native Caymanians should NEVER have to be subjected to the same taxes, policies as a non-Caymanian immigrant," writes one poster. My simple question is why? Why should every member of society, expat or Caymanian not pay their fair share of taxes and not be subject to the same laws/policies? Yet the idea that somehow being Caymanian should come with special dispensations seems to have firmly taken root.

    "I was waiting for the Bahamas bogeyman to be trotted out" writes another poster, as if this somehow reverses history. Whatever the reasons, the Bahamas choose independence and suffered as a consequence, not of independence per se, but of the excesses of subsequent nationalist governments. Have you seen either political party here demonstrate the type of self control which might avoid the mistakes made by the Bahamas? I certainly haven’t.

    "There is no question that where fair treatment is concerned it is the Caymanian who most often gets the raw deal in his own country.  Less pay for same position; glass celings; false qualification requirements for jobs to name a few." A complaint aired time and again, yet doesn’t the law here require all local businesses ( with some exceptions ) to be majority owned by Caymanians? In my long experience here its been Caymanians mistreating Caymanians, but blaming expats that’s the real problem.

    I find it very hard to believe that the UK would object to independence now, or at any time in the past 20 years or more. The only reason Caymanians haven’t pursued independence was self-interest, so please leave off the crocodile tears over harsh colonial task masters.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounder,

      You ask:

      "Why should every member of society, expat or Caymanian not pay their fair share of taxes and not be subject to the same laws/policies? Yet the idea that somehow being Caymanian should come with special dispensations seems to have firmly taken root".

      "fair share of taxes" simply begs the question what is your "fair" share? Fair is in the eye of the beholder. Being a citizen of a country always comes with special rights/dispensations. That is what it means to be citizen. This is not a novel idea.

      "Whatever the reasons, the Bahamas choose independence and suffered as a consequence, not of independence per se, but of the excesses of subsequent nationalist governments. Have you seen either political party here demonstrate the type of self control which might avoid the mistakes made by the Bahamas? I certainly haven’t".

      You are missing the point. The point cannot be shrugged of with "whatever the reasons". The reasons are important if we are to learn the real lessons and not confuse results with causes. You are also assuming that all would have been well had the Bahamas not gone independent. We do not know that.

      "The only reason Caymanians haven’t pursued independence was self-interest, so please leave off the crocodile tears over harsh colonial task masters".

      That is not of course the only reason. Simple loyalty to the Queen has been a major factor. Even now this is still dominant in Caymanians over a certain age. Caymanians assumed that a genuine parent/child relationship existed. The approach and attitude of former Governors like Mr. Russell seemed to confirm that. And perhaps it did for a time. Recent events have shown that it is no longer the case since it is clear that the UK will happily sacrifice our interests as a mere pawn in a wider political game, and has actually become hostile to our success. In any event, what is wrong with "self-interest" as a motivating factor? Do you think self-destruction would be a better motive?

      The point is that Caymanians have genuine legitimate grievances and it  is high time they were acknowledged and addressed. 

    • Anonymous says:

      "A complaint aired time and again, yet doesn’t the law here require all local businesses ( with some exceptions ) to be majority owned by Caymanians? In my long experience here its been Caymanians mistreating Caymanians, but blaming expats that’s the real problem".

      Sounder, I will put this down to the fact that you simply do not know of what you speak and genuinely but mistakenly believe this to the case.  Here a few real facts:

      1. Licensed businesses, e.g. banks, fund administrators do not have to be majority Caymanian owned. 

      2. Professional firms do not fall within the ambit of the Local Companies (Control) law

      3. Even companies that fall within the LCCL can obtain an LCCL Licence and not be majority Caymanian owned (often because the advsertising process is manipulated to get around the requirement)

      These are the major employers.

      4. "Caymanians" for this purpose includes status holders who do not identify as Caymanians but instead as citizens of their country of origin and give others from that country preferential treatment.  

      There is however a grain of truth in what you say. There are some Caymanians who facilitate the mistreatment of other Caymanians because they are told they are special and will be given favour only to find later on that they were conned.   

  3. Anonymous says:

    I received a link to this website from a friend directly to this letter and I wil now exercise my democratic right and reply to Mr. Barlow. 

    We are at a crossroads according to the editorial.  This is not something new to us native Caymanians, our parents and grand and great grand parents were always subjected to this plantation style way of life.  In this country well off native Caymanians who gained power in the LA and throughtout the various organizations held their own down.  IT was only when the few families who worked their tails off for the well offs and saved to send their children to the same schools where the well off native Caymanians sent their children and gained higher educational passes and accolades that they realized this trend was going to stop.  The lower and middle class families were educating their children to rise up and earn the recognition they deserved.

    When the foreigners came too rest on the shores and saw this occuring within the community the realized that the native well off Caymanians were controlling the rest of the country.  So they befriended these well off Caymanians and egaged the same practices.  Well, time is longer than rope my grandmother always stated. 

    Times have changed and the children are coming home to roost and retake their native place in this society.  Unfortunately, we have had some poor governing that has put a damper on things such as the MASS STATUS GRANTS, they threw the wrench into their plans which caused many of our professionals to shy away and stay in a foreign land where they are offered better benefits and advantages than they would here. 

    Native Caymanians are simply tired of having to fight to save their true place in their country.  Immigration certainly doesn’t help when work permits can be granted by Cabinet under special permission for persons from non-speaking countries such as by-passing the language test by the stroke of the pen from our elected cabinet members.  The FOI will thankfully now expose these practices so we can know for sure that the backdoor and under the table grants did occur and it was not infact a rumour.

    Godon Barlow may have a point, although his points are always in favour of his beliefs and fuels his purpose – whatever his purpose maybe.  Independence is the only way out for native Caymanians to regain control of their country and yes it is time to tax the rich more and tax every imported worker.  The time has come to put every native Caymanian first in their own country.  Native Caymanians should NEVER have to be subjected to the same taxes, policies as a non-Caymanian immigrant.  Why we keep doing this because the horns are sounded the UK when we try to impose some protection for our native sons and daughters and they do their best across the pond to stamp it out.  Why?  We are hated by the UK!!  Time to change the ruler, remove the thorns that are piercing the sides and feet of every native Caymanian and that is for all of us to support INDEPENDENCE!!

     

  4. Anonymous says:

    whether it be the "savage Indians" of America, the Aborigines of Australia, or the Caymanians in Cayman.   You are not learning the right lessons from history, my friend.    

    Native Indians were there for thousands of years before the Colonial Powers arrived

    Aborigines were there for thousands of years before the Colonial Powers arrived

    There were no Caymanians before the Colonial Powers arrived, you are the Colonial Powers.

    I think you should learn history before learning "the right lessons from it"

    Actually it seems if you listen to the radio everyday that it is the Caymanians who think expats that are inferior and only fit for scraps. I don’t hear expats saying a lot just carrying on trying to make a living in this world through all of gods trials and tribulations

    Look to the Bible Christians of Cayman

    Leviticus 19.33,34

    Don’t mistreat any foreigners who live in your land.

    Instead, treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself

     

    • Anonymous says:

      I hardly think your knowledge of Caymanian history is better than mine. Caymanians have been here for hundreds of years and pretty much governed their own affairs. It is only more recently that we have been truly colonized. There is no question that where fair treatment is concerned it is the Caymanian who most often gets the raw deal in his own country.  Less pay for same position; glass celings; false qualification requirements for jobs to name a few. The difference is that we have no where else to go, and you do.  We are therefore very much in the position of these native peoples when Johnnies come lately try to push us around.

      Yes, there are Caymanian extremists on the radio and I wince when I hear them. But I understand their anger and frustration which comes as a result of their own treatment in their own country.  The vast majority of Caymanians are mild, perhaps too mild. It is ridiculous to say that expats say very little. One only has to read the various blogs, the Cayman Net News and of course the posts here to know the hatred and contempt directed against Cayman and Caymanians.

      Try applying the whole book of Leviticus to yourselves and see how well you fare. Hypocrite.       

       

       

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bahamas is already 35 years into the Option #2 social experiment.  One needn’t travel further than Freeport on Grand Bahama to observe firsthand the curious overgrown wasteland of what were planned to be regal avenues and neighbourhoods.  

    1970’s Bahamas was in a similar crossroads then, as Cayman is now.  Their PM, similarly envoked their "Birthright", and exchanged a peaceful and prosperous dependent territory for a crime-riddled and class-divided independent one.  Drugs, violent crime, dereliction of the Church, and new generations of dysfunctional youth emerged.  The convention business fled to Florida and the bulk of Captive Insurance, Fund Admin, and Private Client business fled immediately to what was then a safer Bermuda, and so began in earnest Bermuda’sascent to prosperity to the detriment of Bahamas. 

    The money currently ledgered here has neither emotion nor sentimentality for these islands, it can be reledgered to another juristiction and likely will.  The voters of Cayman control those levers of power and must learn to respect the reasons for it’s friendly relationship with prosperity, or that precarious friendship will end as it has for others throughout history.    

    Talk of independence, taxation, revocation of status grants, and any other random fits of entitlement, will destabilize Cayman’s society (as it has for others), in the process, repelling existing and future stakeholders.  With our current prosperity already under strain and uncertainty from global economic forces, we face a horrific compound revertion should option 1 or 2 be selected.  Why are the voters and politicians in such a hurry to accelerate the demise of these islands?  Do our schools not teach the history of the folly of man; do they not teach the fate of our Caribbean neighbours that have failed before us?  Are we somehow immune?

    • Anonymous says:

      I was waiting for the Bahamas bogeyman to be trotted out. Why is it you think that the natives eventually get fed up in every colonized territory? Don’t you think it may have something to do with the poor attitudes and treatment meted out to them by colonial masters and some expats? Why does history keep repeating itself?  The attitude of many expats is that Caymanians do not deserve to eat at the very table they have provided but must instead scramble for the crumbs on the floor. You have read it here: "all of Cayman’s success is because of expats".   It’s always the same notion that expats and colonial masters only bring peace and prosperity and natives are just hell-benton self-destruction, whether it be the "savage Indians" of America, the Aborigines of Australia, or the Caymanians in Cayman.   You are not learning the right lessons from history, my friend.    

  6. dazed and confused says:

    "Too bad it’s just an old dead dream. " …

    well thank goodness for that! rekon this "curmudgeon" (nail on the head) would embrace opening the floodgates to all immigrant hopefuls and allow them all to enter and leave as they wish!.. how many languages would we be forced to learn to be able to co-exist?? how much would crimes of opportunity increase?? 

    one only has to look at the US where billions of dollars are wasted yearly on support of illegal immigrants to realise the damage it causes!!

    option 1 sounds pretty good to me.. as i am sure it did to my grandmother who also was born here… for years as i was growing up there were not many people i spoke with who gave second thought to only being here a few years and returning back to their respective home countries (going home) with the small fortunes they had made in hand!! i suppose you would bring up equal rights and fair pay issues on that topic but the people here on permits know what pay they are receiving and manage to survive on it.. it is their choice to be here! no one forced their hand and if they are unhappy they havetheir home to go to! there will be others behind them happy to be in their shoes!

    there must needs be an option 4!… some middle ground between the black and white options you feel are carved in stone! i am a young caymanian who doesnt profess to have the answers or know if they exist but reading the letters you post on this website time and time again disgust me!

    Anne says relocate…….. you have been here many years sir and yet i say, please go home!

  7. Gordon Barlow says:

    There is a shrewd and funny comment on my essay at  http://knalsaywha.blogspot.com/

    Knal is a regular poster on marlroad.com, when it’s open.  (Closed for the holidays, I’m told.)

    Long time no see, Tom.  Take it easy, and don’t get your knickers in a twist.

  8. TomCayman says:

    So, Gordon, according to you, Option 1 is the status quo, Option 2 is a hardline route you present for the purposes ofscaremongering, and you don’t give serious consideration to any other options.

    My grandmother used to say, "if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything", which I’d modify to switch the word "good" for "constructive"…..as to do otherwise is simply to be another one of those who call the talk shows and say "something has to be done" but don’t offer a solution.

    Indeed the "keystone cops" and other such messes in 2008 do give Caymanians the impetus to make real and positive change, but perhaps, Mr Barlow, the change they want to make is in fact positive and suited to a modern democracy.

    Happy New Year, you old curmudgeon ! 🙂

     

  9. Anne T. Crusayda says:

    Hopefully it is a dead dream here, because its policy everywhere else. Sir, please relocate.