Government stonewalling

| 03/07/2009

It seems our government that has been making all the right moves lately has an Achilles’ heel: replying to e-mails! I have sent in about 4 e-mails in to government so far, only one was answered.

But even then, the reply I got was to contact another government official who in turn told me to send it to another person who, in fact, was the first person I sent it to. It’s not like I want to know the pass code to the governor’s gate, I just want to know what’s up with the police station here in the Brac.

I am 16 years old and am working for Cayman News Service for the Work Experience Program at CBHS. I am currently writing a story on how the RCIPS in Cayman Brac has to stay in the UCCI campus here due to the fact that station hasn’t been fixed yet. It received damage from Hurricane Paloma which was some 7 months ago. I sent an e-mail to a government official on the matter. Three days later I still haven’t received an answer to such a simple question.

In this democratic community that we live in, nothing should be withheld from the public. What befuddles me is that the government will gladly answer inquires about the budget and expenses, land development etc, but they can’t answer simple questions.

I understand that there may be some information which may be confidential, but other matters which involve the public need to be made known. If the citizens of the Cayman Islands cannot trust their leaders, then who can they trust? We are all on the same level here. We all want to do what’s best for our country. We all want to know what’s best for our country. We have a right to know everything happening in our country. It doesn’t make sense to hide anything.

We demand and deserve answers. Maybe it isn’t that you are hiding something. Maybe you are busy. I know typing a few sentences is a lot of laborious work, but a little bit of time that’s all we request. It is our obligation as people to know the truth about our country.

As a citizen of the Cayman Islands there are things I would like to know about my country. If I am to take pride in my country, then I must first know what it stands for. I have nothing against some secrecy. Important information in the wrong hands can be fatal for a country. So I am all for the guarding of important information, but in the end of it all if the government wants us to trust them, they must trust us.

The fact is the government won’t answer me, a 16 year old, on a simple question, but are more than happy to comment on the harder more complex issues. Now, I am not saying I haven’t received help. Ms Deborah Denis of the RCIPS is the only government contact that has helped me so far. Dr Mark Laskin of the NRF has also been a tremendous help to me. Ms. Lynn Smith-Moore of DART has also been a great help. But it’s sad that when I send something in to the government leaders my matter just gets brushed aside it seems. That, my friends, just doesn’t seem right.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great Job Malcolm. As a civil servant I was just this week commenting to someone about the attitude and mentality of fellow civil servants and their piss poor attitude with answering their  phones, returning calls and/or responding to emails and saying if they do this to me a fellow employee what type of service are they giving the public. This attitude just amazes me, and whilst we may not get paid what the private sector gets paid we are still paid quite decently, furthermore we accepted the job and should be doing it to the best of our ability. The word "servant" has gone out the window and there is no longer any sense of urgency to serve the public nor any accountablity – it starts at the top though and the government is top heavy with Manger of this and Manager of that and a department for this and a department for that. It will only change when those at the top become accountable.

    Keep up the good work Malcolm –  it is refreshing to know and see that you young adults have such enquiring minds – with a generation like yourself coming behind us our future should be in good hands

  2. Hope says:

    Malcolm, try wording your queries on a Freedom of Information request form!  You should get an acknowledgement within 3 days. Then within another 3 weeks you should get access to:   "documents showing any developmental plans for a replacement police station in Cayman Brac?". 

    The FOI law is in place to help with openness.

    Also, please don’t tar all the civil servants with the same brush.  Some of us still know that we are in service, and we are civil.  We don’t all use automatedvoice pick-up and we do work until 5 p.m.

    I hope you get the answers you seek.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article.  Very well written.  Keep up the great work Malcom!

  4. Anonymous says:

    "Sorry the PPM has put the country $74M in debt, so you are lucky that we can afford to have Police on the Brac".

    PPM put the Cayman Islands in debt to provide services which are needed and demanded by the people of the Cayman – services which the country can afford.  If you still don’t get it – take a look at Cayman’s debt service statistics, investment rating, etc and compare these to other countries today and over time.  If you still don’t get these facts then try to extract yourself from this UDP/PPM thing and get educated.  I counld’nt care less about politics but I do care immensely about mis-informed persons "talking down" my little country, knowingly or otherwise….

  5. Terry Wilton says:

     What a great article Malcolm. If CNS don’t snap you up full time when you are ready to start work they will me making a big mistake. I think that a little more sarcasm would have helped though.

    If you ever do get to find out why your e-mails have not been answered you’ll probably find that there is nobody whose job description specifically includes answering queries from the public. There are probably four or five people who all leave it to someone else to do it.

    If you want to be really frustrated, however, try phoning a government department after 3.00 in the afternoon. You will only ever get voicemail because they are either not back from lunch, the receptionist is off work with swine flu, or they have all gone home early.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Worldwide, it’s the same.

    Government employees feel themselves beyond the requirement to respond to us mere mortals. They live off the backs of others and are wholly self-serving. Any benefit they have to the wider community is incidental and marginal. In many countries, the numbers are so great that governments are too afraid to cut back because of the effect it would have on votes or they increase their numbers to buy votes. All paid for by ever increasing taxes or borrowing. However the perilous economic climate may bring such things to an end as the bills finally become due.
  7. PPM/UDP/NFI says:

    I do find the petty tribalism of the PPM/UDP posts quite funny.  I’m glad I am saving up my money, preparing to set up business elsewhere and getting ready for one last swim with the stingrays.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article Malcolm.

    Don’t give up on demanding answers from government and making public comment when they fail to answer you. Persistence is the only thing that will keep government honest and responsive to the needs of the people. Government should work for the people in a democracy but sometimes politicians like to forget that fact.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sorry the PPM has put the country $74M in debt, so you are lucky that we can afford to have Police on the Brac.