Personal attacks, threats and anonymity

| 05/11/2010

Over the last few days, and particularly since the Generation Now panel discussion on October 28th, I have had threats of varying intensity relayed to me, from threats to my business right up to an outright death threat. No matter how "tongue in cheek" it was, one can’t make light of something like that.

I’ll add that these have all been relayed to me anonymously, often second hand by friends and business contacts who have received messages attacking them simply because they have any kind of association with me. My first point then is simple. If you want to give me your opinion on anything I say, I’m easy to find, talk to me directly. I can only learn by listening to other opinions.

The panel discussion in question had the title : "Taxation: Is Cayman’s revenue base sustainable or is direct taxation inevitable" and involved nearly three hours of detailed discussion. I appreciate that it is very difficult to quickly summarise such a long and detailed discussion, but the phrase referring to me of : "wanted to see a broadening of Cayman’s tax base to reduce some indirect taxes and introduce some direct ones" in the CNS piece may have been the impression gained by the writer, but certainly gave the implication that I am in favour of direct taxation. As CNS were the only local media house to cover this event after it occurred (though it was broadcast live on Radio Cayman), I can only assume that it is this phrase that has turned me into such a target. Boy, If there is a more emotive topic in Cayman right now, I’d hate to see what reaction there is to any discussion of THAT topic ! I’m not making light of this, to the contrary, I am in fact most disturbed by this behaviour. Cayman is not New Jersey, and this is not an episode of the Sopranos, people !

Now, having got all of that off my chest, I would like to make a couple of things clear.

I hate tax. Never met a tax I liked. Am not recommending any tax of any kind.

However, whilst we need to cut the size of Government, we do need our Government to balance the books at whatever level of expenditure they have. We already do that through taxes, whether we call them that, or instead use words like fees, licences, permits, duties etc.

My point, which I repeatedly stated at the Generation Now event, was that I wanted to see us do a "robust analysis" of the options available to us, not closing any doors until they had been exhaustively evaluated on economic grounds. From the extensive research I have done in this area, my firmly held opinion is that such analysis has not been done to date, and to avoid discussing and evaluating all options does us all a disservice.

We need Cayman solutions to Cayman problems, using the intellects and experience we have in abundance among our people to tailor how we do things to make our country as globally competitive as possible.

We have a history of excellence and innovation, let us hold to those traditions and have an open and inclusive dialogue on this key issue. Oh, and another thing Caymanians are famous the world over for is being respectful. Anonymous attacks have no place in Cayman society.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Direct taxation in the hands of an untrusted government is a great threat to our freedom, our wellbeing and our future

    Tom not now, its wrong wrong wrong to take on such a big subject. XXXX

    I’d have you know that government should be run as a business and these croonies we have in office are unqualified and incapable of doing anything for the country or its people. They work for corporate Cayman i.e. the rich and the elite. XXXX To suggest that we now hand these irresponsible morons  more tax dollars in the form of direct taxation is suicidal. XXXX

    What good business people do is create jobs with strategic planning, innovation and resourcefulness. We have not seen this demonstrated. and it does not call for tax dollars to do this.

  2. Generation NOW says:


    Generation NOW responds to the personal attacks and threats made to panelists
    As the organisers of the recent round table discussion “Taxation: Is Cayman’s revenue base sustainable or is direct taxation inevitable?” we were appalled and disturbed to learn of the shameful personal attacks, threats and intimidation tactics made against Mr. Tom McCallum and another panelist.
    One of the key purposes for these panel discussions was precisely to engender a culture of open and informed discussion on important national issues and combat the culture of fear and intimidation in relation to public discussion of controversial issues which we believe hinders our growth and development as a people. We all should welcome the sincere contributions in terms of information, insight and analysis that Mr. McCallum and all other members of our discussion panel, as persons of goodwill towards these Islands, bring to the table whether we agree with their views or not.
    In the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often attributed to Voltaire): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
    We are in this together and we need all hands on deck.    
  3. karen says:

    Tom, welcome to the club!  Threats happen all over the world – not just here.  It is how you respond to those threats that make you into a man! 

  4. Caymanians for logic says:

    IF DIRECT TAXES were good and THE solution, then countries with direct taxation would not be feeling the recession. Clearly those countries WITH direct taxes are feeling the same recession that we are. Direct taxes are not the solution.

    Only COST cutting and efficiency will solve this problem and the sooner we start both, the sooner we will find a solution.

    • Pastoros says:

      Yes you have to cut, cut, cut… but government programs, the Police, Schools, Roads, Hospital services have to run on something, and that is where tax direct or indirect comes in

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Tom for your post. It clearly shows how far we as a people need to grow.

    Unfortunately with examples that we have as "leaders" (especially many of our politicians, and our current Premier) such examples do much more to keep Cayman in the dark ages.

    A born ya Caymanian (from born ya parents, grandparents and great grandparents).

    • Anonymous says:

      You are making the assumption that Tom is only experiencing this from some Caymanians. That would be a wrong assumption. Too often Caymanians are painted with a broad brush of backwards thinking while it is assumed that expats are the forward thinkers. This is one example where it is not nearly so simple.    

  6. Anonymous says:

    Low life scum Tommy, do not take them on.

  7. David R. Legge says:

    Tom, thank you for your contributions to the Generation Now panel and the ongoing discussion of the most effective way to fund our public sector.

    I am appalled at the abuse you have received—delivered anonymously, of course—for contributing in an intelligent way to this important debate. Anonymity is most often a euphemism for cowardice and irresponsible commentary, but it takes on additional seriousness when threats are part of the message.

    I am pleased to see that you put your name on your comments and to note that in this thread, so do Tim Ridley and Michel Lemay.

    I’ve been in Grand Cayman for more than 20 years and, by island standards, have been outspoken since the day I arrived. I’ve always associated my name with my remarks—even long before I got status—and I’ve never been the victim of retribution, denial of work permits, or anything of that sort.

    As a publisher, I’m sure I’ve offended, or at least publicly disagreed with, almost every elected member at one time or another, but with only one minor exception (former MLA Alfonso Wright once took me to task on the floor of the House—a "no-libel sanctuary"—for a column I had written), I’ve never had an issue.

    Further, despite the fact that she is on a work permit, Wendy Ledger, who along with Nicky Watson founded Cayman News Service, always signs her name to her Viewpoint pieces, and I applaud her for that. Nicky Watson does the same.

    I encourage all posters to follow their example and step from the shadows into the sunlight by voluntarily associating their names with their remarks.

    • Anonymous says:


      Some people hate people with a passion more than others do. Some people don’t have well established jobs like others. I wouldn’t recommend that everybody post their names on this site. Yes… it is being open, but being open comes with a price. 

      CNS forum is a good forum. It offers freedom of speech to the Anonymous 

    • Gordon Barlow says:

      With respect, I don’t think that’s very friendly advice, David!  People on Work Permits can still be deported for speaking out of turn; and Caymanians can be punished in other ways.  I generally recommend against signing one’s real name to criticism of government.  Those of us who do sign our names tend to have fairly high profiles, but attaining those high profiles wasn’t all that much fun, was it, looking back. 

      Not everyone can deal with the savagery of the Immigration authorities, and of those who use them as a weapon.  It’s better for them to be safe than sorry.  By and large, anonymous posters are best advised to stay that way, for the time being.

  8. Tim Ridley says:

    It is very encouraging that we are at long last seeing a public debate about the Cayman Islands’ public finances. For too long the issues were masked by the rising tide of economic activity that produced the rising revenues that allowed the unchecked rise in public expenditures. The tide stopped rising and has gone out rather rapidly. Although the worst of the decline may be over, it seems that economic activity is likely to remain at best rather flat for the foreseeable future.

    We should take the opportunity to discuss maturely and openly:

    1. What do we want our Government to be – big, small orin-between?

    2. What services do we want our Government to provide – lots, none or something in-between?

    3. How should our Government and those services be paid for – and not just by "do nothing" or  "tax the other guy" rhetoric?

    Until we acknowledge that these issues have to be addressed and decided, and start to do so, we will continue to flounder.

    At the moment, we have an unfortunate stalemate. An electorate and revolving populist governments tied to expansive public services and entitlements but unwilling to address the knotty issue of how to pay for them . And, if neccessary, happy to borrow to keep the party going, in the hope that "something will turn up" down the road. This attitude, if nothing else, has to change if we are to have a meaningful debate and action. The loans have bought some time, but not much.


    • Chris Johnson says:

      Good pounts Tim but let us go back to one basic question that many keep asking. Just who are we developing these islands for? 

      The Premier say he wants to spend money on new roads buy why with a continung diminishing population? By the way lets fix the old roads starting with that next to Fosters Food Fair adjoining West Bay Road. What a great advertisement this is for tourism!

      • Tim Ridley says:

        Chris, I agree and that is one of the important issues that should form part of the discussion about what we want our Government to do and what we want it to provide.

        I too wonder about the road by Fosters. I can only conclude it is still a private road and thus maintenance rests with the relevant adjacent landowners!

    • phillip says:

      Tim, was your life threatened when you publicly took your stance on property tax?  Although Tom’s threats are serious, I do think how he has react to the threats has made them more serious than they really are. My family was threaten in the UK and that was SERIOUS, coming from a gang

      • Tim Ridley says:

        I am not aware of exactly what was said by whom and to whom in Tom’s case.

        I am quite used to the rough and tumble of the debate. Doubtless, many were and are unhappy with the suggestions made by me (and others) of any broadening and/or rebalancing of the revenue/tax base. Typically those who are well-served, or think they are well-served by the present system, will fight to preserve that position. 


        • phillip says:

          But you do find now that it is more reducing the size of government to the point of keeping the essentials instead of borrowing that is of most importance. We need people in government who will be willing to lose the next election  and their own voters for sound libertarian principles. The private sector is suffering now because of high fees, licenses, permits and duties needed to maintain government’s size. I feel broadening the revenue base would have only increase the cost of living, because those who are in power are scared of triming government and I assume are looking out for their own self-interest. And it is vital that government by "hands-off" approach maintains a fair market of equality that will lower the cost of living.

          • Tim Ridley says:

            I think we need to do it all together. But I agree we need to find the right political leadership to get that to happen in a fair and effective way. That is the real challenge.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I might not agree with what you say but I would defend to my last breath your right to say it. These threats have shown how low some people have sunk to.The Cayman we knew is gone.

  10. Anonymous says:

    You are a good guy Tom. You always have Cayman’s best interest at heart. But the fact is, a large number of local loons will never appreciate your efforts or view you as a fellow citizens because they are clannish to the point of self-destruction. It’s sad for you, for them, for everyone. 

    Our only hope is that the next generation will be more evolved. Then again, Elio and the other Little Macs seem destined to lead the next generation. So, that’s not looking so good….

    Oh, and your line about Caymanians being well known for being respectful is ridiculous.

    Okay, yes, Caymanians are known for being respectful–but only so long as one is not gay, a woman, a Jamaican, a Filipino, a Muslim, a Hindu, or anything else other than a fundamentalist Christian. 

    And you know dat true

    • CI Future Hope says:

      If you have lived in Cayman as long as people like Tom and I have lived here, you would have some context.  The Cayman he knew and loved which I also knew and loved was one where there was mutual respect.

      People like Tom who came here didn’t come seeking to impose their will or ways on people.  They didn’t harbour amongst themselves in cliques based on colour or nationality.  They didn’t hop off a plane and immediately label Caymanians with a myriad of ugly stereotypes and epitaphs.  

      They madefriends with Caymanians, settled into the community and sought to make a contribution while always respecting what they came and found here.  It doesn’t mean they always agreed with the values traditions and norms, but it was how they handled their disagreement that made the difference.

      That is where respect begins.  And people who came to Cayman like Tom, with the approach that Tom took, found Caymanians to be respectful, warm and hospitable because Tom started off with respect and courtesy and he got that back in return.

      So instead of disrespectfully writing off all Caymanians, show more respect in your daily interactions and see what you get in return.  Show kindness, show courtesy, show excellence.  

      Sew those seeds instead of hatred, arrogance and ignorance and I  bet you’ll find a few more smiles 🙂


    • Don't assume says:

       It’s virtually impossible to determine who is sending Tom anonymous threats over the internet.  

      It is presumptuous, small minded and even racist to assume it is a local (nice way of saying Caymanian) doing this.  Especially because of the fact that this blog is regularly abused by people deliberately trying to create division and mischief.

      But let’s take your theory on head on.  Even if Tom’s views were misrepresented, who really stands to lose more because of taxation at this point in Cayman’s history?

      It sucks for everyone, but the point is, the dude who is usually angriest is the one who has the most to lose.  Caymanians aren’t the winners right now in the salary race, nor are they the big business owners, nor the beneficiaries of the big real estate deals.

      I would be really ticked off if my tidy tax free sum of money which I am squirreling away to take home in 4 or 5 years to live like a king was threatened by the though of tax.  It would mess up my plans quite inconveniently. 

      The average Caymanian these days is accustomed to getting the sloppy seconds from the deals/legislation so that’s why you don’t hear much outcry from locals.  The ones who are out running around screaming Cayman is Finished if taxation is introduced don’t have Caymanian accents or passports and are more likely the ones hurling hatred at Tom.

      Caymanians began saying "Cayman’s finished" after Status fiasco and when we started hearing expats arrive here on Monday and declare Caymanians are dumb stupid and lazy with absolute authority on Friday (also a recent phenomenon).

      So please don’t be so quick to credit locals with the threats on Tom, especially when you have no proof.  

  11. Anonymous says:

     Respectful?  Did you miss the other viewpoint about the two ladies?  I’m sorry sir that this has happened to you.  

    We need to agree to disagree and that’s it.  But threats?  That is crazy and like the other poster said, those are not reasonable people.

  12. CLiberty says:


    No one should threaten you for your freedom of speech!  Taxation is an option that needs to be carefully analysed.

    My take is, in order for Government to maintain its functions in protecting people from crime, aggression in any form, theft, breach of contracts, fraud, and unjust attempts to own certain properties alongside the sea, which can be used for parks and preservation of certain aspects of nature, it should first of all make a radical and historic move.

    Government should get rid of all fees, license fees, permit fees, duties, et cetera… and replace the revenue needed by such fees with a flat tax. For those who don’t know anything about a flat tax, it is a taxing system with a constant tax rate, across-the-board for all to pay. There is not one person who is taxed more than the other, everyone gets a flat rate.

    Now, before you thumbs me down, here is how this system will work and people will find it less financially burdensome than what they are presently experiencing through indirect taxes – work permit fees, licenses, duties, etc…: 

    The Government in getting rid of all such fees, licences, permit fees, duties, et cetera, shall do in all its power, privatize certain of its sectors, and reduce or trim-down its size, so that it would not need much from a flat tax to keep itself afloat. Right now, Government is "fat," it is too large, and in order to keep itself afloat, has increased duties and fees that are in actuality hurting the business community from growing and hence, keeping people unemployed.

    Of course, some of you reading this may think that such a radical move will be too painful and sacrificing on Government’s part. And this will cause the present Government to lose its loyal supporters and voters in the public sector. But I can assure you  if we don’t do something from now to curb the "too much interference" from Government on the private sector, Government is just going to grow, grow, and grow, and there will be no more private sector and Caymanians being able to start their own businesses, but a socialist regime on this island soon. The smaller the Government, the less oppressive the laws are to businesses and maintaining businesses, is the better for our free market and the people of the Cayman Islands.

    Definitely, someone within Government has to take a stand on which direction they want the country to go. This cry about taxes being morally wrong has no weight, no foundation when we are already being taxed to the core! 


    If Government and the people of the Cayman Islands refuses to introduce a flat tax; at least, reduce its size to only keeping the "essential services of governance," and in return lowering the fees as a result.


    Something has to be done to save us from this very large Government for a very small island.


    • Go Green! says:

       Your theory is flawed.  Once the government gets it’s hands on a flat-tax, they will only want MORE.  History shows us that taxation only grows, never shrinks.  Giving the government any kind of tax income will only corrupt further and make them spend more…they assume, like this government that the money flow will never stop and so they spend the people’s "money" before it ever hits their purse.

      The only way to shrink Govt and lower fees is to ONLY allow the govt. to spend what they already HAVE, not predict and not borrow.

      • Anonymous says:

        We have got to get past this simplistic thinking. Everyone is for govt. being more efficient and cutting costs where they can. However, there are limits to which govt. can cut and either we have to limit what we expect from govt. in terms of services (e.g. free medical care for school age children) and infrastructure or govt. will need find a way to raise more revenue. What is readily apparent is that govt. is not going to be able to rely on the financial services sector and tourism industry to supply the bulk of its revenue needs going forward.   

        In terms of govt’s ability to increase it, a flat tax is no different from any other tax, direct or indirect. Obviously govt. can equally increase import duties (and did do so), stamp duties, and other fees. So I am afraid that is a bit a non-point.       

    • Pro the little person says:

      A "flat tax: is fine, but the fees must stay. How many nations that have taxation implemented do you see without other fees?

      However, for a "flat tax" to work all levels of income must be considered and due to the lack of minimum wage in the Cayman Islands at the end of teh day this tax may be $50 a month (not to say it won’t add up). We would need competent politician in office to ensure that it is properly implemented.

      Also with this flat tax the I would expect thegovernment to stop applying duty to local banking transactions.

  13. Concerned! says:

    Well said Tom!

  14. whodatnot says:

    Ummh, have you stepped outside lately – famous the world over for being respectful?  Maybe 20 years ago, certainly not now.  All you have to do is listen to the Premier to give you an idea of the state of affairs.  I am sorry that you’ve had anonymous threats sent your way – unfortunately, this piece will not change things one iota – reasonable people do not send threats…  as for those who do, they’ll need a lot more than one article to knock some sense into their thick skulls.

    • michel lemay says:

      Tom, I am not certain that I know you but please don’t let those few cowards hiding behind anonymous stop you from voicing your opinion and signing your name. You will notice that those of us whom have made Cayman our home many moons ago are NOT afraid and actually insist on signing our name. I have been approched by quite a few who told me to keep it up and wished that they could do so themselves if they were not part of the civil service or work for a firm they work for that would be agains themt signing their name. I also have not been impressed by the way our Premier conducted himself during the BT meeting and it bothers me a lot to see waths going on. I find our Governor TOO quiet. Our Police force is demoralized to say the least, another Comish. but same old story. People approche me because THEY KNOW they can trust me and what I am hearring is pretty scary. Be very careful those of you in power, the world is listening and watching and definatly not good for business. The way things are going please don’t let me tell you I told you so. GOD be with us.