The Melting Pot Myth
In the beginning, it was just easier to import a middle class, as opposed to training and developing our own Caymanian people. Today, the anti-Caymanian advocates use other rationales to justify the continuing importation of foreign workers. Some of the more popular reasons given are that the employers have a need for cheap workers, work permits issued to foreign workers are an important source of revenue for government, and a need to grow the population so that there more consumers to sustain businesses.
Tied to the politician’s argument of growing Cayman’s population, is the idea that Cayman is a melting pot in which Caymanians are maintaining a dominant presence. I do not accept this argument. What I see is a melting pot in which Caymanians are melting into extinction.
Given the recent increase in the number of foreign workers in the Civil Service, it begs the following questions: What happened to the policy of Caymanization of the Civil Service? Who introduced the new policy? Where were the senior civil servants when this new policy was being developed? Where was the Civil Service Association? Is anyone accountable for introducing this new policy in government?
The age-old question asked by many Caymanians is perhaps more relevant today -- who are we developing for? You just have to look at the unemployed Caymanians and the suffering in the islands to arrive at the answer. Certainly not for Caymanians. Project after project, the politicians give away government concessions and taxpayer dollars, promising jobs and other benefits for the Caymanian people. Sadly, after each project is completed, what we see are hundreds of foreign workers and a token number of Caymanian workers.
When it comes to protecting the interest of Caymanians our politicians have fallen asleep on the job. An occasional nap could be excused, but permanent sleeping is a dereliction of responsibility. Day after day, year after year they sit in the LA as quiet as a church mouse, only rousing themselves to eat and to pass another law that disenfranchises Caymanians.
There has been the occasional political voice crying in the wilderness, Caymanians first! Caymanians first! Caymanians first! But the others were fast asleep and did not hear the prophetic words that Caymanians would need to be protected against discrimination and unfair employment practices. Neither, had they read the Caymanian Protection Law 1971. The Sargent-of-Arms woke them for lunch where they ate turtle meat and talked about the next raise of pay they intended to give themselves. As they went into the LA Chamber for the afternoon Session, the future looked bright. They were confident the people would not question their performance, if their attendance at upcoming weddings and funerals was well managed. Re-elected was guaranteed.
Five decades after the Caymanian Protection Law was passed, and subsequently exorcised for all things Caymanian, there is still no law protecting the rights of the Caymanian people. This is a far cry from what our forefathers had envisaged. Furthermore, there is no national plan to produce a Caymanian middle class. There is no national plan to reserve specific jobs and industries for Caymanians. There is no national plan to preserve land for future generation of Caymanians, if they exist, to build their homes. When will we improve our education and technical training to a level where employers can no longer reject Caymanians on the ground of an inferior Cayman education? This perception, real or not, must change. This is the acid test for our education system. Until our local graduates can stand equal with our overseas graduates, in our employer’s mind, then we are just wasting money on education.
If you come from a prominent Caymanian family, have political connections with the government or are a member of the old boy’s club, then your Caymanian experience will be quite different from what I describe here. A few of you have prevailed against the odds and are also doing well. You are lucky to be living the Caymanian dream, not the nightmare. However, I would urge you to remember that while you may live in gated communities, politicians cannot protect you from the wrath of the have-nots.
Are politicians preparing Caymanians for the next chapter in their political evolution? I don’t think so! Show me the plan. When that time comes will they need to open the floodgates again for foreign help? Cayman needs politicians with a vision for Caymanians that inspires the nation to greater achievements. We need politicians that inspire hope and national pride amongst the people. We need politicians that will lead by example and are prepared to make sacrifices on behalf of the Caymanian people. On the other hand, if Caymanians are to stop or reverse the political tragedy that has befallen them they must become more involved in the political process and hold their politicians to a higher standard of accountability. We can also hope that the new MLAs will have the courage to fight to change the repressive political culture existing in the LA. While politicians have let the Caymanian people down, it must be said that they are elected under a democratic system; therefore, the people get the government they elect and deserve. Change will only come when the people demand and make the change.
If Caymanians no longer matter and politicians can no longer offer protection specific to Caymanians, then they need to tell the people the truth. The government has publicity stated that there are plans to amend the C.I. Constitution sometime soon. Hopefully, this time the amendments will include protections specific to the Caymanian people.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled unanimously that because “freedom of political debate is at the very core of the concept of a democratic society …the limits of acceptable criticism are accordingly wider as regards a politician as such than regards private individuals” Consistent with this established principle, I have concluded that Cayman politicians, past and present, have failed to protect the economic, social and political interests of the Caymanian people. I would argue that the failure by politicians to provide good governance that protects the interest of Caymanians is a national disgrace that rises to the level of betrayal of the Caymanian people. Artist Edward Langley said it best: “What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.”
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Editor and Staff of Caymanian Times.
About the author
Gilbert Connolly is a retired Cayman Islands senior civil servant. He is a graduate of Pace University, New York with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He also holds a post graduate Diploma in Insurance Management from Nottingham University and City University London, and an EMBA from UCCI and the University of Toronto.