By Staff Writer
His Excellency, Governor Martyn Roper, sat down with Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis and shared his views on a wide range of issues.
Topping the agenda were the ongoing vaccine campaign and its importance to reopening the borders and the economy, relations with the UK, working with the new Cayman Islands government, and preparations for the Queen’s birthday celebrations next month.
In an engaging conversation, they also spoke about the role of the media including the Governor’s concerns about the misuse of social media (he is an avid user of various platforms), plus the new Cayman regiment and their role in preparations for the hurricane season.
WORKING WITH THE NEW GOVERNMENT
“I know the current Premier very well. I've met him a lot in my first two and a half years. I'd actually worked closely with him on the Alex Panton Foundation, which I think he's doing incredible work to support, raising awareness of mental health issues on our island.
So we already have a very warm constructive relationship.”
“We have a weekly meeting which I did with his predecessors. Likewise, with the other ministers, I have a good strong relationship with them. All of us recognise having a strong Cayman-UK relationship and partnership is really important.”
“I think the public want the Governor and the Premier and ministers to work closely and collaboratively together and that's absolutely how I intend to proceed. Because I think that's the best way of getting what we want for the people of these islands.”
“The new government has hit the ground running. They've come in with a lot of commitment, a lot of determination and a lot of enthusiasm to deliver the sorts of things that were talked about in the election campaign.”
“I think obviously that we need to allow them a little bit of time to get behind the table and work out their specific policies.
Election campaign is a very busy, stressful time for everybody, but I'm very pleased with my relationships with the new government so far.”
“I also do recognise that the elected politicians have autonomy for the vast majority of domestic issues so I respect that and I think it's right that they're accountable and responsible for delivery of their programme. But I'm very happy to support, and any assistance that the UK can provide, we're here to provide.”
CAYMAN ISLANDS REGIMENT
Governor Roper has been instrumental in getting the new regiment up and running.
“It's going very well. We now have part-time reservists trained in basic training and we brought teams out from the UK to do that training. We have five or six junior officers who went to Sandhurst (the UK’s world-renowned military academy) to do their training and actually two of them were the best foreign students on their course. Terrific performance for Cayman!”
“So as we embark on another hurricane season, to have a trained body of men and women on-island who can assist us in whatever happens, is fantastic because they have skills that we didn't have on the island before.”
“A lot of people have said to me, they remember the Bermuda regiment came during Ivan, and what a great job they did. But we now have our own body of men and women so they can support us, but they could also support other territories and other independent countries if there's a crisis somewhere else.”
“We've recruited 100 part-time reservists. We want to get up to probably 150-180, so there's another recruitment exercise to happen. We're just having a bit of a pause now to bed down what we've got and then, probably next year we will look to recruit the next cohort.”
“Initially some people (questioned): ‘Why is this military? I don't really understand the concept of it.’
It is purely and simply disaster preparedness, and it's giving them the skills to help us if we have a natural disaster.”
“I think politically now the new Premier is very supportive, the new government is very supportive. We got the law passed through the (former) Legislative Assembly by consensus. So I think there's strong support for it from the political side, strong support from the UK, and strong support from most people.”
CELEBRATING THE QUEEN
“Her Majesty is a wonderful, wonderful lady. She's been around for so long. In fact, next year will be a Platinum Jubilee - she will have been on the throne for 70 years can you imagine? That it's quite incredible. So I'm hoping for next year to arrange something very special, something a bit different.”
“This year (for the Queen’s Birthday), we're going to do it on the Monday, the 14th of June, which is a public holiday. I think it has been on a Saturday in previous years but attendance has not been that brilliant so we're going to move it to Monday to see if that gets a bigger crowd.
There’ll be a parade outside Government House at 4:30pm on Monday, the 14th of June. All our uniformed services will parade, the regiment as well; the first time they've done that at the Queen's birthday party.”
“We'll also be awarding Charles Clifford his MBE. Then we'll move inside to the lawns of Government House, probably up to 500 people and we'll have a lovely reception. It's an open house.”
The programme and other arrangements for the event are being finalised.
Governor Roper said one of his main objectives has been to make Government House "more open and accessible"
"It's the people's houses and I've been very keen to be open and accessible since arriving."
Mr Roper whose tenure in Cayman started in 2018 is a senior British diplomat with a wide and distinguished background in the British diplomatic service.
He is a former Deputy Head of Mission in China and Ambassador to Algeria.
Mr Roper who holds degrees in politics and economics, has also served in Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Mozambique, as well as holding senior positions in the then-Foreign and Commonwealth Office (now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).
He also has previous experience working with the British Overseas Territories from his time as Head of the Gibraltar Section at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London when he had specific responsibility for policy concerning law and order, justice and good governance.
Mr Roper was also assigned to the United Nations in the early part of the 1990s where his role included the Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24).
He was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2013.