By Staff Writer
The now-former Governor of the Cayman Islands Martyn Roper has left the jurisdiction after completing his four-year tenure with fond memories he said of a time that was as eventful as it was exciting.
That was his assessment as he reviewed his time in Cayman in a final interview with Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis before flying back to the UK.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to using his Reserved Powers to push through the Civil Partnership law, a snap election and a change of government, and the abrupt resignation of Deputy Premier Chris Saunders in which he was erroneously implicated, all called on his experience of over 39 years in the British diplomatic service.
On the COVID crisis, the ex-governor praised the way the jurisdiction as a whole responded to the pandemic which made its deadly presence felt in our community with health impacts, social and economic disruption.
“I think I’ll probably be remembered as the COVID governor…I do think we have justification in saying we had one of the best responses anywhere in the world to COVID. It is something that everyone can be proud of.”
For the British-appointed governor, the support of the UK government during the COVID-19 crisis with the vaccine donation demonstrated the strength of the relationship between Cayman and the mother country.
On the wider relationship with the UK, he described it as ‘in really good shape’.
“I obviously see what relationships between other overseas territories and the UK are like and I think ours is one of the best. It’s constructive it’s mutually beneficial. There are at the moment no major irritants or major concerns. That isn’t the case in a number of other overseas territories and I think that’s to the huge benefit of Cayman and the UK as well.”
The other big challenge was the furore over the initial Domestic Partnership Bill and the legal, political wrangling and divisions within the community which surrounded that issue.
In a highly unusual move, Mr Roper stepped into the fray and utilised his authority under Section 81 of the constitution to resolve the issue in what resulted in the Civil Partnership law.
“Government needed to pass legislation or failing that the UK must step in, and it was quite clear the UK must step in to meet its international obligations. So, I used Section 81 on instructions from the UK.”
Acknowledging that Cayman is generally a society “with conservative views” on such matters, Mr Roper embarked on a community outreach and consultation to get feedback and reassure sceptics.
“I felt we found out sort of a middle way through everything…My hope is that it was a step forward for the jurisdiction and that we are more inclusive, more diverse and more accepting of differences than we were before.”
And then there was the ever-present spectacle of politics to navigate with a snap election and change of government.
But for the career diplomat, neutrality is the watchword for anyone in his position.
“It doesn’t matter who the government of the day is. Government changes and the civil service carries on to give that government, every support it needs. That’s our democratic system of government. So I hope people can see that I have tried to support both governments that I’ve worked with, and I think that’s a key part of the role of a governor.”
THE SAUNDERS SAGA
The normally circumspect Mr Roper was direct in distancing himself from some media claims that it was a rift between himself and Mr Chris Saunders that resulted in the former Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance now being out of office.
“I would say that the tension between me and the Deputy Premier, going back to December and January, had nothing to do with the events of last week. It’s for the Premier to talk about that because the Premier appoints his ministers.”
According to Mr Roper, there was a clash between himself and Mr Saunders over the Gambling Bill and Anti-Corruption legislation.
“The issues that arose between myself and MP Saunders were related to illegal gambling and also some legislation around the anti-corruption framework. There was an attempt made to frustrate or even to block the anti-corruption legislation.”
The ex-governor said both issues are of worrying concern to law enforcement authorities in Cayman and he described the current laws as being “useless”.
Not mincing words, Mr Roper went on to state: “Some people might have felt it was uncomfortable what I was saying but I had the right to say it and I had the right to say things to make sure that everybody around the Cabinet table was aware of the points I was making. The outburst from the former Deputy Premier, well, I was quite shocked by that I think. A lot of people apologised to me. They were embarrassed. And I think hopefully, that people who have seen me in action in life know that frankly, that is just nonsense.”
Reflecting on his time and Cayman and his outlook for the jurisdiction, Mr Roper who is leaving the British diplomatic service - but not yet quite retiring - painted a positive picture.
“We have really, really loved it here. It’s been a privilege of my life to serve as governor of the Cayman Islands. It’s a truly amazing community,” he said.
“We have challenges. Everywhere has challenges and every country is grappling with all sorts of difficult issues, but if we take a step back, there is so much to be proud of about the Cayman Islands. I go away with really, really positive memories.”
Mr Roper’s interview with Ralph Lewis, publisher of Caymanian Times, was his last interview before leaving the Cayman Islands - and the first interview in the new series of Cayman Conversations hosted by Ralph Lewis.
24 Sep, 2019
25 Feb, 2020
28 Jun, 2019
18 Nov, 2019
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