From his initial utterances it’s clear that Roy Bodden’s self-described “change of vocation” has not diminished his passion for social justice and broadly speaking, his unquestionable commitment to the Cayman Islands.
A segue into farming initially as a hobby but with a longer term view towards a more commercial enterprise is already seeing the application of the intense focus that Mr Bodden, now retired from politics and management of academia, has brought to his previous pursuits.
Mr Bodden is a former distinguished President of the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) and a former Minister of Education and Cayman Islands legislator where he also served with distinction in both instances.
In a frank and candid interview with Caymanian Times discussing current events in and impacting the Cayman Islands, his keen intellect, foresight, insight, and a unique ability to analyse delicate topics that some others might prefer to avoid - oftentimes for the preservation of the status quo he would argue - were evident.
Clearly there’s more about Cayman to harvest from the sharp mind - and wit - of one of our finest intellects, in addition to the produce of the farm he now tends. Plus, he is also very much involved with his church.
“Retired but not idle” is how Roy Bodden describes is current situation.
“I’m one of those persons who were looking forward to a change of pace and a change of vocation,” he said putting a different interpretation to his new current status.
It doesn’t mean his interest in politics - in in education for that matter - has waned. Far from it.
As he told Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis, he continues to write and expound on issues important to Cayman from the historical to the current political - and all social advances and ills in between.
A prolific author and highly regarded historian, Mr Bodden has published several books tracking and analysing the Cayman society from its colonial past to modern global financial industry powerhouse that it has evolved into without airbrushing any societal shortcomings.
He maintains that elements of colonial leftovers are still evident which manifests itself in racism and a colour hierarchy that he feels “is still as incipient and rampant in the Cayman Islands as it ever has been”.
Professor Bodden was recently celebrated with a national symposium in his honour titled: J.A Roy Bodden - Public Intellectual Interrogating The Caymanian Society, a title which aptly encapsulates the breadth and depth of his writing and opinions.
Viewing his role as “uplifting, informing and edifying” the people of the Cayman Islands, Roy Bodden said he made the decision not to align himself with any political agglomeration.
“I want to remain in a position where I can call things as I see it without fear of having to temper my idea.”
And true to his word, he has not flinched from addressing the range of issues confronting Cayman; from the concerning, to the outright worrying, to those that are worthy of celebrating.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Roy Bodden believes new Premier Wayne Panton is on the right path with his own plan for Cayman.
He endorses policies voiced by the Premier and his PACT (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) coalition of independents, especially their commitment to make Cayman a more economically equal society.
The Premier himself has spoken about a thrust towards the ‘Caymanisation’ of the economy to rebalance the status quo.
“I like what the Premier is stating,” he told Caymanian Times. “I Iike his objective of trying to create a society which is at once equal, to trying to alter the social construct or what I call developing a different social and contract.”
As seen by Professor Bodden, “It is necessary for us to realise that here is not only a creeping but a gaping economic inequality in Caymanian society and unless it is addressed it will come back to haunt us.”
Quite worryingly though, Mr Bodden sees this already being manifested in the recent spate of armed robberies, including three murders, which have sent shockwaves of alarm throughout the society.
The Caymanian stalwart posited that the Premier, who has also cited social ills - including disenfranchised young men - as a factor in the crime spurt, needs support to bring about the social change the government is advocating.
He said Premier Panton is up against “the status quo” citing economic disparities and lack or denial of opportunities for locals to progress in the job market and climb the social ladder.
Professor Bodden offered a salutary reminder to Premier Panton and his PACT team: “John Public is watching with bated breath,” he stated, adding that “this may be their last best hope.”
THE ECONOMY, VACCINATIONS AND EQUALITY
In his assessment of the economic outlook for Cayman in the wake of the pandemic, Professor Bodden is taken aback by some projections which suggest a fairly rapid turnaround from the downturn.
“Those people who believe that the border opening is going result in an immediate economic boom and mistaken,” he assessed saying the misunderstood the standing and functioning of society.
He expects that real recovery will take some time and advised that “we had better be prepared for the longer term rather than the shorter term” especially considering the external influences on the local economy, especially trends in the major metropolitan capitals in the US, UK and Europe.
There is however one area in which he feels that Cayman can make a significant contribution to its own economic recovery. That’s the vaccination drive.
“It would be seriously remiss of us not to promote vaccination,” he declared while expressing alarm and worry at the extent of misinformation circulating within Cayman itself of myths, misconceptions and misinformation of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Frankly, I’m alarmed at the number of people that I think should be responsible, (who are) promoting conspiracy theories against vaccinating people.”
In advocating making a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for issuing work permits, Roy Bodden seques into the wider issue of Caymanians being marginalised in the workplace.
He feels opportunities to provide training for Caymanians during the downturn caused by the pandemic have been missed, despite some programmes which were launched to retain and upskill.
According to Mr Bodden this is indicative of a wider malaise afflicting the society that Cayman will have to come to terms with and which he feels is at the root of many of the challenges facing the society.
“My description of Caymanian society is that the only thing we have in common - the Caymanian people and (metropolitan expatriates) - is that we meet up at the water fountain at work…but after work they go to their enclaves and I go my (local) subdivision.”
While he ascribes these divisions to some segments of the expatriate community, Professor Bodden however acknowledges that there are others who make the effort to integrate with the local community.
Click here for the full interview with Roy Bodden: Click here to watch full interview