Thanksgiving Message from the Speaker of the House
Hon William McKeeva Bush, JP OBE
For most people, the annual “Thanksgiving” gathering is very important... it is a time to come together to fortify our families, our spirit and minds – and our bodies as well.
So, on the first Sunday of December, we in the Cayman Islands pause collectively to give thanks to Father God; to our forbearers -- upon whose shoulders we stand. We thank all those who labour to serve others, and to preserve our special way of life.
I am proud to have been a member of a generation that emerged from the quaint “Islands that Time Forgot”, and into the exposure of the modern world.
But, we must always acknowledge our debt of gratitude, and we recently paid homage to the sacrifices of Caymanian mariners, and the selfless service of veterans and casualties of war. We owe it to present and future generations to stay true to the course they set, and to build on their efforts.
So, let us give thanks!
While not everything we see abroad is a good fit for Cayman, I am happy that we have adapted this one. Across our three Islands, and in the wider Caribbean region, we can use this as a new tradition for posterity.
Especially so, as, in early December, we mark the conclusion of another Hurricane Season.
I need not evoke the memories and the dire effects of names like Dorian, Irma, Matthew and Maria.
Suffice to say, in Cayman we still recall the devastation of Ivan and Paloma, and, as the saying goes, “Those who feel it, know it”.
This passage of the storm season is one aspect of topical existence common to our region, and we certainly empathise with those who felt the wrath of Mother Nature this year; in particular, our friends in the Bahamas. Government and civil society alike have extended help in various forms to assist in their recovery.
This has also been a time of reflection for me, as I marked 35 years as an elected servant of the people. Looking back over my tenure, there is no easy parallel to explain to a young person how different life is today.
As children we walked to school, and most everywhere else, with our bare toes counting the steps over rough terrain. There was a natural curfew at sunset, when the swarms of mosquitoes and invisible sandflies drove man and beast to seek refuge. Our nighttime songs, reading or homework were done to the flickering glow of lamps, until electricity finally reached our communities.
It has been both a distinct honour and a privilege to serve the interests of the people of these islands over these years. I recall, with all humility, the words of the Good Book: “Many are called, but few are chosen”. I appreciate and consider this to have been the hallmark of my life thus far.
Having been a publicly- elected servant for over 3 consecutive decades, 35 years in fact I can say that I love and respect my community – both my specific constituency, as well as the broader district of West Bay, and indeed the three Cayman Islands. While others love it too – they don’t love Cayman any more than I do!
In the free world, patriots would herald that God and Country reign supreme, and the reality is that none of our goals could be realized without good support on our homefront. I speak as a thankful husband, a parent, and grandparent. Good friends have also helped me deal with life’s challenges, as we face at times – and in all this the constants that remained have been my beloved family, and a true and faithful God Almighty!
I entered the political fray at a time far removed from what obtains today, yet still very fresh in my memory. Those were milestone years, when we broke barriers for tourist arrivals, and when the roots of our financial and commercial industries began to really bud.
Now, years later, and of the year that is soon to conclude, I would say that 2019 has been exciting, yet challenging.
As everyone knows, I love public engagement..I daresay sometimes a bit too much. But, that is the heart of democracy, which is what our Governments have practiced for years.
We are now days away from a national Cruise Port and Cargo Facility Referendum. I say this for I hope that, at the Thanksgiving tables, and in our districts and workplaces, that we can acknowledge our differences, yet draw our own conclusions.
With this proposed facility enhancement, I am reminded that controversy goes hand in hand with progress...and this has been a trend for ages.
I say this for I am not as minded to be on the offensive as I was a young political stalwart. Nevertheless, I will not stand silently when others impugn my name publicly, or anonymously.
I will say no more about it, other than petty jabs are often made from misinformed positions. While this Referendum is the biggest political football in our history, I caution that pumping it up with misinformation and emotive rhetoric can be to the detriment of those whose jobs and business could fall by the wayside without a proper facility.
As the saying goes, in times of need we cannot look for “Any port in a storm”; we only know what we have now: a cruise berth and cargo-port facility that are in dire need of upgrades.
The future of Cayman tourism is no numbers game. A seat at the table, and to succeed in the new world economy, needs a scientific, diplomatic and practical formula that is not easy to achieve even for those embroiled in the competitive markets forces.
In my time, I have built sport facilities – Port facilities safeguarded our financial services made sure great steps to create better health came in the development of Shetty Hospital and many other developments in commerce.
Also, as the national budget debates have just been aired, I give thanks for the unanimous passage of the 2020-21 National Budget.
The Hon. Premier and Hon. Financial Secretary outlined the fiscal proposals... and emphasized that a strong economy, with stable finances, will surely result in a successful Cayman.
As I have stated, this budget is the best and most productive one that I have seen in my lifetime. God willing, if all goes well, the new decade of the 2020s, and beyond, will take all the people of Cayman to greater heights.
Especially so, in terms of the growth in opportunities, the enhancement of public services, shoring up our economic pillars, and the well-being of all our people.
Today the Government has to its credit a fully modernized Airport Infrastructure; plans are fully moving forward with Major roadworks, including a new public transport system;
A vibrant and revitalised George Town; a Mental Health facility; Improved Schools infrastructure; Modern and improved education and health systems; A modern waste management system that includes a waste to energy plant; The current landfill capped and remediated; And provided the Yes vote wins the referendum, then a cruise and enhanced cargo facility. Working on a proper minimum wage – A tremendous amount of programs to enhance civil servants – increase in their salaries and continued increases for our elderly veterans and others in need - Developing parks especially designed for young children. We are moving the country in the right direction.
So, in closing, as we enjoy the cool early Christmas breezes, I am reminded of the beloved Hymn, to which I urge everyone to abide, all year long: That is, “Count your blessings, name them one by one”. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
I wish everyone an enjoyable and safe Cayman Thanksgiving.
May the Good Lord Bless and keep us all, as we go into the festive season, and into a bold new year ahead!