Government has been working to restore some semblance of the way it used to be on this Island, Minister Gilbert McLean said in his debate on extraordinary expenditure last week.
Money was being voted so that some of the issues resulting from Hurricane Ivan could be addressed, but Government does not have enough money to do it all. ‘How many years did it take to reach where we were?’ he asked. ‘Are we magicians that we can wave a wand and put it all back the way it was?’
Mr. McLean, whose Ministry includes Public Works as well as Health Services, Agriculture and Aviation, said it is taking time, money and people to rebuild. Government has collected only half of its insurance money so far, he indicated.
There are 97 different building that need repair, he said. If Government said today that construction companies would be let in to do the work, the first people to holler would be the Opposition, saying Government was taking work away from Caymanians, Mr. McLean asserted.
Government policies had not changed but priorities had, he said. There had been complaints that Public Works had cleaned up in West Bay but not Bodden Town. But people must understand that most of the tourism product is between West Bay and George Town. ‘We had to get back business that could generate revenue and keep people employed,’ he pointed out.
Mr. McLean suggested that certain people were criticising health services because they believed they were criticising him.
Some people were criticising schools because they believe that would be damaging to Minister for Education Roy Bodden. But Mr. Bodden did not bring Ivan here and he did not build the school buildings.
There had been questions about the ‘goings on’ at the George Town Hospital. What was going on? he wondered. Some 1,100 people taking shelter there? The kitchen staff feeding everybody? Who was giving the hospital food to cook? Did the Health Services Authority have plans to turn itself into a hotel for three weeks? he asked.
Parts of the hospital were mashed up by the storm, he pointed out. Salt water washed in. Some equipment was no longer usable. A patient sitting in a dental chair cold look up and see sky or tarpaulin – ‘Should we leave it that way?’ he asked.
Critics had been asked about doctors leaving the hospital. His answer: ‘Go and ask the doctors. See if the doctors want them to pry into their business.’
In regard to the leaking of confidential information from the hospital, Mr. McLean said he would go to any expense to see that people doing so are moved somewhere else to leak their confidentiality.
Other questions about the hospital would be answered in Finance Committee: ‘That’s where we do it,’ he explained.
The Minister defended the vote of $400,000 to complete the abattoir, saying it would remove supermarkets’ excuse for not buying local beef because they couldn’t be sure how it had been handled.
The Animal Rescue Centre is open because it needs to be, not only for dogs but also stray cattle.
Mr. McLean said he did not hope for the impossible, such as unity in the House, because he was seeing disunity ‘even after we have been through the horror of five months ago.’
He thought he was witnessing a time of madness, not the least of which was political.
In most countries when there is a disaster, the aftermath is usually a concerted effort to replace and restore that which has been damaged. His impression was that this was happening after the tsunami in Asia.
Cayman has been placed in the unfortunate position of having an election. The accusations, rumours and lies that occur in normal times intensify a thousand-fold in the circumstances Cayman is dealing with now, Mr. McLean commented.
Letters in the press are geared to accusations and criticisms of a Government dealing with one of the most trying times in history and doing a magnificent job, he asserted. ‘It is absolutely abhorrent and repulsive to me to listen to political wannabees who inflame people’s emotions and further hurt people who have already been hurt,’ he said.
Mr. McLean only hoped that the practical common sense of the people would again prevail.