Taking issue with Net News

For some time now I have been resisting the urge to write to the letters column of Cayman Net News and especially to its editor regarding the rubbish printed in the Letters to the Editor pages and in its editorials regarding Immigration rollover policy.

As a result of this I find it impossible to keep silent any longer.

One would have thought that as a non-Caymanian journalist in these islands, the editor would have been more circumspect in his editorials.

Cayman Net News is totally adrift on this issue and should be less aggressive and persistent in expressing its views. In this letter I will highlight some quotations from their editorial of 10 March, 2006, and I will respond to them, not necessarily in the order in which they are placed by me, but respond I will.

Highlights:

‘Political Myopia could contribute to disaster’

‘The rollover policy does not find any favour whatsoever within the business community, whether these are locally owned or not.’

‘So, whom does this policy pander to? One must assume to that part of the electorate that either prefers not to or doesn’t want to grasp the reality of the situation for whatever reason, whether form lack of public understanding or an irrational xenophobia etc. etc.

‘Doubtless they do not wish to be tarnished with the same brush allowing foreigners to settle here indiscriminately.

‘The Cayman Islands has an undeniable need for imported labour if we are to continue to progress along what has turned out to be a very prosperous economic path etc. etc.

‘Indeed many places elsewhere government ministers making such comments as being swamped by immigrants would have been forced from office on the grounds of racism.

‘So what are we going to do? Just exchange one set of hundreds or more likely thousands of permit holders for another set from abroad?

‘Do we ignore the fact that everyone subject to the rollover policy has made their home in the Cayman Islands?

‘This means that apart from the millions of dollars that could possibly be claimed in severance costs against local employers resulting from the termination of a large number of long service employees etc. etc. Is the Government prepared to underwrite the costs to employers of the roll over policy?’

My response:

As I said earlier, Cayman Net News and its editor are totally adrift on this issue of Immigration in this country.

If they were keeping up with developments regarding immigration generally, they would have known that the United States with a population of over 300 million is now grappling to come to terms with this very issue.

They would also have known that in recent times because of the blight and unemployment in Southeast England, the British Government of the day devised and instituted special development projects for that area and that because of the success of those projects citizens from other areas of the country began streaming in indiscriminately (just as Net News is advocating for this country) with resultant social unrest. Because of this social unrest the British Government had to scale back or even abandon some of the planned developments.

Net News would also have known that Americans in Miami, Florida, have been known to demonstrate against Americans from New York coming to Miami and taking their jobs.

These facts should prove to Net News and anyone else with a like mind that with the best will in the world, these islands cannot sensibly absorb all of the people who wish to come and work amongst us.

If Net News and its editor had any sense of reasoning at all, it should not be difficult for them to see that the roll over policy is imminently sensible since from henceforth, except for certain exempted persons, no one will accumulate the necessary time of residence to demand or obtain Status automatically.

As for Net News’ suggestion of the Government being guilty of racism, it should tread extremely lightly here let it tips its hand.

Caymanians are amongst the last people in the world to whom the Net News editor should accuse of being racist, myopic or xenophobic.

Caymanians, especially our large numbers of seamen, have been world travellers from the inception of our settlement, not just since the advent of globalization. Our seamen have worked and lived with just about every nationality in the world and they have always held their own and in many cases even excelled.

Because of our seafaring tradition it was not uncommon to have a father, several sons, brothers and husbands from the same family all absent at sea simultaneously for extended periods. The usual contract period was for one year. Caymanians endured this separation from family with stoicism. (Net News advocated that all guest workers here should be allowed to bring their family members along regardless of the duration of the time of employment.)

It was this separation from family that shaped the Caymanian personality. Those who remained at home treated guests with the same dignity and respect they wished their loved ones abroad to be treated.

This is the Caymanian psyche I know and it is the person our visitors are again seeking to meet – not to come here for two weeks and not meet a true Caymanian.

The foregoing should answer the Net News editorial’s accusation of racism, political myopia and irrational xenophobia. However, let me hasten to add that this friendly attitude does not extend to Caymanian being marginalized or disenfranchised in our own country; it has never been and never will be so.

As the father of the Caymanian Protection Law, I would like to thank Net News on my own behalf and that of my colleague and senior parliamentarian Mr. Warren Connolly, OBE, JP, when the editorial stated ‘If we are to continue to progress along what has turned out to be a very prosperous economic path’ etc. etc. The progress, which we have enjoyed, had its foundation in those of us who knew that all progress is development but not all development is necessarily progress and tried to deal with immigration accordingly.

If I read my people correctly, the last opportunity of senseless and irresponsible grants of statuses ended last May, so I would advice Net News to give up beating the drum for whomever or for whatever it is doing so. That God we have a Government that seems to understand our precarious position and are prepared to deal with it.

It will be interesting to see how many of those thousands Net News claims to be ignored amongst those subject to the roll over policy who have houses or apartments to sell when they leave. My take is that most of them have built homes in their homelands to which they intend to return in any event after they have ruined these islands with the help of persons like the Net News and its editor, but success in doing this is becoming more dubious. Caymanians are finally awake to the likelihood and dangers of this happening.

No, we are not going to just exchange white do for white dog. We have been doing that for too long. We are going to exchange mongrels for German Shepherds.

In case the Net News does not understand the analogy, I mean we are going to replace unskilled persons with skilled or at least semi-skilled ones – no more recruiting on Easter Avenue at 7 o’clock in the mornings. The roll over policy gives these islands a real chance to change the quantity and quality of our workforce.

Finally, Net News editor, the final paragraph of the 10 March, 2006, editorial stated ‘inter alia’ more voices should rise to stop another political embarrassment and strive instead for a reasonable and practical solution to this vexing issue.’

I realize that my voice does not serve Net News’ purpose, but I hope that it will give encouragement, if that is necessary, to our Government to stick to its plan and resolve this vexing issue in a reasonable and practical way before it is too late.

The editor of the Net News is Trinidadian born, bred and baked. He cannot any more be made a Caymanian that one can make a cassava cake from beach sand.

If God had blessed him with children then if they are raised and school with Caymanian children they can become Caymanians. It is from these children who integrate that many of our future Caymanians will come. He should stand back, stop meddling in things about which he knows nothing and watch this amazing process unfold without stress (the Major, please note).

In a recent editorial Net News questioned if born Caymanians can trace their history here back thousands of years like the Europeans. Do they not know that the Cayman Islands were only discovered or sighted in 1503 and settled even later? However, I at 71 years of age can trace my maternal ancestry back five generations and my paternal ancestry even further and that is sufficient for me to be able to consider the likes of the Net News editor as a Johnny Come Lately.

Yours for a stress-free Cayman Islands.

Benson O. Ebanks

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