I refer to the article in the 14 April, 2006, issue of Cayman Net News written by the Leader of the Opposition, McKeeva Bush, and titled Hold on: Help is on the way.
It is neither my intention nor desire to respond to all of the misleading information and fabrications that have hitherto and may in the future be included in the Opposition Leader’s campaign to shift focus away from the corrupt practices of the past. But that article requires a response.
It was clear to me when I resigned from the civil service that the UDP Government had embarked on a campaign to politicize the service and that they were in fact having some success with that mission. We see that even now, from the opposition bench, the Leader of the Opposition is attempting to continue that mission and very inappropriately identified civil servants by their names in the article. The PPM Government is vehemently opposed to politicizing the civil service and so I will not embellish the Opposition Leader’s comments by mentioning civil servants names.
He has alleged victimization in the civil service. Can you imagine McKeeva Bush alleging victimization? When you consider his actions while in office and compare them to his claims of victimization it is most certainly a paradox! If he wanted to discuss victimization he should talk about the fact that four permanent secretaries, two directors of tourism, the former port director and several other senior civil servants left office during his tenure as Minister.
The Leader of the Opposition is well aware that the civil servants he referred to in his article have been reassigned by the Chief Secretary to other posts in the civil service. I suppose this is a foreign concept to him because history tells us that if he were still a Minister, civil servants would not have that option available to them.
Much of his comments on Cayman Airways are also fabrications. At no time did I suggest to him that any captain should be removed from office. He also claimed that he told me that I would have to bring something for him to take to Cabinet if I wanted that done. This fabrication is obvious when you consider that the hiring or firing of Cayman Airways staff is neither the Minister’s nor the Cabinet’s prerogative, it is the Board of Directors prerogative. This was simply just another attempt to mislead the public as he assumed you would not know any better.
What I can confirm is that he and I discussed CAL’s Flight Operations Department and I advised him that the Civil Aviation Authority had requested a meeting with me and with the then-Chairman of Cayman Airways concerning that department. During the discussion the Leader of the Opposition made certain derogatory remarks about the Cayman Airways captain and his family but it is neither necessary nor appropriate for me to repeat them here. Ironically, this is the same captain that he is now trying to find favour with.
It is true that this captain is no longer on the management team at CAL but he is returning to the cockpit and the Leader of the Opposition knew that but would not say so. He is equally aware that this was a decision of the Board of Directors and he is also aware that I have given the Board a mandate to, inter alia, ensure good governance and reduce the gap between expenditure and revenue and that I have left them to get on with the job. Why did he not say all of that? I suppose the answer is that it would not have served his purpose.
The Leader of the Opposition made reference to the programme to swap the fleet of Boeing 737-200s for the 737-300s and said this was the right move at the time. He is of course right on that but he has once again not told the entire story. What he didn’t tell you is that he wanted us to acquire the much larger Boeing 757’s. It was my job to convince him that given Cayman Airways’ average load factor at the time and the operational/maintenance costs on the 757s that this would be an imprudent move that would ultimately bring about the demise of our national flag carrier. But let us not forget that he is the same person who in 2001/2002 was flirting with the idea of having Air Jamaica take over Cayman Airways’ operations. The question is: was the Boeing 757 consideration a part of the plan to facilitate Air Jamaica?
When next the Leader of the Opposition decides to pick up his pen to write he should consider answering the 20 plus questions, some of which relate to Cayman Airways, that were put to him during the 2005 political campaign and which are still unanswered.
Lest he believes that I will respond to his every cry, let me say that while he is writing I am working on the many programmes and projects which this PPM Government has embarked upon and which will have a positive impact on the lives of the residents of our beloved Cayman Islands.
I certainly recognize that the 2005 political campaign is over and it is time for you, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, to recognize that too. There will be a time for campaigning in the future but it is not now and you need to know that you will not distract the PPM Government or me with your misrepresentations.
And yes, Help has arrived but it will take some time for this Government to clean up the mess that you and your UDP have left behind bearing in mind that we must simultaneously run our own programmes and projects.
Charles E. Clifford, 2nd Elected Member for Bodden Town
Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce