Freedom of speech evident

Much has been said in the press recently regarding freedom of speech.

Much has been printed in a succession of editorials, plus several letters suggesting in no uncertain terms that the PPM government is stifling free speech, both by the press and by the public.

These accusations have centred on two primary claims:

Claim No. 1: The PPM promised to legislate freedom of speech as soon as possible after the election and has not yet done so.

This is correct.

Our Government has been tied up with major legislation that, in my estimation, held greater importance for the immediate future of Cayman than freedom of speech legislation and I therefore do not fault them. I do hope that Government will announce that it plans to keep its election promise and soon announce that freedom of speech will be dealt with, now that the pressure is off somewhat.

Claim No. 2: The public live in abject fear of the PPM Government and are terrified to make public comment for fear of reprisal and victimization.

Let’s look at this claim very carefully. In addition to the repeated editorials in Cayman Net News on this subject, there have been several scathing letters from the public, agreeing with these editorials.

Here is my personal conclusion: I have read all of Cayman’s newspapers since the first issue of the Caymanian Compass, back in the 70s.

Never in Cayman’s history have I witnessed our citizenry writing such critical letters of a sitting government, even when ending the letters with name withheld.

Although those who appear to be attacking the present government are quite few, all of them are clearly very free with their criticism and, in addition, confident enough to sign their names.

This very fact says to me that, for the first time in our history, Caymanians are confident that they may criticize their Government freely and forcefully if they see fit to do so.

Every government has its critics. The number of critics that have cropped up in Letters to the Editor are few; however, the mere presence of such strong content assures us all that we, as a people, feel less fearful than we ever had that we may freely criticize our government publicly.

When we read these letters, we are reminded that, the more strongly critical they are, the more they evidence that freedom of speech is not only tolerated under the PPM Government, but is, in fact, blossoming.

The PPM has taken a major step forward in this regard. I hope and trust that in 2007 we will see this spirit legislated, so that future governments can never return us to the fears that we lived with in the past.

Steve Hawley