In the July 12th issue of Cayman Net News, Editor Desmond Seales wrote an editorial focusing on his belief that, ‘It is about time that other, non-‘true-born’ Caymanians considered running for office next time around. Along with a third-part alternative, this might be one way of bringing some much-needed wisdom and competence to the governance of the Cayman Islands.’
I must disagree with Mr. Seales. Since the introduction of the Protection Law (now the Immigration Law) in 1972, those who subsequently were granted Caymanian Status are Caymanian in every respect, save for the ability to run for public office. While this is the sole difference between the two, it is an important one and a necessary one and should not be taken lightly.
It is essential that indigenous Caymanians be able to protect the collective ownership of their homeland life as much as is possible. This could unquestionably be endangered if new Caymanians had the right to seek public office and thereby control the direction (and destiny) of the Caymanian people.
Mr. Seales is likely to question the definition of ownership and justifiably so. This term is difficult to qualify and perhaps, the best way to do so would be to give examples of how ownership could be lost if Mr. Seales’ concept were made law.
After a lifetime in Cayman, I regard myself as 100 per cent Caymanian. I have no other citizenship; no other loyalties. Many born-Caymanians have told me that they wished I could run for public office, as they feel that I have served Cayman well over the years. I have also endeavoured over the years to become Caymanian through a lifetime of association with my Caymanian friends. It takes time. I believe that I could possibly now represent indigenous Caymanians well, as I now both understand and agree with their point of view; however, I unquestionably could not have done so back when I was first granted status. I simply wasn’t Caymanian enough.
And therein lays the problem. It would be reckless indeed to open up our elected offices to new Caymanians, as new Caymanians are unlikely to fully appreciate the perspective of indigenous Caymanians. The question then, is, at what point, in years, does a new Caymanian become acceptable for public office?
This could only be decided on an individual basis, as some new Caymanians will never wish to assimilate, but laws cannot be written in this fashion. The law must apply to all equally. Cayman cannot determine that one individual is one of us and another is not. While most Caymanians would agree that there are many very fine expats who have become Caymanian, who would serve our Government well, there are at least as many who would not.
Certainly, many of the infamous ‘Mac’s 3,000’ would be unacceptable to indigenous Caymanians. These included some who just arrived on Cayman, some who had not been here at all and, if reports are correct, one foreign national who was in prison at the time that he was given status. To allow these individuals the right to run for public office would be reckless indeed.
Additionally, if any new Caymanian could run for office, incumbent ministers would have the opportunity to award status to their non-Caymanian friends, with the understanding that these friends would be running on the same ticket with them next time around and bring along the voting power of their friends.
Further, it would be possible to create political parties with national slants, such as the Canadian Caymanian Party or the Jamaican Caymanian Party, each of who could weigh in heavily at the polls through sheer numerical strength. In short, Mr. Seales’ concept is attractive as an ideal, but it doesn’t work.
I believe, therefore, that the best way to assure that we protect the collective Cayman from this danger is to retain the status quo. For the sake of our country, those of us who have been granted status must not ever have the right to run for office.
At some point, however, we will need to come to grips with what happens to future generations. Should the son of a status holder, having been born here and having grown up in the Caymanian experience, be allowed to run for office? Maybe so. Certainly, the third generation should be eligible. This concern should be considered in any discussion of revision of our Constitution, as there are a growing number of people in exactly this situation.
Mr. Seales and I do agree on one point, however.
He hopes that ‘those who are willing to serve are prepared to contribute to good governance.’ Those of us who have been granted status should remain cognizant of the fact that we have been granted the honour of becoming Caymanian, with all the rights of born-Caymanians except for eligibility for public office and for that reason, if we are called upon to contribute in any other way to contribute to good governance, we should endeavor to do so, even if we can never run for office.