Culture of openness, transparency

The recent campaign against me by the Leader of the Opposition, McKeeva Bush and the publisher of Cayman Net News, Desmond Seales, is the result of two things: (1) Mr. Bush’s failure after two years to accept that he lost the last election and (2) Cayman Airways’ decision to stop shipping the Cayman Net News until they have paid their debt.

Perhaps Mr. Bush will now assist Mr. Seales with that issue.

The allegation by Mr. Bush that I took Ministry files with me when I resigned as permanent secretary is not only false but is not a new accusation. He made the same accusations during the last election campaign and I requested that the then-Governor conduct an investigation and make the findings public.

That was done and former Governor Dinwiddy confirmed to me in writing that no Ministry files were missing from the Ministry and that no further investigation was necessary. I revealed Governor Dinwiddy’s letter during a campaign meeting in North Side in 2005. I said from the very beginning that I took my personal files with me. Anyone resigning from office is not going to leave their personal files behind.

Mr. McKeeva Bush with the obvious assistance of Cayman Net News has managed to resurrect this story after two years, re-package it and sell it as if it is something new.

Mr. McKeeva Bush and the publisher of the Cayman Net News assisted by Mr. Lyndon Martin, a former UDP MLA who is now conveniently positioned as a “journalist” with the Cayman New News, have deliberately omitted some important facts from their self serving stories. I am not going to get into the questionable journalistic practices of the Cayman Net News here. That is for another day and everyone is familiar with the practices of that newspaper anyway.

What I will say is that as a former senior police officer with 17 years of experience and one that was trained by the FBI, DEA and Scotland Yard, I can assure your readers that I recognise corruption when I see it.

I challenged that corruption and won. Since that time I have been targeted by some politicians and some media houses. As I said in the Legislative Assembly recently, the Opposition has said “cost it what it will Charles Clifford must not be elected in this country again because he has caused us too many problems.” And so their mission is to attempt to discredit me at whatever price. Money seemingly is no object for the UDP.

It is public knowledge that I used the information I had to ask specific questions of the then government and now Opposition, particularly of Mr. McKeeva Bush, during the last election campaign and most of these stories and letters were carried in the local press during that time. I made those revelations from public platforms during the last election and yet two years later Mr. Bush and Cayman Net News are trying to sell this as a new story.

The PPM’s campaign theme was “A Government you can Trust”. Corruption in the government featured very prominently during the debates and public meetings leading up to the last election.

I knew that the country was in grave danger if the UDP had continued in office and I was determined to put a stop to the corruption that was becoming institutionalised. I was not then and I am not now prepared to sit idly by and allow our beloved Cayman Islands to become just another regional country riddled with corruption. If that had continued it would have ultimately scared away investors, business and tourism and allowed poverty and crime to take root and destroy our way of life.

I make no apologies for what I did and I can assure the Caymanian people that if I was faced with the same situation again I would not act any differently.

I truly believe that civil servants must be encouraged and motivated to expose corruption when they see it and not intimidated into turning a blind eye, which is the platform that the current Leader of the Opposition is promoting. I know that Mr. McKeeva Bush’s position on this is of no surprise to anyone. It would obviously not be in his interest to empower civil servants to speak freely and unencumbered about these issues.

The focus shouldn’t be on the fact that I divulged information publicly, that is not a new story, as I said that happened two years ago during the last election campaign. The focus should be on what the information revealed and what has happened since that time.

What should be newsworthy is that all of the irregularities, which I raised during the last election campaign, whether they related to the Port Authority, Boatswain’s Beach, Staunch Construction involvement in the affordable housing scheme; MC restoration and the debris removal contract; or the settlement of the Government’s insurance claim against Cayman General Insurance – they have all been confirmed and further exposed in independent Auditor General’s reports which are available for public consumption.

What is also newsworthy is that investor confidence returned as soon as the people ushered in “A Government you can Trust” and the economy is robust and booming.

There will no doubt continue to be attempts by the Opposition to discredit me through their strategically positioned agents in the media. I anticipated that and will respond when and where I think it is appropriate.

I remain confident that just as the Caymanian people removed the current Opposition from power when they were the Government because of the irregularities and allegations of corruption, that now that they have PROOF of the irregularities through independent investigations by the Auditor General, two of which have been referred to the police for further investigation, that the people will be even more determined in the next election to ensure that the current Opposition is never again put in control of our islands. The people understand that too much is at stake.

The Opposition is obviously concerned about the achievements that this government will be credited for in the next election and will take every opportunity to derail those plans and programmes.

I can assure them that we will not be distracted from delivering what the people asked us to deliver and I am always prepared to take 10 minutes of my time to respond to the Opposition when I believe it is necessary. They can count on that and I can assure them that Cayman will not soon forget the harm that the UDP government brought to bear on our country.

In closing let me advise Mr. Bush that he will not divert the attention from all of the investigations relating to his administration. Those issues are yet to be fully debated.

Perhaps Mr. McKeeva Bush has not noticed but from the last election campaign the PPM began to usher in a new culture of openness and transparency in Government. Mr. Bush had better get used to it.

Charles E. Clifford – Minister of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce

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