Media shut out
Former Cayman Islands Governor Bruce Dinwiddy will give testimony to a Commission of Enquiry looking into whether government files were improperly removed from the Ministry of Tourism in 2004.
A complaint by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush stated that the ministry’s former permanent secretary and current Tourism Minister Charles Clifford improperly, and possibly illegally, took files pertaining to the Turtle Farm expansion, the Boggy Sands project, the Port Authority and Cayman Airways upon his resignation from the ministry.
Mr. Dinwiddy will appear via video conference in London on Wednesday, 30 January, which will be transmitted to the Cayman Islands law offices of Maples and Calder. Attorneys in both London and Cayman will be able to ask questions directly to the former Governor.
The conference is scheduled to get under way at 9am.
Due to limited space at the conference room in Cayman, Commissioner of Enquiry Sir Richard Tucker said the press will not be allowed to attend. He said transcripts of Mr. Dinwiddy’s testimony will be made available.
News organisations made formal requests to view the conference from a separate location if the video transmission could be received there. Colin Ross, who has been assisting with the proceedings, responded for the Commission late Friday evening.
‘Sir Richard has asked me to say that the Commission is indebted to a private sector entity for the use of videoconferencing facilities and he cannot justify putting them to any more inconvenience than is already the case,’ he stated. ‘A transcript will be available in due course.’
Minister Clifford has said that he attempted to report alleged wrong-doing during the previous government’s administration to Governor Dinwiddy before taking government documents, which supported his claims to the press.
It is unclear what specific information was provided to the governor by Mr. Clifford, or whether Mr. Dinwiddy regarded the former permanent secretary’s actions as whistle blowing – the reporting of wrong-doing.
Mr. Dinwiddy did send a letter to Mr. Clifford on 3 February, 2005, which detailed the then-governor’s request that acting permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Ms Gloria McField-Nixon look into the matter of the missing files.
Ms McField-Nixon told the commission of enquiry last week that her two-day investigation in 2005 had found ministry files related to the Turtle Farm expansion, the Port Authority, and Cayman Airways were intact. She also noted that there was no evidence a file had ever been created on the Boggy Sands project.
Governor Dinwiddy wrote in the 3 February, 2005, letter that Ms McField-Nixon stated some files in Mr. Clifford’s permanent secretary office labelled ‘port redevelopment’ and ‘Cayman Islands Turtle Farm redevelopment’ were empty. However, she noted it would have been normal for Mr. Clifford to hold and retain copies of minutes and discussion papers since he was a board member of the Port Authority, the Turtle Farm and Cayman Airways.
Since that review, attorneys for Mr. Bush have argued that new evidence has come to light; namely that a newspaper publisher revealed Mr. Clifford gave the documents to him in the run up to the May 2005 elections.
Mr. Clifford has said he only took that action because ‘nothing was done’ following his statements to Mr. Dinwiddy and that he believed these matters were in the public interest.
A statement issued Friday from the law offices of Ritch and Conolly on behalf of Mr. Clifford read as follows: ‘Mr. Clifford has always said that he did take papers from his office, but that they were his papers and in any event they were not confidential or did not contain confidential information and by the time he did reveal some of those papers, the information they contained was in the public domain.’
However, reports in both the Caymanian Compass and the Cayman Net News Friday indicated that Mr. Clifford had stated his belief that the files were confidential.