Commission talks with Dinwiddy

Former Cayman Islands Governor Bruce Dinwiddy appeared before the Commission of Enquiry Wednesday to discuss allegations that government files were improperly taken from the Ministry of Tourism in 2004.

Mr. Dinwiddy spoke with Commissioner Sir Richard Tucker, commission legal adviser Andrew Jones, and commission Secretary Colin Ross via a video conference at the law offices of Maples and Calder.

According to Mr. Ross, the former governor answered questions about a statement he submitted to the commission in December, and also discussed various Cayman Islands governance issues. Attorneys for Tourism Minister Charles Clifford and Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush were not allowed to attend the conference in Cayman. Members of the press were also not allowed to attend.

‘It was not considered appropriate for Mr. Dinwiddy to be cross-examined on behalf of interested persons about matters arising in the performance of his duties as governor,’ a statement issued by the commission read.

Mr. Ross stated that no court reporter was present to record what Mr. Dinwiddy said, and that the proceedings were not captured on any recording device. Mr. Dinwiddy also did not swear an oath before making his statements to the commission.

All other witnesses who appeared before the Commission of Enquiry were required to swear that their testimony was true. Audio recordings were made of all previous testimony.

Attorney Robert Jones, who had assisted in representing Mr. Clifford, said he received notification from the commission Tuesday morning that ‘former Governor Bruce Dinwiddy has decided not to give oral evidence.’

The commission initially agreed to allow attorneys to ask questions of Mr. Dinwiddy about his previous decision to have the civil service investigate allegations of missing files at the Ministry of Tourism. Those files were taken from Mr. Clifford’s former permanent secretary office just before he left the civil service in July 2004.

During commission testimony, Mr. Clifford said he had attempted to inform Governor Dinwiddy about wrong-doing in the previous government’s administration, but that Mr. Dinwiddy had ‘done nothing’ about his claims. Mr. Clifford said this prompted him to release some of the documents he had taken from the permanent secretary office to the press.

Although Mr. Dinwiddy’s written statement to the commission has been released, no official record of his questioning on Wednesday is believed to exist.

Previously, commission officials had promised to release a transcript of Mr. Dinwiddy’s answers to the commission’s questions. Mr. Ross said Wednesday that the information gleaned from Mr. Dinwiddy’s questioning would be included in the commission’s final report.

The statement

In his three-page written statement to the commission, Mr. Dinwiddy confirmed that Mr. Clifford had brought problems within the Ministry of Tourism to his attention during various informal discussions.

‘I was aware that Mr. Clifford had a difficult time with Mr. Bush, and I particularly recollect Mr. Clifford’s misgivings about Mr. Bush’s intervention in the affairs of the Department of Tourism and about the private activities of the (then) Acting Director of Tourism, Ms Pilar Bush,’ the statement read. ‘I believe Mr. Clifford also spoke to me at some stage about Mr. Bush’s direct intervention in the Boggy Sands project.

‘I was aware of wider concerns in political and senior official circles about Mr. Bush’s close involvement (including in at least two instances as board chairman) in the Royal Watler Port, Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm, I have no memory of Mr. Clifford raising such concerns with me in terms — which called for my direct intervention.’

‘I believe that as governor…I gave Mr. Clifford appropriate support. I could not agree to any suggestion that absence of support from me could have justified Mr. Clifford in passing documents (such as I believe he never brought to my own attention) to the media.’

The former governor’s statement also makes reference to the investigation that was conducted into the missing Ministry of Tourism files by civil servant Gloria McField-Nixon.

Mr. Dinwiddy said that review found no clear evidence that any official papers were missing.

‘This, of course, did not preclude the possibility that Mr. Clifford had removed copies of official papers, his personal notes of meetings, and/or unfiled papers which he had received in his capacity as a member of public corporations such as Cayman Airways and the Port Authority,’ the former governor’s statement read. ‘But I do not think Ms McField-Nixon covered that point in any detail in her report.’

Mr. Dinwiddy said he was aware at the time that Mr. Bush, who was then Leader of Government Business, was unhappy with the outcome of the civil service investigation. However, he said the country’s attention to the matter was distracted by the onset of Hurricane Ivan.

‘Even if Hurricane Ivan had not drawn our attention away from Mr. Bush’s allegations, I would not at the time have thought any further action was required to seek to verify them.’

The former governor said he never confronted Mr. Clifford about Mr. Bush’s allegations following the civil service investigation into the missing files.

Mr. Bush asked current Governor Stuart Jack to review the allegations surrounding the ministry files after it was revealed that Mr. Clifford had given some of them to newspaper publisher Desmond Seales. Mr. Bush has accused Mr. Clifford of improperly, even illegally, taking confidential government records and giving them to the press.

Mr. Clifford has said that the files were his personal documents and that he was within his rights to remove them. He has also said that some of those documents were later used to reveal maladministration within the former government, which was led by Mr. Bush.