As reported on Radio Cayman, at a recent Constitution public meeting a gentleman commented that he was a first generation Caymanian, as was his son who was born before he obtained Cayman Status.
He said, to the effect, that he had lived here for many years and this was his home. Similarly his son had spent virtually his entire life in our Islands and was a Caymanian in every way.
I do not know his son, but I know of many other children (and indeed many young and old adults) in similar circumstances. They were either born here and / or have lived here for the vast majority of their lives and this is their home. Many have no other home. They have been accepted by society as Caymanians and, as one minister of Government said, many even ‘talk like us’.
He went on to state that that if we as a people decide that his Caymanian son, who knows no other home and loves his country, can never run for public office in his country, then we as a people would be making a terrible mistake.
I have to say that I agree and I applaud him for being brave enough to stand up to say what needed to be said.
I understand the concerns of my people in this regard. The concern, real or perceived, is about control of the country by Caymanians. It is a concern that as we – the so called birthright Caymanians – become more outnumbered that we could conceivably lose control of our country.
The fear is understandable. But surely the man’s son and many in similar shoes, who have been here for donkey’s years as we say, and who have assimilated, are also a part of our country. Every Caymanian probably knows several first generation Caymanians who have roots here that go back decades and who love this, our country, as much as we do.
Of course we probably also know some first generation Caymanians who view Cayman as only a nice place to work and make money. Home is somewhere overseas. Some do not even attempt to assimilate and to understand Caymanians. Perhaps these are the folks that cause us worry?
So what to do? Well as the issue has been raised so we certainly have some choices to consider, including perhaps the two below:
• We can decide as a country that the man’s son, no matter how much he loves his adopted country and is capable, cannot run for office in his country. Instead the man’s grandchild will have the opportunity to run.
• Alternatively, we could decide that it is right that new Caymanians who have been a part of us for a very long time and, in essence, are one of us in every way but birthright, be allowed to run for public office.
If we choose the first option then end of discussion – we ask the Government to insert into the constitution that only birthright Caymanians can run for elected office.
But if we think that perhaps the second option is what is preferred then let’s discuss how to achieve this whilst trying to ensure that the new Caymanians that we bring into the fold have been here sufficiently long to be assimilated.
I must say that the latter choice is what I believe to be the fair and correct thing to do. That is why I support the suggestion in the PPM’s discussion paper to allow first generation Caymanians who have been a part of our society, and have had status for 25 years, to be allowed to run for election.
Of course it must never be lost on us that whether first generation Caymanians run for office or not – they must be able to get elected. Running for public office, as many past aspiring politicians know full well, is useful only if one is able to get the votes to win.
There are those who would argue that of course I would support this view – after all I am a PPM member. I concede that one could make that argument. But I also know deep down that my position is a considered one and I would not support it, PPM or not, if I did not believe that it was the right thing to do.
I realise that I might be swimming against the tide. And in so doing, perhaps I will set myself up for derision by politicians who would rather play to our emotions and fears than to discuss the issues in a rational responsible manner.
I agree that we need to be inclusionary. I agree that individuals who have lived amongst us for upwards of 25 years should be allowed to play a greater role in their adopted country, particularly those new Caymanians who have lived with us their entire life, and who we have accepted as Caymanian; because even if they were not born here – they belong here.
It is important that we Caymanian people have leaders who encourage us to debate the issues and to make an informed decision on what we want. We need leaders who are not afraid to put a potentially unpopular idea forward because it is right that we at least discuss it. And after the discussion they then listen to what we have to say.
Let us at least have the discussion.
Fellow Caymanians, I am not asking that you agree with my point of view. But rather I am asking that you see through the rhetoric and the politricking.
Let us discuss this issue, and the other constitutional issues, in a thoughtful rational manner, and to then tell the politicians, what we want put to the UK for our new constitution.