Former minister plans gov’t protest

Former Cayman
Islands Tourism Minister Charles Clifford, who was voted out
of office in the May 2009 general elections, is planning a protest
march in George Town
to blast what he refers to as the “reckless, irrational and irresponsible”
actions of the current government.

Mr. Clifford
is asking protesters to gather at 2.30pm on 6 March outside the Glass House
(government administration building) and has invited the government to meet
with those gathered about an hour later at 3.30pm. All Caymanians are invited
to attend.

“If the
government fails to show up or refuses to reverse these very dangerous and
irresponsible policies then…we will begin the process of obtaining the
required number of signatures for the country’s first ever people’s initiated
referendum,” Mr. Clifford wrote in a three-page press release issued
earlier this week. “”The referendum will call for early general
elections to remove this reckless UDP (United Democratic Party) government from
power.”

The former
tourism minister is the generally acknowledged political archenemy of Cayman Islands
Premier McKeeva Bush. Mr. Clifford served as permanent secretary of the tourism
ministry under then-minister Bush until 2004, when Mr. Clifford left
that position to seek election to the Legislative Assembly.

During the
campaign, Mr. Clifford revealed several internal government documents to a
local newspaper – documents that a commission of enquiry later determined had
been improperly removed from the ministry office. The revelation of details of
various government projects and agreements contained within those records were
partially blamed for costing the United Democratic Party control of the government
in the 2005 elections.

In 2009, the
UDP was re-elected to power and Mr. Clifford’s party, the People’s Progressive
Movement, was relegated to the opposition.

Verbal barbs
have gone back and forth between the leaders of the two political
parties since a three-hour long appearance by PPM leaders on a local radio
talk show earlier this month during which many policies and proposals of the current
government were criticised.

“Mouthing
off about foreign investment and blaming McKeeva Bush, as they like to do, and
changing immigration to run away everyone, as they did, is not sustainable,”
Premier McKeeva Bush said at a press briefing last week – prior to the release
of Mr. Clifford’s press release.  

In his press
release, Mr. Clifford listed several areas of complaint against the ruling
government:

*A government
proposal to sell permanent residence grants for $1 million a piece to wealthy
individuals that Mr. Clifford said would make it appear government was
panicking

*Proposals to
sell government-owned assets such as the sewerage system and the Government Office Accommodation
Building on Elgin Avenue that
he described as “irrational”

*Immigration
policies that he said would lead to an “unsustainable” increase in
Cayman’s total population

Mr. Clifford
said Mr. Bush’s proposals to relax immigration requirements – particularly for
financial industry workers and domestic helpers – were tantamount to handing
out permanent residence. Mr. Clifford estimated that some 9,000 financial services
industry employees would be granted key employee status (the right to stay and
work in Cayman for up to nine years) as a result of government’s immigration
changes.

A fall 2008
government labour force survey showed that there were 3,773 people employed in
Cayman’s finance industry altogether – including Caymanians.

“It is
time for all Caymanians to stand up against the sale of our country and the
future of generations of Caymanians to come,” Mr. Clifford wrote.

Mr. Clifford
stressed that he did not intend the 6 March demonstration to become an exercise
in expat-bashing.

“I have
always recognised and acknowledged that our economic miracle could not have occurred
without the help and assistance from expatriates working here,” he wrote.
“This is not about Caymanians not welcoming expatriate labour. This is
about ensuring that Caymanians, all Caymanians…are able to enjoy the rights,
privileges and opportunities that all democratic nations must afford…citizens
over workers who are in their country for a temporary and specified
period.”

Premier Bush has
repeatedly lambasted the People’s Progressive Movement representatives for
leaving the country in an $81 million operating deficit just prior to his government
taking office. Mr. Bush has said that the actions of his
government since taking control have been aimed at mitigating what he refers to
as “reckless and wasteful” spending by the PPM.

Further, the
Premier said he believed that the opposition party simply didn’t understand the
financial position Cayman was in, and what might happen to the country if the United Kingdom
was forced to assert some financial control.

“It is
imperative that the revenues from the sale of the Government Office Accommodation
Project and the sewerage system are realised by the start of the next financial
year (1 July) and in fact by mid-April,” Mr. Bush said during a recent
press briefing.

“I have
listened to the PPM’s criticism on the sale of assets,” Mr. Bush said.
“What we are doing is exactly what other countries have done.”

“The
People’s Progressive movement…does not have any solutions. The only solution
they have offered to solve the public finance problem is to balance the budget
over a four year period. This shows how little they understand or accept about
the dire and dangerous situation they left the country in.” 

Mr. Bush
said taking a longer period to balance the budget would mean government would
either have to lay off large numbers of civil servants or implement a
property or income tax – the latter solution was actually proposed by the UK’s
Foreign and Commonwealth Office last year. 

“It would
probably even lead to letting the UK
take away financial management from the (Cayman Islands)
government,” he said. “The PPM plan has not worked and will not work.”
  

3 COMMENTS

  1. Kurt Tibbetts is doing the right thing.
    this is not about politics its about the urgent need to protect the country and its assets that belong to the tax paying citizens.

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