University president speaks candidly

Another
instalment of the intriguing history of Caymanian politics comes to life in Roy
Bodden’s Patronage, Personalities and Parties: Caymanian politics from
1950-2000, the second in a series.

At
the book launch at the Sir Vassel Johnson Hall on Saturday, 10 July, Mr.
Bodden, who is president of University College of the Cayman Islands, said he
has no interest in politics now except to discuss and teach the subject, but he
noted that it was important for him to write this book because, “Until the
lions write the tale, the hunter will always be glorified. I knew it had to be
written by a Caymanian.” 

The
book follows The Cayman Islands in Transition; Mr. Bodden’s first in what is to
be a series of three that analyze the evolution of the political psyche of
Caymanian society, as well as the characters who have played a role in this
development over the years.

It
is a chronicle of the political progression in which Mr. Bodden himself played
a role as a former minister of education and member of the Legislative
Assembly, and it offers a glimpse into a world of politics and intrigue that is
often cloaked behind the myths that accompany public figures and their lives.

Before
addressing those attending the book launch, Mr. Bodden offered a disclaimer
that what would come would be an intensely honest synopsis of his work and the
people who made the history he had attempted to document. He joked that all who
stood on the podium with him should be exculpated from any responsibility for
his remarks.

The
author said he had to purge his mind and remove himself and his feelings from
the process to be able to “call a spade a spade.” Mr. Bodden surmised that
Cayman has always had an oligarchy – essentially minority rule – and explained
that this particular work was dedicated to the memory of Ormond Panton, who he
said challenged this system successfully, only to be sabotaged by then Commissioner
Jack Rose after the 1962 election.

Mr.
Bodden said Mr. Panton’s party won the election, but mischief on the part of
Mr. Rose caused him to have to make the noble decision to resign before the
government was formed; a move, which had his party members followed, would have
resulted in the international community questioning what was happening in
Cayman and rooting out the corruption that was already seeded back then. Mr. Bodden
said this never happened, and Mr. Panton never recovered politically after
resigning, but his actions set the tone for parties in Cayman.

Mr.
Bodden pointed out that at that time; Mr. Panton had more than 1,000
card-carrying, paid-up members of his party, which is more than both the United
Democratic Party and the People’s Progressive Movement have between them today.

“Mr.
Panton did not get the respect he deserved and it is for historians such as
myself to make sure these men’s efforts and sacrifices do not go in vain,” said
Mr. Bodden.

He
said men like Premier McKeeva Bush and his uncanny ability to always come out
on top, irrespective of being snubbed by his adversaries, also had to be
documented. He said: “Mr. Bush did not support the modernisation process, but
today he is the premier, how do you explain that? He is the evidence that we
should not railroad anyone.

“That’s
the problem with the winner-takes-all approach to governing; some minds’
contributions are disregarded. It is not good and even the British are
revisiting this practice.

“I
want to talk about these things in the open,” said Mr. Bodden, who added that
race, though a touchy subject in the Cayman Islands, is also explored in the
pages of his latest book.

A
clarification was also made about the definition of the Cayman Islands, which
Mr. Bodden said is “not a nation but rather an agglomeration of people, who had
come together around a common interest; that interest being making money,” and
referred to the Civil Service as the “great saboteur” in most of the
government’s efforts to do so.

The
differences that often exist between expatriates and Caymanians was also
touched on briefly. Mr. Bodden commented that marriages, similar to the kind
arranged by godfathers of rival mafia families to make peace, are needed
between the expatriate community and Caymanians in Cayman. He said the
compromise and oneness of purpose that could result from such a union would
truly make Cayman a great society.

More
than 100 people attended the book launch, which featured several guest
speakers, including Corin Smith, a civil rights activist from Bermuda, who
spoke about segregation, which still plagues politics in his country. Mr. Smith
referred to Mr. Bodden as a mentor and lauded his work for filling a void in an
area of interest where there was not much reference to pull from.

He
added that the comparative benefit of Mr. Bodden’s book for other territories
was exponential, in that it would help others to understand their journey in
the context of what outcomes different actions have rendered through the ages.

Former
government minister Gilbert McLean served as the master of ceremonies for the
evening.

Historian,
author and professor, Carlyle G. Corbin, who was also present at Mr. Bodden’s
first book launch, described this latest effort to be a powerful commentary
that addresses Caymanian politics in all its aspects.

“It
explores what Roy calls voluntary colonialism and other concepts that have a
familiar ring, as many of these things are also in play in the Virgin Islands,”
he said, adding that the book also places the new Cayman Islands Constitution
into proper context.

“This
offering will serve as a guide to the present leadership and future generations,”
he said. “It is a seminal work and Cayman has produced a fine native son, whose
intellect extends far beyond these shores.”

Copies
of Patronage, Personalities and Parties: Caymanian Politics from 1950-2000 are
available in paperback, as well as a limited hard copy collector’s edition at
participating book stores around the Island.

LOCALUniversityPresSTORY

Roy Bodden launches his new book.
Photo: Stuart Wilson
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