Learning from the past

It is said that if we don’t know our past we won’t know our future yet very few Caymanians know our country’s history and even fewer have paid attention to what is known of British colonialism. If you view that statement with scepticism then I must ask you if you have ever heard of Long Celia a Caymanian slave woman who was given fifty severe lashes in a public place in Georgetown in October 1820, “for uttering seditious words, tending to stir up revolution of the Negroes”.

It were courageous individuals like Long Celia at the bottom of the social and economic ladder of our paradise islands that had a real interest in seeing slavery come to an end; and it will be those courageous individuals that are criminalised, penalised and excluded from a meaning socioeconomic existence, that will one day shout out about the end to British colonialism in these islands, if things remain as they are.

Although, I have never been a proponent of Independence for the Cayman Islands, I recognize more and more each day the strong role colonialism played in fermenting and holding intact a racial-class structure. Our elite foreign and local rely upon and defend daily the colonialist notions, values, rituals and norms which have maintained a ridged pigmentocracy; that is a system of social stratification based upon the ordering of people according to their complexions, where whites are on top and the blackish of black at the bottom.

The above statement may be considered by some as seditious but we need to understand our past in order to know our future and unfortunately few of our leaders past and present understand the importance of history and Caymanian history in particular; One reason why historical discussions are absent from just about every aspect of our lives and talking history is seditious, sometimes even in the free press. But those of you that understand the social structure of plantation economies will have recognised that the police and the judiciary in this country have been shaped rigidly by our past colonial slave society and the reconstructed society that followed. The reason is that force is the most important instrument in the creation and maintenance of inequalities between a diversity of ethnic groupings.

Traditionally our state has held tight its right to use violence to gain and maintain consensus; and has used a police force that is detached from the local community as its means of forcing those not willing or able to understand the socioeconomic benefits of abiding by laws made to protect private property and the free enjoyment of that liberty which is created by way of ownership. It is no wonder then, that our first magistrates some of whom judged Long Celia, were slave owners obsessed with protecting their rights to their private property; namely their slaves. And when there were no longer slaves in our society, their preoccupation became that of preserving “peace and good governance”, otherwise known as the status quo.

Today our police force are investigating our highest political leader, arresting former and present Ministers in the name of “peace and good governance” but who is investing the police? In the name of justice and fair-mindedness our judiciary is called upon to uphold laws regardless of whether or not these laws are expressions of the cultural aptitudes of the people. I guess what I am asking myself is how are we to achieve peace and good governance when local perceptions of the usefulness of peace and good governance are often in conflict with local cultural norms.

I have already made my views clear on the issue of whether or not the Premier should step down so as not to be perceived to be influencing the outcome of police investigations into his conduct but on the other hand I do realise that no one is investigating corruption and abuses within the police and if they do we the people are not made any wiser. For example, Tempura made us none the wiser because the Governors needed to prevent shocking details of facts from being release to the natives; so who is policing the police. We have a plethora of crime and we need the police but we must also protect ourselves against our protectors. However, if you made a complaint against members of the RCIPS, you will be told that your compliant will be filed since due to Section 99(1) of the Police Law 2010, the police are unable to investigate external complaints made by members of the public.

The Cayman Islands is not benefiting directly but indirectly from being a British colony but we pay daily to meet their international obligations in the area of regulations. Therefore, if we pay attention only to the institutions where they demand reforms, without reforming those institutions like the judiciary and police that they control in order to maintain their colonial society; what will occur if it has not already occurred, is that we will find that our political system will become useless and the idea of the rule of law regardless of how perfect our British rulers explain it, will mean only the rule of a local oligarchy made up mostly 
of foreigners.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Frank…

    You’ve have not signed your name to this one…but we know who’s written this.

    You’re probably the only one in Cayman with the professional qualifications to have explained this situation in such terms.

    Now, do you see where, as you say, the local government will become useless…as I’ve already pointed out…using the term ‘paralysed’.

    Anyone with a brain should be able to see that the Governor and Police Commissioner, going public with the information of 3 police investigations against Premiere McKeeva Bush was meant to do exactly that.

    Why ? becaue Britain does not agree to this major capital project that he has brokered with the Chinese…they do not trust the Chinese..and neither should we but…

    Stubborn man that he is, he refuses to bend or retract from his position.

    These are classic colonial tactics to force him into retreating from this deal..or be politically neutralised.

    Oh…the British colonial masters know their subjects very well indeed !

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  2. This is not the past…this is very much the present…and the immediate future.

    Maybe sometimes Dr. Frank should not write is such academic terms, so that the layman can much easier understand the points he’s making; I will not make the same mistake.

    The reality is that this major capital project of the port berthing for cruiseships that the Premiere/UDP is now negotiating will now not go through.

    McKeeva Bush resigning or not resigning in the face of these inconsequential police investigations will not matter one iota.

    When McKeeva Bush chose to do business with China Harbour, a Chinese Govt. state-run company, he has taken on the role to make political connections with a major world state, one that is not a member of the Western coalition of nations, one that has no history of friendship to Britain…and an authority which being the premiere of the Cayman Islands does not give him.

    No non-independent country can make a purely business arrangement with a state-run company without forging a political alliance with that country, either McKeeva Bush is that ignorant that he does not know, this, which I don’t for a minute believe…or he has tried to challenge British authority in Cayman in the most serious of ways.

    Jamaica, as an independent country, can do business with whichever country and companies, they wish; Cayman cannot.

    Simply put…by publicising these police investigations, the British Govt. has diluted his authority to negotiate with China Harbour…and has effectively halted these negotiations; this project will not now see any further progess until it has been re-tendered, according to their wishes.

    Cayman’s premier has seriously overstepped his bounds this time…not in some minor matters of questionable financial dealings that will prove to pan out as nothing…

    No…he has played a major power-play game with…

    The British colonial govt….the original masters of this game of deceit and deception…

    And he’s lost.

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  3. I don’t know anything about Long Celia, but I do know that slavery was outlawed throughout the British Empire in 1807, 13 years before the events Dr Frank is talking about, and that thereafter any slave who set foot on British territory became free.

    So far as the present day is concerned, the talk of British colonial plotting seems far-fetched and bizarre to me. What exactly is it that Britain gains from this supposed conspiracy? What does Britain get out of the Cayman Islands, other than the obligation to guarantee its budget?

    The British Government is faintly embarrassed by its colonial leftovers, and a policy of self-determination has long been in place. If Caymanians choose independence, Britain will send them on their way with best wishes.

    Of course, for that to happen, Caymanians will have to stop their childish squabbling among themselves and produce some statesmen who are more interested in the welfare of their country than feathering their own nests.

    I don’t see any chance of that happening any time soon

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  4. JTB

    The slave trade was outlawed in 1807, but slavery itself was not abolished in the British colonies (Slavery Abolition Act 1833) until August 1, 1834. I have no issues with anything else that you have said.

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  5. Well said, Firery.

    ‘From at least 1816, the Magistrates constituted themselves as a Slave Court. Unlike Jamaica and other slave colonies, where slaves were tried before two or three Magistrates without a jury, the Cayman Islands Slave Court consisted of two or three Magistrates with a jury of twelve white men, all of them slaveholders.’ Page 92, Founded Upon The Seas

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  6. Denny,

    Sometimes, as older Caymanians used to say, we have to take things with a grain of salt.

    If we accept what you have quoted as fact then what are the answers to the following questions that would arise:
    1. What were those three magistrates doing when they were not trying slaves?
    2. Where did these magistrates live and hold court?
    3. What were the crimes that the slaves were charged with?
    4. Who were the twelve white men who had nothing better to do than act as jury back in 1816?

    To deny that slavery existed in Cayman would be naive, but to quote from records that would imply that there were many plantations and their owners got together on a regular basis to try slaves for crimes is beyond the realm of credibility.

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  7. JTB said- If Caymanians choose independence, Britain will send them on their way with best wishes.

    That depends…

    It was until after the PNP party leader of TCI, Michael Misick, consulted other party members about pursuing Independence that in 2009 the British FCO intervened and took the island over, dissolving the people’s elected Cabinet.

    It is interesting that they allow countries to go Independent after they have done their thing. That is how they operate. Independence must be in their favor. They could have got rid of Cayman from long time, but why do you think they are still with us?

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  8. Dennie

    If Dr. Frank would write less like he’s writing a doctoral thesis, people would get his points much quicker; he only made referencce to Long Celia the slave, to make another point which was probably missed by many who read his article.

    I grew up in Jamaica and was educated in a school system that embraced the study of West Indian history, particularly the part that Jamaica has played and hold pride in that history.

    We were never taught to deny slavery but to cherish the fact that Jamaica was an example of fighting slavery to the bitter end…every one of Jamaica’s national heroes are slaves who fought and gave their lives for the struggle of Jamaica to be free from British slavery and oppression.

    Some responders to your comments show a typical Caymanian attitude of not really acknowledging that Cayman was as mcuh a slave owning colony as any other…

    And Cayman did have a small number of plantations too; the less likelyhood of the cruelty and bloodshed of Jamaican slavery bing common in Cayman does not rule out the fact that Cayman was very much a part of the Jamaican plantation system.

    People should find pleasure in studying and knowing Cayman’s past, all of it…and not be ashamed of it.

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  9. In his long letter Mr. McField accused the British and the Government of deliberately recruiting the police force from overseas to continue the bullying and virtual enslavement of the darker Caymanians.

    Turn the page and you see a large ad from the Cayman Islands Police actively trying to recruit local police officers.

    While there are many problems in these fair islands, lack of opportunity based on skin color is not one of them.

    Look instead to poor parenting, poor education and laziness.

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  10. longtermresident

    Dr. McField is a very clever man, in ways that Cayman’s people do not necessarily give him credit for but that is no indictment against Cayman’s people.

    Let me explain what I mean.

    This article written by him, although not signed, has many levels and shades of meaning to it…and one must read it…and connect it to Frank’s own life, career and history in Cayman;in doing so, you will get the true hidden meanings in this article.

    Dr. Frank is the most qualified and educated Caymanian in the field of sociology, a little known or studied area amongst Caymanian professionals; this is an area that is more applicable to teaching, psychology and politics….qualified sociologists are usually found working in the area of social/community services or lecturing in the topic at colleges and universities but…

    Our good Dr. Frank has chosen to pursue a political career and agenda; this very much influences his views in this article, as it does just about everything he says and does.

    He is also clever at using well-known, established facts to his own advantage, to support his views, that by themselves alone, might not hold that much strength.

    In this article, Dr. Frank has taken the historical facts of slavery and colonialism and used them to validate his views on the current system under which the Cayman Islands exists and operates in which he is now at a disadvantage; When Frank McField was a government minister, reaping all the benefits that that status afforded him, he would NEVER have written an article like this.

    In this article, there is not much educational value to be found in his references to colonialism and slavery re Cayman but it is a view into the writers mind of how he sees the current system working, his own place in it…and how he thinks it should change.

    His own current struggles against Cayman’s authorities and police are very much reflected in his views.

    In this respect, as I’ve said before, Frank McField is a very clever man; sometimes too clever for his own good.

    The truth be told, Frank’s veiled suggestions in this article could, in themselves, be termed seditious.

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  11. You’re very welcome, Dennie,

    There are very few people in Cayman, amongst Caymanians especially, who can reason and articulate at Frank McField’s level of intellect.

    His level of intellectual abilities has never been in question.

    Past that point, it all boils down to how someone chooses to use that intellectual power…and that is clearly and only determined by one’s moral compass.

    And therein lies the troubling question regarding Frank McField…

    For those of us who do not intend to see him use his intellectual power to take advantage of our less intellectually gifted Caymanians.

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