Plans to sell the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter are up in the air, it seems.
Last month, announcing a round of proposed ‘budget cuts’ within the civil service, Premier McKeeva Bush said some $1.7 million annually would be saved by jettisoning the Eurocopter.
“It’s just unaffordable for our country,” Mr. Bush said during a public meeting in West Bay last week, prompting cheers from a number of audience members.
However, several days prior to that statement being made by Mr. Bush, RCIPS officials noted they were unaware of any such plan to sell off the 1999 model aircraft.
“The sale of the police helicopter has neither been discussed nor has the impact of its loss been subject of any input by the RCIPS,” a police spokesperson confirmed. “The loss of the Air Operations Unit would have a considerable impact on our ability to maintain our current level of operational effectiveness.”
No further comment on the issue had been made by RCIPS by press time Tuesday.
Governor Duncan Taylor declined to discuss the matter when contacted about it by the Caymanian Compass last week. However, he did point out that section 55 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order  sets out the special responsibilities held by the UK-appointed governor.
“The governor shall be responsible for the conduct…of any business of the government with respect to the following matters – a) defence; b) external affairs; c) internal security including the police, without prejudice to section 58 (the National Security Council); and the appointment…of any person to public office…”
Section 55 also allows the governor to delegate any responsibility for the conduct of the above matters, subject to consultation with the Premier.
Mr. Taylor reiterated this in a statement on Friday: “My particular responsibilities include security and policing, supervision of the civil service and the promotion of good governance. But wherever I believe that there is a role for me as governor, I will do what I can to help: that includes contributing to the efforts of the Cayman Islands government and the [UK] Foreign and Commonwealth Office to reach agreement on the budget.”
In the 2009 Constitution Order, which first created the National Security Council, the council does advise the governor on matters of national security “with the exception of operational and staffing matters”.
After being told by Premier McKeeva Bush to “go sun his buns” at the beach, Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor said Friday that he was “disappointed by the tone” of some of Mr. Bush’s recent remarks.
Mr. Taylor again denied claims that he was conspiring with the auditor general’s office against Cayman, an organisation that Premier Bush blamed for causing some of the budget troubles the country now faces.
“I have noted the recent comments made about me by the Honourable Premier, including in the public meeting in West bay on Wednesday,” Mr. Taylor said in a prepared statement. “I am disappointed by the tone and content of his remarks.
“In a statement in May, I made clear that I wholeheartedly support the vision of the minister of the overseas territories of a flourishing and vibrant Cayman Islands whose public finances are well managed and whose adherence to internationally recognized standards of governance enhances its reputation as a good place to live work and do business.
“I am committed to do everything I can to contribute to that vision,” Mr. Taylor said.
During a public meeting last week, Premier Bush claimed government’s stymied efforts to divest the Water Authority was one of the reasons introducing the proposed payroll tax was necessary if Cayman was to meet the United Kingdom’s requirement to have a sustainable budget.
“We got agreement from the United Kingdom to divest these entities, such as the Water Authority and sewerage. Had we been able to do that, because they said pay the money and pay… down the debt, if this country gets behind the government and we can make the divestment, you won’t have to do this kind of revenue raising measures.
“What the people should be… blogging is say ‘Governor, stay on the beach, sun your buns and let the government get on with its work. Then we would not have any need to tax anybody, because that’s what the United Kingdom has agreed.”
Mr. Taylor did not respond to any direct allegations made by the premier. “These are challenging times for the Cayman Islands, as for so many countries around the world. I am keen to work with the Honourable Premier and his Government, in a spirit of cooperation, to address these challenges.”