I trust you will permit me to respond to your Editorial of Wednesday, 8th August, 2012, by printing this letter in full.
Your editorial would be amusing, if it did not show so clearly that the Caymanian Compass in recent years is in the habit of playing fast and loose with its high responsibility as virtually the only source of print news in the Islands.
Unfortunately, you seem to think that it is only government policies that you don’t like, which “(damage) the jurisdiction’s reputation through a barrage of international press reports” – and apparently this includes anything the UDP government proposes. As practicing press people I am sure you fully realise how the mass media create ‘feeding frenzies’ amongst one another. Is your conscience so stifled – or are you so deaf to its pleadings – that you can’t hear the obvious: more than the Community Enhancement Fee itself, your banner headlines and near-hysterical so-called ‘reporting’, threw oil on the fire, and fed the international media.
I am not going to debate here, your claims about how to define a tax. What I have said all along, and still say, is that many of our competitors have similar fees in place – and nowhere else is it referred to as a killing tax; with the detrimental effects that have been alleged here. Somehow you did not even manage to report that I did not want to introduce it. It is telling that their media have not gone and created the stigmatising and divisive labelling of “expat tax” that you seem to think was so clever. It is not clever. Making these sorts of choices about the language to use, the tone to adopt, the pictures you select to publish – there is a clear pattern to these things in your coverage of this matter; and that pattern is consistent with an intent to stir up the controversy, to poke fun at, to aggravate and maybe even demonise, instead of offering an objective analysis of the different sides of the story.
That is the kind of behaviour that justifies me using the expression that people who carry on in some of the ways I saw and heard about the Community Enhancement Fee being a tax, don’t love Cayman. I hear you squealing. If you can say I threw a stone, I guess it’s obvious who got hit.
Yes, you continue to abuse your position of influence and your responsibility as an institution. You use your privileged position to beat up on people because you have the machinery to drown out their individual voices. You make the mistake of trying to turn this back on me – according to you, what’s ‘ironic’ is that my love of country is “nothing more than a political strategy to avoid losing votes in next May’s general elections.”
Now, first of all, I would be a very poor politician if this so-called “strategy” was real. Could I really be that misguided, that I would do this, now, six months before the election? Now, and not in 2009, with a fresh mandate, having just trounced the PPM at the polls, and being pressed by the UK from the get-go, to bring in some form of direct taxation? How foolish would I be, to bring this now, and not then, when I could have blamed everyone else, could have earned the revenues from it, and at least went into next year’s elections with the budget issues cured, with all the advantages that brings.
What did I do instead? I told the UK to go fly a kite. And what else have we done? We have tried everything else, and only resorted to the Community Enhancement Fee when it seemed there was nowhere else to go. Some Caymanians don’t understand what we’re dealing with; you talk about this having caused “a wide gash in Cayman’s social harmony”? You, the Compass, that cast the whole proposal in the mould of an ‘us and them’ scenario? Some Caymanians don’t understand when we’re being beat on from within; don’t recognise the devious language of divisiveness when they see it or hear it. If any single body has to accept responsibility for “raising tensions between Caymanians and expatriates to an unprecedented level”, the Compass should be the ones to receive that dubious honour.
As for me not loving Cayman: I suppose that’s why I’ve been elected repeatedly since 1984 – because I’ve proven to people over and over that I don’t love Cayman; because my service to the community – through the church, through scouts, through youth groups – through my Foundation (McKeeva Bush Foundation for Children and Elderly in Need), my introduction of student loan schemes – Housing programmes – Nation Building programmes to develop our youth and honour outstanding contributors; establishment of national symbols – establishment of Labour and Pensions protection schemes, and improved Financial Services regulation, etc.; I suppose that all of that proves I didn’t, and don’t love Cayman.
Before I close, allow me a quick word about your article on my letter to the Royal Gazette of Bermuda: First, they never printed what I told them – that I am duty bound to promote Cayman, and defend Cayman if I have to. Secondly, I did not hang up in response to a question about the police investigating me. I heard no such question. If I’d heard it, I would have told the truth – the police can dig until they get to Australia, they won’t find any evidence of any wrong-doing, because I have done nothing against the law.
To the Compass, and to CNS in particular but some others too on the Island, who thrive on stirring up trouble to sell their news outlet, it is not educational. It is stirring up trouble, it is certainly not nation building. What it is now, is competition between Compass, CNS, and sometimes Rooster, to see who can outdo the other with the rot. I say what I said to my friend the Premier: this has got to stop. You have got to pull up your socks and encourage respectful, balanced, and well-reasoned reporting and public discourse. Your present way of doing business is not proper press freedom; its taking licence, and the result is giving all of Cayman a bad name; I plead with you sincerely to stop it!
Premier W. McKeeva Bush
Minister of Finance, Tourism and Development