Premier takes umbrage with press

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

1 COMMENT

  1. Firery, I do not think it would right for me to comment on the contents of this letter but I do compliment you for excellent use of colloquial English in the opening sentence.

  2. This I must agree with the Premiere totally.
    I too thought the Compass was using the various file pictures in a derogatory way. They say a picture speaks a thousand words; and if you have the choice to use any picture under any headline it can be very misleading..

    The Premiere has a valid point and I believe the Editor knows it..

    As for voting him out of office; don’t count your chickens.

  3. The Premier’s disconnection form reality appears insurmountable. How he can expect anyone who saw his performances at the public meetings to take this letter seriously is beyond me.

  4. Opportunity Cost – The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action (investopedia).

    I guess this letter was more important than taking care of other issues in Cayman. I wonder what could have been done in the time taken to write this letter and the letter in the Royal Gazette…

  5. Imagaine if the media were able to be controlled by the Premier? disaster. Freedom of speech was triumphant throughout this matter. The press accurately reflected the thoughts and beliefs of 99.99% of the country, not the deluded ramblings of a few.

  6. This letter shows that the Premier is suffering the classic symptoms of paranoia, typical of a Government in crisis.

    If he objects to the use of the expression expat tax to describe his benighted proposal, perhaps he could explain what are the characteristics of his community enhancement fee which distinguish it from an income tax, and how else to describe a tax levied only on work permit holders other than as an expat tax.

    If his complaint is that the Compass pointed out the mendacious intent behind his euphemistic expression, well I’m afraid his opinion of his fellow Caymanians must be pretty low. I for one did not need the Compass to tell me that if it walks like a duck etc…

    You cannot announce, without any consultation of any kind, that you are going to introduce, within a matter of weeks, a system of taxation which runs directly contrary to the nation’s financial model and will be hugely damaging to its economic well-being, and not expect there to be an almighty furore. The Compass did not create or encourage the panic, it reported it.

    The Compass carried out the proper role of a free press in a democracy, that of holding the Government to account.

    This letter smacks of paranoia, petulance, insecurity and dishonesty. I am sorry Mr Premier, but if you have beenburned by this episode you have only yourslef to blame. I am also sorry to say that Cayman has been very badly burned as well, and again, only you are to blame.

    You are clearly incompetent to hold the position of finance minister and you should resign. As you have never shown any signs of possessing that level of integrity we can only hope that your cabinet colleagues see the writing on the wall and do what is required.

  7. The biggest Irony in this letter is the Premier saying I would be a very poor politician if….

    Regardless of whether the strategy he rebukes was real, his actions over the past month show countless times why the Premier is a very poor politician. Did he consult with prominent members of the community (either the prominent Caymanian families who ultimately spoke up against the tax, or Cayman Finance or the Chamber of Commerce) to get their views on the impact of the tax? Did he have the foresight to anticipate the negative reaction, and did he announce his proposals in a way to lessen any negative reactions or negative impact? Did he even know what he needed from the Community Enhancement Fee before going to the public with it (i.e., it was originally stated to be on income over 20,000, then changed to income over 36,000)? Did he consider raising this for public discussion and even public vote, which would have been easy considering there was a vote on July 18?

    Similarly, did he consult the police before determining to get rid of the police helicopter? Or did he consult anyone maintaining the pension funds before announcing that he wouldn’t require expats to contribute, to see what sort of effect that would have (as discussed in today’s Compass)?

    Finally, when the expat tax was announced, and again at the meeting to discuss it, he stated that it was a last resort and there were no opther options. But it is now off the table, and other options are being discussed. Was he being untruthful in saying there were no other options, or did he simply not consider anything else?

    I don’t question the Premier’s love of Cayman. But whether or not this was a strategy to get votes, there are plenty of factors that show that very little consideration and forethought was given to the issues, and to the consequences of the decisions that were being made. And that is a sign of a poor politician.

  8. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!

    And if looks like Tax, acts like a Tax and is a percentage of your income taken by the government Its a TAX…. no matter what type of twist you try to put on it..

  9. The proposal for exspat tax (only) did empower many. I don’t blame them for standing their ground, after-all the Premiere gave them ground to stand on with that lopsided idea, and the Compass built a huge inflated soap box on which to float on.

    As I ramble on; I know it is hard to compete with the likes which institute such policies as Apartheid and effect the mental state of a whole race of people by uttering one N word. But I ramble on despite the sticks and stones. I can just Imagine the guavas the Premiere has in his head for pushing through. Cayman united, is camouflage propaganda to divide Caymanians and get sympathy votes for their leader select.

  10. What people must understand and in particular what Caymanian voters must understand, Big Mac does not care one whit who pays for the excessive size of the CI Government. He only cares about being re-elected as Premier. He is refusing to reduce expenses as that would mean he has to fire voting Caymanians.

    For you Caymanian voters, you must also understand that he could care less about your job prospects, your community, or your pensions plans and many of those things depend on the fairly free-spending Expat community.

    The Expat Tax was proof enough of that, and now your pension plan managers will be taking a greater percentage of your submissions as their fee, because the expats are no longer contributing.

    These are facts. This is basic Mathematics.

    The Cayman Compass reports the news. They don’t make the news, to the point that we here in the forums are not allowed to post freely.

  11. @caymanian on guard – have you ever noticed that every single one of your comments the number that disagree strongly outweigh people that agree??? this speaks volumes of your opinions (lack there of). It is actually comical to hear your thoughts….

    mckeeva couldnt organize a skunk hunt in a phone booth! he continues to just make a fool of himself and his government. only a goof would think the media wouldnt report on his disorganized plans and ridiculous plans….what a joke his letter to the editor was. if you cant take the heat…get outta the kitchen..

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