There are many of us, civic minded-gainfully employed-young Caymanians who would gladly part with a percentage of our hard earned salaries if we could be guaranteed two things:
That quality benefits- such as education and healthcare would become universal, and
That the proper system of checks and balances would be implemented to ensure accountability in the way that our money is spent.
From where we stand, however, all efforts that are made to bring about accountability and transparency are met with outrage, disdain and even legal threats. As citizens, when we attempt to engage in conversation and question a policy decision, seek clarification as to how decisions were arrived at, or even attempt to explain why we disagree with a particular proposal we are belittled, ridiculed and at times even bullied by the very people whose six figure salaries we pay. We are dismissed with a condescending “little girl you’ve had your turn”, the way a parent lets a child know that s/he has been humoured long enough and it is now time to let the adults get back to their important business.
Since the announcement of the introduction of the payroll tax for work permit holders was made it has not ceased being on the tip of everyone’s tongue, as it seems everyone has an opinion on the matter. If ever there was an opportunity for a true nation building exercise, where everyone who resides here is able to engage in meaningful and thoughtful dialogue – and perhaps even problem solving – this could have been it.
What we’ve found, instead, is that we’ve been stripped of our common humanity and sent to our respective “corners” as the tired arguments of Caymanians vs. Expats have breathed a new life, acquired a worrying new momentum, and claimed centre stage – redirecting the energy that would be better served in finding a solution into new, more distasteful ways of tearing down our fellow men.
People, human beings, live here; not nameless, faceless aliens whose existence and value is based on the colour and issuing country of their passports. These people are our neighbours, coworkers, fellow churchgoers and even friends. We may not always know one another’s names but we recognise faces. There are no strangers here.
We are constantly reminded that we live in a democracy, yet our actions of late have been completely contrary to that very notion. We may not always agree, but it is our democratic right to express our opinions free of intimidation and without fear of repercussion to our personal safety and that of our families. That is basic human decency.
The Caymanian woman who spoke during the Wednesday meeting stating her view that it was unfair to ask only one sector of our community to contribute more and not another, who was dismissed by the Premier as a “little girl” who had had her turn, was then dismissed by another Caymanian woman who in a rather aggressive manner attempted to put her in her place by telling her that she had not built this country but had “found this country built”.
What followed is what is of importance: instead of addressing the latter speaker, the Premier chose to chastise the first speaker and others who clearly held the minority view at that event to “be careful” of how they ask their questions so as to not stir up the “passionate” crowd.
If our elected officials did more than pay lip service to the notion of unity, someone, anyone from the head table would have stood up and defended that woman’s right to express her opinion freely and without intimidation. Leadership is not about doing the popular thing or the easy thing but the right thing.
Yet no such fortitude of character was displayed as they all sat silently. In that silence the official blessing was given condoning the perpetuation of this destructive, confrontational, and hostile tone. Here’s the thing about blessings and tones – neither is confined by four walls and so have seeped into the greater dialogue as was evidenced by the emboldened remarks made on the radio the next day.
For that we should all be ashamed.
From its inception this community “enhancement” fee has served to do the exact opposite of what it intended. It has us turning on each other in all possible combinations: as Caymanians vs expats, Caymanians vs Caymanians, and expats vs expats. The impact will be greater than stains to our reputation abroad, and we will only truly understand what we have done when we hear it coming out of our children’s mouths.
Tax us, don’t tax us; tax them, don’t tax them… the outcome no longer matters. The damage has already been done, and we have all already lost.