Gov’t takes control of Cultural Foundation

Eight of nine positions on cultural board to be appointed by Cabinet

A new law will soon take effect that will significantly change the leadership structure of the territory’s culture and arts organisation, giving more direct control to the Cayman Islands government.

The Cayman National Cultural Foundation was legally established by a 1984 law that still governs the organisation. Under the 1984 law, the foundation comprises between seven and 15 members who serve at the collective’s discretion.

The foundation is chaired by Martyn Bould and has seven members, including the late Helen Harquail, who died Monday. Mrs. Harquail funded the establishment of the Cultural Foundation’s headquarters in the F.J. Harquail Cultural Centre. The 1984 law made Mrs. Harquail a lifetime member of the foundation. In mid-March, Cayman lawmakers approved the Cayman National Cultural Foundation Law, 2013, which, among other measures, creates a nine-member foundation board, one of whom would have been nominated by Mrs. Harquail or her estate. The other eight members will be appointed by Cabinet. On 6 August, Cabinet ordered that the 2013 law will come into force 1 September.

In Cabinet’s hands

The foundation’s artistic director Henry Muttoo said the new law aligns the foundation’s leadership structure with that of other public authorities. Government earmarked nearly $570,000 for the foundation, according to the Annual Plan and Estimates for the 2012/13 budget year.

Mr. Muttoo said he has confidence in current Premier Alden McLaughlin, who was formerly a member of the foundation. Mr. Muttoo said Mr. McLaughlin was a lawyer for the foundation in 1992 when the group pushed for a law to replace the 1984 law.

The Cayman National Cultural Foundation Law, 1992, was actually approved by legislators, but never took force. The 1992 law would have changed the foundation into a general member organisation, led by a 16-member council that would include three government appointees, Mrs. Harquail or a representative, and 12 people elected at the foundation’s annual general meeting. Mr. Muttoo said Mr. McLaughlin was instrumental in limiting the number of government appointees to three in the 1992 legislation.

“I have every faith that he and his team will take into consideration CNCF’s enviable track record of non-alignment to any causes other than Caymanian artistic and cultural expression, and the freedom of artists to create. We have already had a promising meeting with Minister of Culture Osbourne Bodden and senior ministry officials and look forward to working with the new board for the good of artists and the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Muttoo said.

In addition to the appointed board, the new 2013 law contains a provision that the minister of culture “may, after consultation with the Foundation, give such general directions in written form as to the policy to be followed by the foundation in the performance of its duties and functions as appear to the Minister to be necessary in the public interest”.

LA debate

Former Minister of Culture Mark Scotland moved the 2013 law, which resembles the 1992 law in many respects, in the Legislative Assembly in March this year. It passed with no objections, and received verbal support from Sister Islands representative Moses Kirkconnell on behalf of the opposition.

During his statement on the legislation, Mr. Scotland acknowledged the integral contributions from the Harquail family.

He added, “the foundation has always been and continues to be one of the major beneficiaries in terms of government funding for cultural preservation. In years gone by, funding would have been upwards or around the million dollar mark on an annual basis with some budgetary reductions in the past few years. Funding is still somewhere around $400,000 to $600,000 per year, so very significant in terms of funding that government allocates on an annual basis for cultural entities,” according to the Hansard Report of that Legislative Assembly meeting.

Mr. Scotland said the new law would satisfy requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law for statutory authorities. He said the change to an appointed board will bring the foundation in line with other public authorities, and the empowerment of the minister of culture to provide policy directions will help government steer the course of the Foundation, in collaboration with other government-funded cultural entities, such as the National Gallery and the National Museum.

He said, “The foundation has done a significant job in preserving and promoting Caymanian culture. But I do believe that that could be enhanced by changing this governance structure somewhat to where the government, as a major benefactor, is appointing persons who have Caymanian culture and heritage more at heart (so-to-speak) in terms of the work that they have done over the years.”

Mr. Scotland said that in at least one instance, the foundation expressed that the primary responsibility of the group is to protect its assets and gifts made by Mrs. Harquail and others.

“But we feel that moving in this direction gives us a much greater opportunity to really utilise the Cultural Foundation in the protection and preservation of Caymanian culture and heritage, and also for the opportunity of these cultural entities working much better together,” he said.