On Friday, we attended yet another over-promoted and under-attended protest, this one against the proposed immigration bill which deals with such matters as rollover policy, permanent residence and a whole host of arcane addenda.
We hadn’t even reached the protest site outside the new Government Administration Building when we were accosted by social activist Billy Adam, who was still unhappy about this newspaper’s scant coverage of his previous protest – a gathering of about 20 who had assembled on Public Beach to rail against the removal of a single Casuarina tree, and, by proxy, the Dart organization which presumably wanted to remove it.
(We since have learned that not only are Casuarina trees not indigenous to Cayman – they are native to Australia and Southeast Asia – they are also an invasive species with shallow root systems that are thought to produce a natural herbicide, known as an allelopathic toxin, that, in effect, poisons neighboring trees and plants; think of Casuarinas as the lionfish of the tree world.) We were too polite to mention to Mr. Adam the irony of his protest since no one in the 500-plus year history of the Cayman Islands has planted more trees than Kenneth Dart, who heads up the Dart organization.
In fact, Mr. Dart has planted hundreds, probably thousands, of trees in Grand Cayman, many of them propagated at his own nurseries at his own expense. He has put in lovely parks and green spaces in every district and added beautiful local flora to Camana Bay and alongside the new roads he has built and paid for. Which raised the following question in our minds, if not on our lips: How many trees in their collective lives had the 20 protesters propagated, planted or donated to the Cayman Islands?
Meanwhile, back at the immigration protest, the decibel level, but not the attendance level, was increasing dramatically. Out of the approximately 2,000 unemployed Caymanians (officials will tell you privately they have no idea of the accuracy of that number), only about 70 to 80 were on hand, raising the question: Where were the others? We know they weren’t at work. The only employed person we spotted was Ezzard Miller, who was playing hooky from his job as an elected member of the Legislative Assembly, which was debating the budget just a few blocks away.
Many of the protesters bore familiar faces: We see them at every protest for every cause, from keeping dolphins out of tourist attractions to keeping the landfill out of Bodden Town to keeping West Bay Road just as it is (or was).
There is a process in database management called “merge and purge” in which names are entered into a database, and a computer identifies and rejects the duplicates so they aren’t counted more than once. If the same exercise were applied to those attending Cayman’s protests, we would find that relative to the population, the actual size of the “protest community” is minuscule. Their size seems much larger because their leaders have learned to seek out the media and, all too often, the media oblige, themselves seeking out the loudest – often times the most outrageous – protesters. They’re the ones who give “good quotes.” But, going forward, don’t expect to read them in the Caymanian Compass.
Do not mistake this editorial for our views on Cayman’s unemployment issues – an issue we take extremely seriously and one that deserves thoughtful analysis and commentary which will be forthcoming shortly. We promise it will not be the kind of commentary that can be reduced to a placard – or bellowed through a bullhorn.