Protect Caymanians — not bugs, slugs and scorpions

The proposed National Conservation Bill protects urchins, snakes and algae. It also protects lizards and cacti, bugs, slugs, scorpions and other unpleasant critters and creatures that will bite or sting you.

What it doesn’t protect is the Caymanian people.

This newspaper is in unalloyed opposition to the premise underlying the bill: that government can and should dictate what people can or cannot do with their own property.

Protection of private property is a central tenet of modern democracy and a right every bit as fundamental as free speech, privacy and religion.

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge observed, “Ultimately property rights and personal rights are the same thing.”

On a primary level, this bill empowers government to prohibit people from altering, developing or using their own land, based on “plans” to be created and approved by an appointed board.

No. Property rights are inalienable and must be immune from violation or infringement by any government, regulatory body or appointed council.

The best of intentions are almost always temporal and conveniently soluble as climates change – in this instance, political climates.

This legislation is ill-conceived, ill-drafted, and being advanced by a committed, but misguided, environmental lobby, headed up by Department of the Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie and Minister of the Environment Wayne Panton. 

Consider Mr. Panton’s remarks as he laid the 2013 bill on the table in the Legislative Assembly: “I am not going to engage in protracted discussions or make protracted amendments at this point, given the incredible amount of time that has already been allowed for public discussion. It is time for us to stop talking and get it done.”

In other words, “Aw, shaddup.”

Mr. Panton is correct that this bill has been marinating for a decade, with no elected government willing to move it into law. There’s a reason for that: It’s a horrible bill. And, frankly, it has not been widely discussed or examined. We would wager most people don’t have a clue as to what’s in it.

In coming days, this newspaper will report and editorialize on the content of the bill and its implications. It’s not an easy task because the language of the legislation appears so purposely obfuscatory, approaching opacity, that it would benefit from a translator. Nevertheless, we will be examining these and other issues:

• The limitation of property owners’ rights

• The makeup and powers of the Council (the majority will be political appointees)

• Species Conservation Plans, including interim orders

• The creation and arming (excepting firearms) of Conservation Officers, “deputized” Conservation Wardens, and Animal Welfare Officers

Mr. Panton’s wishful thinking and proclamation of inevitability aside, this bill is still just a bill, no more. Before it becomes a law, it must be considered by the entire Legislative Assembly and put up for a vote by all Cayman’s elected representatives – not just the ruling Progressives or the members of Cabinet.

While we do care about the survival of some endemic species, such as blue iguanas and ghost orchids, we don’t care what manner of extinction meets this National Conservation Bill, as long as it’s swift and permanent.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has stated that he thinks that the vote in the Legislative Assembly on this legislation should be 18-0.

We couldn’t agree more: 18 to 0 AGAINST.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. There are too many laws and more laws coming every other month. When will we see the increase in minimum wages for all people who live and work in this island? Crime is connected and it will become bigger and bigger until the solution is found . I think you are a great guy Wayne Panton and your heart is in the right area. But that is not as important as getting people to work and salaries that can meet the new cost of living.
    I see that the cruise piers are being delayed again . Wayne you and Moses suppose to come together and have this problem solved. Didn’t we have a EIA done already when Dart and GLF was going to do the piers?? Why do we need another one. Mr. Linford Pierson told me and some other fellows over 20 years ago. The technical advisory committee had already research and studied and Watler dock is now.
    Wait don’t tell me its true you going to use tenders? Rumor has it that a three tiered tender will be used for Genesis class ships? Say it ain’t so.
    The National Trust is broke. What does that tell you? Wayne they don’t care anymore. Money talks baloney walks you know what I mean. All those people who claim they want to save the mangroves ? Only when Rene is trying to do something with his property or Dart.
    I was trying to watch Martin Keeley on DTV today on mangroves and sea water rising .But the camera was in the wrong place so we couldn’t see what he was talking about. What I found interesting is that he said that the reef balls could never grow any mangroves because it needs nutrients to grow. So is he saying that Red Bay is dead? Makes sense to me because as anyone who has ever walked out in that turtle grass its very, very shallow. I never really seen to much of anything small or big unless you had a baited line. If the sea water is rising according to Keeley and others ,his attitude is sell while you can. Because 80% of the island during the storm was covered by sea water.
    Well Sir I have a different approach on that idea. I will be here because I believe people will get some sense and they will just put some marl ( limestone) on their swamp and keep doing it until the sea goes back down.
    Does anyone remember that project Utopia? I believe he was from Oklahoma and wanted to build a island out of steel like an offshore rig with all the infrastructure . It was suppose to be tax free so there was a lot of people who were interested. It was to be about 120 miles to the west of Grand Cayman.

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  2. Is it ok then minister Panton, if I collect all the scorpions that I used to be able to control on my property by killing them, to deliver them to you for ‘conservation’?

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  3. I hope the Caymanian people really read these proposals. Anyone who would draft such an oppressive piece of legislation must have had their training in South Africa under Apartheid. As much a tree hugger that I am, these proposed changes is ridiculous, and the wording dangerously broad. Caymanians, wake-up!, precious freedom is erased while you sleep.

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  4. I find it extremely disappointing that the national newspaper has chosen to become a political action tool with a biased opinion of the news it is supposed to report. In doing so it has unfairly prejudiced the minds of those not familiar with the law or what it truly intends to achieve.

    By definition, propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of the argument.

    I fear that the Caymanian people should beware of such tactics.

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  5. The species plans mentioned, while designed by the Council, must be approved by Cabinet. It is therefore extremely unlikely that Cabinet would approve a species plan that unreasonably infringes on people’s property rights. Perhaps it would be a worry if Cayman’s Government/Cabinet was a Green Socialist party, however I am pretty sure all will agree thats unlikely to happen.

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  6. The NCL has little affect on private property. The NCL allows Crown land to be designated as Protected Areas NOT private land.

    There is no mechanism in the NCL that will allow private property to be designated a Protected Area and no mechanism that will force a property owner to sell or lease their land to the Government.

    Private land owners, only if they so desire, have the option to enter in to a management agreement with the Government where they can receive financial compensation for agreeing to not develop or alter their land and allowing the Council to manage their land. That is completely voluntarily.

    Although this is not in the NCL, private landowners may also sell their ecologically sensitive land to the Government (through the usual channels the Government uses to buy land from willing landowners). Once bought by the Government the land would be Crown land and the Council could then, under the NCL, recommend to Cabinet that the land be designated a Protected Area.

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  7. This legislation has been very carefully crafted to the unique circumstances of the Cayman Islands, to take in to account the significance of the development industry and the need for continued physical development of the island and the strong culture surrounding property rights in the Cayman Islands. Both political parties, developers, landowners, the tourism sector and environmental scientists, hundreds of individuals and all relevant Government departments have contributed to the development and refinement of this piece of legislation which is extremely well balanced and desperately needed.

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  8. Whether I agree with the newspaper’s position on this subject or not I applaud the editors for clearly stating that this is an editorial ( 1. an article in a newspaper or other periodical presenting the opinion of the publishers or editors – Webster’s College Dictionary)rather than fact as chain-owned American papers imply. The promised investigative reports and editorial comment (the paper’s opinion) should be interesting. An inherent function of a ‘free press’ is to investigate and educate the public on subjects that effect the public well-being. The difference between propaganda and editorial comment is in purpose, content and truth. Propaganda is the one-sided presentation of partial truth or selected fact (sins of omission and commission)widely dispersed and frequently repeated towards influencing attitude. It is self-serving. Good thorough and balanced investigative reporting with editorial comment and resultant opinion is ostensibly for the education and good of the public. It is altruistic. The importance of this function was so clearly recognized by the American founding fathers that the 1st amendment to the Constitution was Protection of Freedom of the Press. The Supreme Court of the US continues to protect the papers and reporters who are fulfilling their responsibility in terms of truth telling and stewardship. The Cayman Islands are fortunate to have such a newspaper committed to its mission to inform, educate and comment in the name of public good. I look forward to the upcoming reports, comments and opinions on this issue.

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  9. The National Trust is disappointed with the editorial of 25th November 2013. At a time when the public are trying to distinguish the facts from the myths surrounding the National Conservation Bill (the "Bill"), the Editor has misinformed the public in relation to certain aspects of the Bill.

    With a better understanding of the Bill, the Editor would have been able to accurately report that the Bill does not impose any restrictions on private land owners nor does it grant the Government any power to interfere with land held privately. On the contrary, the Bill is designed to protect environmentally significant Crown land. In fact, under the Bill, any participation by private land owners to conserve their land is completely voluntary and not an obligation.

    We would encourage the Compass to take extra care as it proposes to delve deeper into this topic in order to ensure that accurate information is being reported. This proposed legislation is too important on a national and international level to continue to be misunderstood. We would also urge the Editor to familiarize himself with the international obligations which the Government are required to meet. We hope that once the Editor is able to speak from an informed position, he will conclude as we do, that this Bill is long overdue. Indeed it is our duty as citizens to be good stewards of our environment and we applaud Minister Panton for bringing the Bill to the Legislative Assembly. In the words of President Ronald Reagan "if not us, who and if not now when?"

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  10. So on top of the extended powers to arrest and search people without warrants…no ONE IS ALLOWED TO ASK ANY QUESTIONS, to have a differing opinion on what should be excluded from this bill?

    The fact that the police are now asking for the same special powers to arrest and search people without a warrant doesn’t bother any of you die hard zealots?

    Protect the Environment DO IT WITHOUT TRAMPLING THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE!!

    Get over yourselves..you lot are sounding just as BAD AS THE EX PREMIER!!

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