Different voices
 create harmony

We may be witnessing an evolution in the Cayman Islands, and while it is related to the National Conservation Law, it has almost nothing to do with blue iguanas.

This phenomenon is neither floral nor faunal in nature: It is political.

Specifically, we are seeing the inclusion of voices — other than the ruling government’s — in the decision-making process in regard to major issues. To put it another way, actual conversations on topics of national interest are taking place, in public.

That is a significant departure from classical Caymanian politics, oriented around principals rather than principles, or personalities rather than ideologies, and where the losing “team” or minority party receded, more-or-less quietly, into the background until the eve of the next election.

Recent events point to a possible maturation of Cayman public affairs.

Take the passage of the Conservation Law, for example. Led by Environment Minister Wayne Panton, the Progressives government unveiled a legislative draft that we, and others, believed to be critically flawed.

Mr. Panton and supporters publicly maintained that the “compromise” bill had been reworked enough over the past decade and would not require significant amendments. That didn’t prevent critical statements from being expressed by multiple individuals and groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, C4C, CIREBA and this newspaper’s editorial board, as well as Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and independent MLAs Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean.

Mathematically, the Progressives government did not have to budge a centimeter on the environmental legislation, as they had already locked up “yea” votes from 12 members, a comfortable margin above the nine votes required for passage.

Yet, the government instead chose to support some 35 amendments to the bill, several that had been suggested by opponents, including Mr. Miller.

Give credit to the government for being accommodating to critics, pursuing a course of consensus and achieving the unanimous vote of affirmation that Premier Alden McLaughlin desired.

The resulting Conservation Law, while still imperfect, is better than it would have been, and can now accurately be described as a real compromise.

In addition to the Conservation Law, Mr. Bush has taken strong positions that diverge considerably from Mr. McLaughlin’s party on important matters such as immigration, police wiretapping and the U.K.’s influence on Cayman’s financial services industry.

Political group C4C, too, has weighed in via policy statements on immigration and conservation, and we can surely expect Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean to vocalize the interests of North Side and East End.

This editorial board took an unequivocal stance against the proposed Conservation Law, which happened to be in opposition to the Progressives government. We will continue to take clear positions on significant topics and articulate those positions as best we can — in the opinion section of the Compass, not the front page, which is the domain for objective reporting of news and facts.

If the Progressives remain receptive to divergent viewpoints and open to adjusting its actions accordingly, as it did for the Conservation Law, then Mr. McLaughlin’s government will do well for itself, not to mention the country.

Leaders who are willing to listen have nothing to fear from outcries of dissent. Serious consideration of a multiplicity of perspectives only improves governance. Informed and passionate discussion is something to be encouraged, not castigated.

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