For much of the day, Shedden Road, which was blockaded to vehicular traffic, resembled a military zone as a small army of flak-jacketed police kept the peace and ensured the confrontation did not spread beyond the compound of homes where the squatters were living — in defiance of a court order — without electricity or water.
In all, there were more than 20 forced evictions, including the five children of missing landfill worker Anna Evans, and four arrests, including their grandmother who had vowed she would never leave the property.
The struggle of the five Evans children and their caretaker, Ms. Evans’s sister, is emblematic of the dysfunction of the Cayman Islands government — at so many different levels. Yesterday’s events were only the crescendo of a sad symphony that began when Ms. Evans vanished, inexplicably, in January 2011.
During the three budget years since Ms. Evans’s disappearance, Cayman’s government has spent (or budgeted) some $87 million to provide direct public welfare services, such as financial assistance to the poor, elderly and disabled; benefit payments to seamen and ex-servicemen; counseling and support services; and administration of community assistance programs.
With the government doling out so many millions of dollars, how is it possible that the Evans children — whose mother worked for government and whose aunt still works for government — could be allowed to live in these toxic, and dangerous, conditions?
If social services could not deal with one of the highest-profile cases for public assistance in Cayman’s history, then what, exactly, are they capable of doing?
At this point, we remind our readers that the Shedden Road crisis had been simmering for two years, when a court ruled in favor of landowner Kent Rankin over residents’ objections.
Throughout the standoff, where were the elected members of George Town? Did they have nothing to say, nothing to contribute, no way of helping resolve the ongoing crisis in the heart of their district? There are, after all, six of them, including three Cabinet ministers, among them Premier Alden McLaughlin, who also happens to be Minister of Home and Community Affairs, with social services falling squarely within his remit.
At least initially, coverage in the media, including in the Compass, may have tilted too heavily toward highlighting the Evans family, a perspective that was too narrow. The Evanses, after all, were only a portion of the more than 20 people, comprising six families, on the property. We can only imagine the number of code violations that have been buried forever in the rubble that remains on the site.
True, the police have now performed their role, but the government’s challenge is just beginning — to ensure the most vulnerable among us — meaning our youngest, our eldest and our most infirm — are humanely looked after and treated with the dignity and respect that one would expect in a community as upstanding as the Cayman Islands.