As the dust settles on Shedden Road

The standoff with the squatters on Shedden Road finally came to an overdue conclusion yesterday amidst a mess of crushed plaster, shattered windows, bewildered children, defiant men and wailing women who were forced to leave the squalid premises.

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.

10 COMMENTS

  1. While it is absolutely right for the fourth estate – the press – to question and challenge, the tone of the editorials in this newspaper is now reaching beyond that.
    Not for the first time I would ask the editorial board to ensure they check, double check and then check again before they put pen to paper. The one duty you have is to ensure that you provide a balance and EVIDENCED based review of events and use this evidence to challenge effectively.
    The editorial or OpEd pieces are fast becoming the news and I can’t help feeling that the editorial board is like a political party who desperately wants to get elected.

  2. John Ashley,what exactly you are talking about? Can you be more specific?
    I support every word of this editorial. Where were the elected members of GT? All six of them? Or these families are too insignificant for their attention?

  3. All this editorial is missing is the sad violin music in the background… The editorial board again brings out the sad story angle to criticize the Government and uses the plight of the children to bias a situation. What would be good reporting…but again this isn’t news, just someones opinion; would be to tell the public how many offers of alternative accommodations were made to the caretaker of the children and the reason(s) why they were not accepted.

  4. L. Bell:
    I have a number of observations –

    a) have the Compass asked the elected members for their take on what appears to be a criticism for their lack of action? This matter is NOT a political football to be used as a points scoring exercise either between the representatives or between them and the press. It is a LEGAL matter dealt with by was of the civil courts in the first instance and I am sure the courts would, in recognising the clear separation of power, be unhappy with political interference.

    b) ….the police have now performed their role a phrase which contains more than an innuendo that they have not previously carried out their duty. Again, I am sure the police will take issue with this assertion as the Commissioner, David Baines, has already done so. This was not a police matter – other than to ensure no breach of the peace occurred (and, BTW, a Breach of the Peace in legal terms is NOT a criminal matter) – and only became one when Mr Rankin made a criminal complaint.

    c) and finally, while to the casual observer there may appear to have been inaction by the responsible Government department, the press are not ‘casual observers’ but a body that has a place to question and challenge where they have some evidence that there has been inactivity. Where is the evidence that they have NOT been active? Does the Compass KNOW this or are they just using it to have a pop?

    As I hope I made clear, I respect the right of the free press to challenge but I would hope that a responsible free press does so on the basis of knowledge and investigation as a committed campaigning paper and one which allows the opportunity to respond alongside their editorial and not AFTER the event.

  5. The governments responsibility for the assisting the needy and social services is a completely different issue than what’s going on with these people illegally occupying privately owned property and getting legally evicted. The biggest question here is why it took so long to uphold the law.

  6. So this is a civil offense and not a criminal one, therefore the government is not required to provide children — no matter how young — with publicly funded help.
    Moral questions continue to swirl around the CI response (or lack of it) to the crisis on Shedden Road.
    What is Cayman Islands humanitarian obligation to these vulnerable children?
    Caymanians proud of their big-heartedness, which blossoms during natural disasters but can break down amid more controversial circumstances, such as Shedden Road standoff.
    This humanitarian emergency required, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected from undue suffering regardless of circumstances surrounding their hardship.

  7. Ms Bell, Again these are two different issues, what the Governments responsibilities are to those that cannot or will not support themselves has nothing to do with people illegally occupying privately owned property and also has nothing to do this being a civil or criminal offense. Button line is that they were breaking the law by being there and they had years to make other arrangements. You also need to remember that this saga involves more than just Anna’s children.

    You cannot judge peoples response to one issue based on another.

    But to put your concerns to rest it sounds like they have been provided a place to live in one of the affordable Homes that were built in BoddenTown. It also looks like due to all the publicity they got preferential treatment to get into one of those homes because the waiting list is very long to get into those homes. I wonder how the folks that are on the waiting list and went through the proper steps to get approved for one of them feels now.

  8. There are about 6,000 public servants,

    All of whom are ‘paying’ into a pension scheme which has been often criticized for the size of the generous contribution from the public purse – so it should be a good quality policy and not some government run ponzi scheme?

    I would urge them all to check the fine print.

    Private pension schemes offer what is called a death in service benefit (normally 2-4x annual salary as a lump sum), it is not a life assurance policy but is designed to provide some form of financial security to the family of the deceased.

    I think the major issue here is lack of a body, Ms Evans is not legally considered dead, and such a payment is not strictly available before January 2018, after she has been missing for 7 years.

    It would not have been difficult however for the pension fund to underwrite a property for the family secured against that future payment with a claw-back clause in case Ms Evans were to turn up alive before that date.

    Playing devils advocate here, I wonder what the governments position would have been, IF, instead, the dump was being operated and run by a private company – I suspect they would be dragging that company over the coals!

    Maybe the true villain of the piece is in fact Ms Evans former employer (No wonder nobody from the government wants to be involved).

  9. I believe this case is or has set precedence for cases to come. What I am talking about is everyones rights. Cases that have gone through the courts and have been given ajudgement. The judgement said ( whatever ) that this has been judged through the court and say …you have won your case against the insurance company. But does the insurance company need to pay within a certain time or can it linger for days, or weeks , or months? Or years?
    Their must be a law enacted by legislative members to guarantee that this is solved in a determined time period.

  10. Children were not breaking any laws and are not responsible for the actions of grownups. I am glad that they received preferential treatment. Let folks who are on the waiting list speak for themselves.
    When Cuban migrants receive humanitarian assistance and criminals are housed,fed and taken care of, what arguments one has to justify such care? When one of your own is in crisis you refuse to help, find lame reasons to apply force and justify it with They Brought It On Themselves. But so did Cubans and criminals.
    Where have the other evicted children spent last night? Anyone cares?
    Before evicting people who have no place to go,make sure you have a shelter for the homeless. In any other country churches would have stepped in.

Comments are closed.