Premier shuffles Cabinet duties

Civil servants fear reprisals

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Major areas of responsibility – including the George Town landfill remediation project and government’s public health system – were removed from embattled Minister Osbourne Bodden’s portfolio Friday in a partial reshuffle, presumably in relation to reports of Mr. Bodden’s recent expletive-laden tirade against his former chief officer, Jennifer Ahearn.  

Premier Alden McLaughlin offered no explanation to the Cayman Compass for the sudden decision to switch ministerial responsibilities after having stated that Mr. Bodden’s Dec. 10 office tirade, heard by some 20 to 30 staffers, was a “variance of opinion” between Mr. Bodden and Ms. Ahearn.  

Meanwhile, two senior civil servants who spoke to the Compass on Friday on condition of anonymity, expressed fears that elected government officials and the deputy governor’s office were seeking to track down what they believed to be “leaks” of information to this newspaper about Mr. Bodden’s behavior during the incident.  

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson has declined to comment on any aspect of the situation since the partial ministerial reshuffle was announced on Friday. 

Mr. Bodden will remain a minister of government under the new arrangement and will still be responsible for the areas of youth and sports. He will also take over the community affairs ministry, which will be moved from Premier Alden McLaughlin’s remit. Community affairs chief officer Dorine Whittaker will move to Mr. Bodden’s ministry.  

Mr. McLaughlin will retain responsibility for the home affairs ministry and will take on the additional areas of health and culture. 
Ms. Ahearn will remain as chief officer of Mr. McLaughlin’s new ministries. Current chief officer Eric Bush will stay at home affairs.  

The premier’s press secretary confirmed Friday that responsibility for the landfill project will shift to Premier McLaughlin’s new ministry. It is believed that Ms. Ahearn will retain her leadership role on that project, but the premier’s office did not confirm that Friday.  

Ms. Ahearn released a statement to the Compass on Saturday.  

“I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me over the past 10 days for their kind words and messages of support,” Ms. Ahearn said. “The ministry team and I look forward to the opportunity to work with the premier…to continue to help the government meet its remit in the ministry of health and culture.”  

Mr. Bodden did not respond to attempts to contact him for comment.  

Civil service concerns  

The full extent of Mr. Bodden’s Dec. 10 cursing and berating of Ms. Ahearn was revealed in a report sent to Deputy Governor Manderson on Dec. 12. Some of the contents of that report were made public via a Dec. 17 article in the Compass.  

The description of the events, which was given in writing to the deputy governor, indicated the following staff recollections of what was shouted at Ms. Ahearn during the brief closed-door meeting on Dec. 10. The statements included: “You aren’t even Caymanian, you are like a piece of f%&king driftwood.”  

“You know that I can make your life a living hell.”  

“Get out of my face. Get out of my f&%king office. Get out of my f&%king office now.”  

According to the description of events that was given to Mr. Manderson, Minister Bodden’s statements were referred to as discriminatory, profane and threatening. The shouting was clearly heard by staff members of other government ministries that share the same office floor and, in the words of one staffer, “If you couldn’t hear [the shouting], you were deaf.”  

On Thursday, some civil service staff members were present in a meeting during which concerns regarding the “leaking” of the report to the press was discussed. It was understood that government officials were keen to discover the identity of the individual or individuals who may have released the records.  

It was not clear as of press time Sunday which government workers would be assigned to the new ministries. Mr. Manderson was asked Friday what would be done to protect civil servants from potential reprisals. No response was received by press time.  

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Friday that he was aware the deputy governor had written confirmation of accusations of what took place on Dec. 10 at the health ministry on the fifth floor of the Government Administration Building, including allegations of various breaches of the penal code and human rights concerns.  

“That should be made public,” Mr. Bush said. “The deputy governor should make those things known to the people of these islands.”  

Mr. Bush stated a better explanation was needed for the ministerial reshuffle.  

“What has [Mr.] Bodden done to get the two ministries taken away from him?” Mr. Bush asked. “What has he done to keep the other two ministries?  

“The least that [Mr.] McLaughlin ought to do is explain to the country, what’s this lot about?” 

Civil Service Association President James Watler told the Compass Friday that he didn’t have enough information regarding the Dec. 10 incident to make a comment on behalf of the association and indicated his organization largely wished to stay out of conflict.  

Mr. Watler put it this way: “A cockroach has no business being in a rooster fight.” 

Reaction  

Earlier in the week, prior to the Cabinet reshuffle, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce requested that government conduct “a full investigation” into the Dec. 10 incident. In particular, the Chamber responded to reported comments that appeared to question Ms. Ahearn’s Caymanian status.  

“Anti-Caymanian or anti-foreigner comments destroy [the islands’] harmony,” the statement read. “We need to make every effort to remove these sentiments from our day to day interactions. 

“Our collective objective should be to create a more inclusive Cayman for all stakeholders whilst respecting and maintaining our heritage and traditions.”  

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Premier McLaughlin

1 COMMENT

  1. While I know that most of the people that will read this article are out for blood it is important that everyone looks at these things with a level head and not allow themselves to be consumed with hate.

    Premier McLaughlin has a country to run and the decisions that he has made, despite not being in favor with the people that want revenge, reflects the type of compromise necessary to minimize any major government upheaval.

  2. I am sure the Premier will if necessary give some explanation for the reshuffle; however, what sickens me, is to read the sucking up being made by some people in their comments on the subject.
    On another note, I want to say, the scariest of all comments made by Mr Bodden, was not popping the bad words but the threat of; you know that I can make your life a living hell These words, although used outright loosely on this one occasion, has been SECRETLY carried out and enforced by many, on many people in very diplomatic ways. It would surprise you to know and hear the stories of how many Caymanians and foreigners who have suffered silently under the threat of these same words (you know I can make your life a living hell) by many in authority who call the shots. Many people have been hurt by this silent abuse of power by many who hold government positions on this Island, and there will never be peace in the LA or in our Government body as long as we have persons who let power fly to their heads and think they are God.

  3. When I first wrote a response to this article, I said at the time that to make it go away, the broom would be taken out and it would be swept under the carpet.

    It happened quicker than I thought and the timing could not be better for Mr.McLaughlin to do the job. Its now Christmas and this will soon be forgotten and it will become history.

    As said by Twyla, this is scary and make no doubt about it, this is not the first time it has been said to an expat nor will it be the last. Thats the world we live in.

  4. Aside from being scared of Minister Bodden’s (alleged) threats, we should be afraid that they intend to seek out the leaks in the former Minister’s office. We rarely have civil servants doing the moral thing for precisely that reason-reprisals. Should anybody be targeted, they should seek the highest judicial remit possible and the greatest monetary settlement. Our politicians only learn a lesson, when their wallets hurt, albeit briefly.

    Ask yourselves how all parties benefit here. Minister Bodden retains office and salary. He still has supporters that the Premier cannot afford to alienate. Meanwhile, the Premier gets Landfill Remediation. Not coincidentally, today’s paper reminds us the dump is a substantial fire risk. How does the Premier intend to tackle this issue? There may be a plum contract awarded soon. I doubt they’ll risk taking it to Bodden Town. The people don’t need Minister Bodden in power to cause headaches for any potential developer or the administration, but he was a large impediment.

    Lastly, Ms Ahearn and the civil service, nobody really benefits here, except for Ms. Ahearn’s quite likely short term employment. Rest assured, she will resign or be transferred, at some less obvious time. Meanwhile the civil service as a whole may band together and vote out Minister Bodden and the Premier (if he makes an unfavorable decision about the dump) However, I think it’s far more likely, that after a few heads roll-the others will (as always) put up (with) and shut up (about) the behind the scenes behavior of their employers.

  5. Minster bodden must be
    send home he not good to be minster .
    It shame he is minster of youth ..how in the world that ..what example he for our children
    I hope people of bodden town not elected such man ..it sad …feel sorry for those elected him …. He should have respect for women …and not hate expat …sad man he is ..
    Hope no one elected him agine

  6. The PPM has always been more anti-expat than the UDP, but even so… It’s alarming to see the PPM’s leadership endorse that position so blatantly. The endorsement will cost the PPM the next election, without a doubt. And unless the C4C independents can get their act together, the FD people will have nowhere to turn but to McKeeva. (Who are the FD people? Well, the D stands for Driftwood, and we all know what the F stands for.)

  7. Nice point Gordon, having spent so much time in Cayman, I always find it strange when I get called an expat even though I don’t work in Cayman. Now thanks to Mr Bodden people like me now know that we are actually FD people. All this crap while they still expect us to invest everything we have into Cayman.

  8. Mr Premier here you have made a half [email protected] decision to make sure that this kind of disrespect to the people of Cayman Islands so that don’t ever happen again. I have to agree with all the comments on this subject. We have to see and know that the premier interested in fixing the next election, but not this kind of thing. I think that we have to watch him more careful, and stand up to him if he is not reading these comments.

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