Cayman's PR test: Not just a matter of course

If the purpose of UCCI’s new weekend class is to share for an eager audience the culture and the history of the Cayman Islands, the initiative could prove to be a most worthwhile affair.

If, however, the UCCI course confines itself to the Immigration Department’s “history and culture test” — the notoriously trivial multiple choice exam inflicted upon seekers of permanent residence — it likely will have no more value than a cram session before an appearance on the quiz show “Jeopardy!”

We have no reason to doubt that the month-long course, to be taught by UCCI professors Livingston Smith and Christopher Williams, will turn out to be (quoting UCCI President Roy Bodden) “robust, interactive and thoroughly enlightening.”

However, no matter the intensity of the class and the engagement of the lecturer, no amount of reading, research and studying can adequately prepare someone to pass a rigged test or to answer trick questions.

And that, in our opinion, precisely describes the exam that Immigration is proctoring — one that is purposely designed not to test in good faith people’s knowledge of the Cayman Islands, but to ensure the test-takers “fail.”

We challenge government to argue persuasively otherwise. What other possible motive conceivably could exist for the hodgepodge of irrelevant minutiae that appeared on the first test — questions such as:

“In traditional houses, what was the name of the beam that was also used as a shelf?”

“What does kraal mean?”

“What was the code name for the U.S. naval base that was here from 1942-45?”

“What institution in Cayman houses an animatronic doll?”

Is it contemplated that serious professors at UCCI will include in their syllabus such irrelevant trivia?

Just about a year ago, the Cayman Compass published some of the more obscure items from the PR test, and in this editorial space posed our own query to government: “What game are you playing?”

At the risk of delivering our own lecture, children and pranksters play games; governments don’t — or shouldn’t.

When a person, after living in Cayman for seven or more years, decides that he wants to make Cayman his permanent home, that proposed commitment is of such consequence and magnitude — to the person, to his family and ultimately to the country — that it behooves our officials to treat such applicants with seriousness and respect. It belittles the government to do otherwise.

Consider this: Since October 2013, when lawmakers amended the Immigration Law and changed the PR process, the Immigration Department has received 337 applications for permanent residency under the new rules.

Seventeen months later, officials have yet to consider a single one of them.
At the moment, hundreds of lives — applicants,
co-workers, neighbors and friends — are in long-standing legal limbo, while, in the meantime, our officials are toying around with a quiz.

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  1. Kraal is an Afrikaans word for cattle enclosure. Just goes to show what a diverse population Cayman has had from its very beginnings, if this foreign word is now used as an indicator of "real" Caymanian knowledge. We should continue to celebrate diversity in the islands, and not try to exclude people based on nonsense.