Several of Cayman’s political and business leaders have condemned remarks made by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller in the Legislative Assembly last week warning of “bloodshed” and “revolution” because of immigration policies that impact employment of Caymanians.
Mr. Miller, who was speaking in support of a private members’ motion that asked for the government to mandate all business staffing plans be made public, suggested that the revolution would be caused by educated, unemployed Caymanians who, if they can’t get “part of the pie,” would destroy it.
“I’m going to probably be in front with them in leading the revolution,” he said. “They’re not going to be leading it against me. I’m going to be with them.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin condemned the remarks over the weekend, calling Mr. Miller’s comments “irresponsible and dangerous.” Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush noted that Cayman’s tourism and financial services sectors are both highly dependent on tranquility and stability, which he said “we must never allow to be compromised or called into question.”
On Monday, other politicians weighed in on Mr. Miller’s remarks, with Cabinet Minister Osbourne Bodden expressing disappointment.
“It is not a responsible statement by a leader,” he said. “Our job is to ward off such statements when we hear them spoken and certainly not add credibility to them.
“Comments such as these are inflammatory and are not in the public interest, and a veteran like Mr. Miller should be more careful in his public utterances, as what we say as leaders are on record forever.”
Mr. Bodden acknowledged that there are some disillusioned people in the community for a variety of reasons, including a lack of means to sustain themselves and their families.
“This doesn’t mean there is some planned uprising, although words are often used in anger by a few,” he said. “Our job is to try to assist them and give them hope, not encourage them to destroy Cayman.”
George Town MLA Roy McTaggart said, “shock and disappointment” would be the best way to describe his reaction to Mr. Miller’s remarks.
“In my mind, by openly advocating for violence and bloodshed, it destroyed any merit his motion may have had and irreparably harmed his own credibility and reputation,” he said. “I believe that it is quite wrong for MLAs to use the floor of the Assembly to advocate for violence and bloodshed. Whatever difficulties and issues Cayman may have, we are a peaceful and peace-loving people who have always found nonviolent ways to resolve our problems.”
Mr. McTaggart said he had no impression that Caymanians were contemplating a revolution with bloodshed.
“Such actions are clearly ill-advised and would, in an instant, destroy 50 years of growth, prosperity and a high standard of living that has made Cayman the economic success story that it is.”
Cabinet Minister Tara Rivers also offered a short but succinct response. “I do not condone violence of any kind,” she said.
Politicians were not the only ones to express opposition to Mr. Miller’s remarks.
Chamber of Commerce President Barry Bodden said Mr. Miller’s comments “are damaging to Cayman’s social harmony and reputation as one of the top jurisdictions in the world to live and conduct business.”
“It was irresponsible for Mr. Miller to use his high office to make such outlandish and threatening comments in the Legislative Assembly,” he said. “Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected to represent the views and concerns of the people who elect them. We are certain that the majority of the voters and legal residents in our community do not support Mr. Miller’s comments.”
Mr. Bodden noted that after several years of recession in Cayman, there were signs of a sustained economic recovery and that the Chamber had no evidence to suggest that Caymanians were contemplating any form of revolution or protest.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Kenneth Hydes also said he saw no indication that Caymanians were desirous of a bloody revolution.
“The comments by Mr. Miller could easily be construed as incitement at worst or irresponsible at best,” he said, adding that it was certainly not the “tone or content we should expect from our elected officials.”
“While I am confident that Mr. Miller was trying to address issues he views as important in today’s society, this form of commentary will not positively change the direction of those challenges, but will only serve to create more resentment and [division],” he added.
Leading businesswoman Brigitte Kirkconnell-Shaughness also expressed concern over Mr. Miller’s remarks.
“They may put ideas into people’s head to do something terrible, all the while thinking they are supported and justified because a political figure has suggested he will lead the charge,” he said.
Ms. Kirkconnell-Shaughness said she was worried about Mr. Miller’s usage of the word “bloodshed.”
“Who are the intended victims of this bloodshed?” she wondered.
James Bergstrom, a partner at the law firm Ogier, said he found Mr. Miller’s comments irresponsible and confusing.
“Irresponsible in that a person in his position should not try to incite violent behavior or make sensational claims when the world’s media is watching, and comments like those could impact our economy,” he said. “Confusing as, one, I have trouble understanding the reference to historical civil rights leaders in the U.S. as it relates to Cayman’s immigration policies, and two, the reference to the Bahamas about actions in the 1970’s – that fueled the start of Cayman’s financial industry and ended that industry there, leading to significantly increased levels of unemployment and a crippled economy. Is he really suggesting Cayman should follow the same path?”
Leading real estate broker J.C. Calhoun said Mr. Miller’s comments “were at best in extremely poor taste, and at worst purposely and unnecessarily inflammatory and self-serving.”
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether an MLA or not,” he said. “I would hope our MLAs would not have to mince words in the LA. However, for an elected member to exaggerate and sensationalize such a situation does no good and can cause a great deal of harm. [Mr. Miller] should have known better.”
Mr. Calhoun said he did not think Mr. Miller’s opinion represented a general, island-wide sentiment.
“Employment issues are always worse everywhere during a recession,” he said. “Historically, that is when opposition politicians try to use the situation to attack the party in power and gain support for themselves. But that should not be done recklessly.”
With regard to Mr. Miller’s statement that “the Bahamas made their adjustment in the ‘70s” with regard to the employment of expatriates, Mr. Calhoun expressed surprise that Mr. Miller thought that was a good thing.
“I was living in the Bahamas through those changes, and as a result of the politically induced changes of the ‘70s, the Bahamas in the subsequent 40 years has never even come close to having the vibrant economy it once had,” he said. “So be careful what you wish for.”
Additional comments posted to the Cayman Compass website are reprinted on Page 4.