Premier calls anti-corruption editorial 'treasonous'

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin on Friday accused Cayman’s oldest newspaper and its publisher, David R. Legge, of committing a “reckless … treasonous attack on the Cayman Islands and on all the people of Cayman.”

Premier McLaughlin’s comments were made during the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee in response to an editorial published by the Cayman Compass on Wednesday, June 3. The editorial, which is an opinion piece, was in relation to the ongoing FIFA corruption and bribery scandal and took a stance against various reports of corrupt acts in the country, including those that have been alleged in U.S. federal court indictments against former FIFA vice president and Cayman Islands resident Jeffrey Webb.

“The sad fact is that [Mr. Legge] does know what the reality is – he knows. And so, because he knows, the Compass editorial is not only reckless, it must be interpreted as a treasonous attack on the Cayman Islands and on all the people of Cayman,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “[The editorial] is a direct attack on everyone who lives here, who works here, who invests here, who has a business here, who serves on public boards, who works in the public sector, who works in financial services, who works in tourism and it is a full frontal assault on the many businesses which pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Cayman Compass every year in advertising fees.”

Following the comments of Premier McLaughlin on Friday, Mr. Legge and his wife, Mrs. Vicki Legge, who serves as co-publisher of the Compass, were placed under 24-hour protective guard by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and flew to a location in the United States on Saturday.

“The premier must be aware of the irony of his remarks,” Mr. Legge said. “The editorial to which he took such umbrage addresses the need to eliminate corruption in the Cayman Islands (and by inference, elsewhere). Mr. McLaughlin himself campaigned in no small measure on the exact same theme in the run-up to his election in 2013.

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“Further, the editorial was in perfect harmony with remarks to be delivered yesterday by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to the heads of the G7 countries meeting in Germany. According to the BBC, Mr. Cameron was to urge a ‘global crackdown on the “cancer” of corruption.’

“In Mr. Cameron’s words: ‘We just don’t talk enough about corruption. This has got to change. We have to show some of the same courage that exposed FIFA and break the international taboo on pointing the finger at corrupt institutions.’

“He concluded: ‘World leaders simply cannot dodge this issue any longer.’”

The Compass editorial, entitled ‘Corruption: An insidious, creeping crime’ stated the following in its second paragraph: “Whether it’s securing a vehicular inspection sticker, an exemption to development regulations, approval for work permits, the support of a particular bloc of voters, or, allegedly, millions of dollars in bribes in relation to sporting events – lurking behind the scenes are shadows of impropriety, influence and inscrutability. Because such behavior is so commonplace, we tend to ‘normalize it,’ refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is. In the 1990s, U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called this ‘defining deviancy down.’ In Cayman, we’re more likely to attribute such behavior to ‘cultural differences.’”

Mr. Legge said the premier “implied” in his remarks to the House that the June 3 editorial was “accusing all Caymanians of corruption.”

“He knows that is not true and was himself engaging in corruption – corruption of the language,” Mr. Legge said. “Nearly all Caymanians are hardworking law-abiding people. That has been our experience in more than 25 years of living on this island.

“The issue the Compass was raising, and we stand by it, is that too often the law-abiding among us – Caymanian and otherwise – encounter corruption and avert their eyes or turn their heads, accepting it as a cultural norm or ‘business as usual.’

“As does David Cameron, we reject that, as should our Premier, his government, and the Cayman people,” the publisher continued. “Unfortunately, we believe Mr. McLaughlin’s intemperate remarks have set into motion a scenario that will result in incalculable harm to these islands.”

In addition to the editorial, Compass staff reporters have, over the past two weeks, revealed certain connections between the suspects in the FIFA probe and other criminal investigations ongoing in Cayman, and links between the families of Webb’s close associates and Cayman’s financial services regulator – the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. Editorially, the Compass has asked that the managing director of CIMA, Cindy Scotland, recuse herself from any participation in regulatory matters regarding the FIFA scandal.

It was the cultural comments, however, that appeared to anger Mr. McLaughlin on Friday.

“Surely, the editor, for as long as he has been around these islands, must know and appreciate that I, as premier, and this government, and I daresay the governor and the U.K., would not stand idly by if the country was corrupt as [Mr. Legge] indicates,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Mr. Legge must know better, and he does. And if he does know better, then one wonders why he would willingly encourage and give credence to those who do not mean us well or who care only for a sensational news story today – regardless of whatever is true and good about these islands.

“In these difficult days and in the weeks to come, when the world’s attention is trained on us, it is important for all of us in Cayman, but especially those in leadership and in the press, to maintain our dignity and to protect what we have worked so hard to build up – not by ignoring a problem or covering up, but by standing firm in what we know to be true and resisting the cheap thrill of sensationalism.

“The press has a right to speak freely, but they also have a duty to be factual and to act responsibly. A free press is important to a free society, and I will defend at all times the need for a free press. But I will not sit by and say nothing when the Compass takes that freedom for granted and is as reckless, disingenuous and irresponsible as was its editorial on Wednesday.

“In the words of the great country music artist Merle Haggard: When you’re running down my country, man, you’re walking on the fighting side of me,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Mr. Legge characterized these comments by the premier as “gratuitous.”

“He pays homage to the principle of “free speech” and then adds a “but …,” Mr. Legge said. “Mr. McLaughlin should know, but apparently does not, that when it comes to free speech, there is no ‘but ….’

“It is true that ‘free speech’ and a ‘free press’ are governed by certain statutes, most notably defamation. We expect Mr. McLaughlin will become much more familiar with those statutes in coming days.”

Advertising motion

The Legislative Assembly chamber burst into an uproar after Mr. McLaughlin’s speech, with lawmakers pounding tables and shouting what generally seemed to be support for the premier’s commentary.

“I think all members join with you in the words you have just spoken,” Finance Minister Marco Archer said.

Following Mr. Archer’s comments, East End MLA Arden McLean moved a motion in the committee which he stated as follows: “Instead of enriching someone who has come to these shores with our poor people’s dollars, I move that no monies be spent out of the people’s money with the [Cayman] Compass for any advertisement from government.”

Mr. Archer, as chairman of the finance committee, then put the motion to the committee for a vote. However, he seemed to state the opposite intent of Mr. McLean’s motion in doing so.

“The question is whether we continue to allow the Caym
an Islands government to spend its advertising or to advertise jobs and other tenders, whatever the case may be, with the Cayman Compass,” Mr. Archer said. The minister later clarified with the Compass that the intent of the motion was as Mr. McLean had initially stated.

Assembled lawmakers voted “yes” on the question.

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  1. I too have been very concerned with some of the opinions that originate from the editorial board at the Cayman Compass.

    It is my opinion that the editorial board is not a group focused on any form of fair and balanced journalism but rather just a group of like-minded individuals that share the same lack of understanding of and regard for a certain segment of our society.

    That being said, free speech is critically important and I would not want to in any way restrict what the Cayman Compass is able to publish.

  2. Two things really surprised me when I came to these shores.
    First, it was close on the heels of the First Cayman Bank demise, and I could not understand how a director of that bank could be considered to be suitable for re election to the MLA.
    The second was that part of my function was to raise standards of "compliance", "know your client" and other anti money laundering procedures. The response within and outside of the organisation was in the bemused zone. Yes we know all about that and it isnt really coming here, it was a sort of state of mind thing. well the laws changed, but I always doubted that the state of mind changed much. I felt the two observations were related really!
    Over recent years it seemed that there was a better understanding of the need to be a better part of the worlds finance system, and that we couldnt remain a part of the shady area of finance that lets face it, we had been when these things were less under the spotlight.
    It seems to me that there was nothing within your editorial that was unfair, because the simple examples of misfeasance you mentioned were good examples of low level corruption, and they are real ones. I really find it sad that the Premier cannot see that, and I suggest his comments were myopic, even sadder is that the House seemed to support him!
    And that was another thing I noticed, whatever happens, keep your mouth shut, silence is the only response, well it isnt, its almost a sign of guilt. In my humble opinion!

  3. I think that there is a real problem in corruption in Cayman , like Mr Connolly has said this need to be addressed . We all need to look and see who has brought this scandal down on the Cayman Islands , not the Cayman Compass. What I also find is that there’s a problem with some people protecting one even if he or she is wrong. I see the problem in Mr Premier argument is that Mr Legge said the right thing about Mrs Scotland recuse herself.

  4. As a Caymanian ("born and bred") I cannot support the Premier”s allegations against the Compass. I also do not support the taking away of advertising revenue from the paper, and as a consequence, potentially the jobs of Caymanians as well. Free speech should not be muzzled in this way and if allowed to continue will be to the detriment of us all.

  5. I often disagree with the editorial board of the Compass, and I”m the first to post and be critical of them when I do. However, the editorial in question was not offensive at all. The point of the editorial is spot-on, and is evidenced by the recent story of MLAs paying cash to constituents out of their own pockets. This itself is a form of corruption — it is buying a vote. And the problem, when raised by one MLA, was dismissed by others as no big deal. This is exactly the point — it”s corruption that a blind eye is turned toward.

    I do not think corruption is rampant in Cayman. But I don”t think the editorial in question really says it is. I think the MLAs react the way they do because they don”t have any real solutions as to how to fight a problem that has crept its way into being somewhat commonplace in the culture. And if you can”t solve the problem, then all you can do is blame the messenger who is calling attention to it.

  6. It is insulting. You came here freely and as far as this Caymanian is concerned please leave freely. So you come, so you go, you came here and saw me, feel free to leave if you don”t like us.

  7. Having spent a few years in the capitol at Washington, I have learned that corruption is not like that shown in Hollywood films. Its a gentleman”s agreement in all forms, knowing what one is doing is illegal yet the agreement calls for silence or the knowing ”wink”. what an ordinary citizen might consider corruption, the perpetrators think there is nothing wrong and this is the accepted course of action.
    Go to it editorial board, expose them, get rid of them, make way for a new corps of corruptors and learn that this is the gentleman”s agreement and a way of doing business.

  8. Come the next election let’s just see how long the "no-political spend" on advertising in the Compass lasts.. Looking forward to the home page being clustered with lots of "vote for me" smiling faces!

  9. This is a direct attack on Mr Legge. I am sure the Premier was full aware that his words would incite hatred against Mr Legge, his family as well and the Compass Editors and other employees. This isn’t much difference then another MLA’s warnings of revolution and bloodshed. Politicians have a power to rally the people for whatever agenda they seem to feel necessary, but to rally the people against specific individuals or legitimate businesses, putting them in harms way is wrong and they should be held accountable for it. I would sue him if it were me.

    Also threatening to take away advertising from the Compass just sounds like they are only willing to spread money to those who support them in every way and say what they want them to say ( IE: Money Goes to the who vote for me ). In this case he is using his position attempting to deliberately destroy a legal operating business operating lawfully and under constitutionally protected rights. Maybe someone should investigate that. He had to know what the fallout of his comments would be, It also helps to distract from other accusations he’s facing.

    Joy Colgan’s comment is right on point….. But if they don’t advertise in the Compass I wouldn’t miss their faces plastered all over the place that is not why I read the compass every day. I read it because they show integrity in the way they present the news and allow you to formulate your own opinions. I also respect them a lot for the fact that they print all your comment even if they are against their point of view which means that while they stick by their opinions they also have a deep respect for yours, this is something you will not get from other New Services

  10. The more I listen to Alden the less respect I have for him, he constantly points the finger of blame of other make attacks on other people character as well as show support for those in his cabinet that do the same. Yet when the camera or potential scandal is facing his way he does everything he can the shut it down before he has to answer the accusations. That sounds like some who has something to hide.

  11. Treasonous? Really? These comments are coming from an educated and politically astute man? Want to see what inflammatory rhetoric looks like ? Simply call an editorial an ATTACK on the Cayman Islands and ALL its people. Right up there with BLOOD in the streets, Ezzard Miller. Every country wrestles with corruption and a host of other nefarious acts. The USA, in particular, is always mired in some sort of political corruption scandal at both the state and federal level. The Premier just added to more fuel to the Anti-Driftwood electorate.

  12. While my comment below makes clear my views on this "treason" comment, I also think we need to take a moment to say to the Compass — STOP THE DRAMA! Is the "in memoriam" for free speech a bit over-the-top? Of course it is! All that happened was that the Premier criticised the Compass, and then there seems to be a huge over-reaction with RCIPS guards and leaving the country by the Legges (unless there were credible threats of arrest or charges being brought against them, which I would hope the Compass would publish).

    We get it, Compass — you don’t like the Premier calling your actions treasonous. But let’s save the drama for your momma — the Premier making that comment and threatening to take away your advertising revenue is not a threat to free speech, and does not amount to censorship. The more you pull nonsense like this, the more likely that people will ignore you next time you cry wolf.

  13. Curious, If the leader of a country publicly accuses someone of committing treason or being treasonous, wouldn’t the next action be to arrest and charge the guilty party. I am curious if the premier consulted the law prior to making these defamatory public statements. He would be raising holy hell if had been on the other end of those comments. Probably at RCIPS headquarter as well speaking trying to get an arrest made or lawsuit filed.

  14. Cayman Compass, can you get the names of the politicians that went YES in the LA, to the premier boycotting of the Compass. Then tell them 2017 election they can’t buy campaign advertisement.

  15. Free speech is not rampant criticism of society; sensationalism, or careless thoughts or innuendos.
    I found the editorial to be an indictment on ALL CAYMANIANS!..and that to me is not acceptable journalism nor opinion.

  16. I”d counter the Premier”s quotes with one attributed to Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

    This will not be the first time that the LA has tried to deny something that to most of us is self-evident nor, sadly, do I suspect it will be the last.

  17. There was absolutely no reason for the RCIPS to have been involved or for Mr. Legge and his family to have left the island.

    This is more drama than anything substantial and it is time to put a stop to the childish behavior from all involved.

  18. If the Cayman Compass is such a champion of free speech, why did you not promptly publish the comment on this same article that I input on your website before 8:00 am today, and to which your website responded confirming that it had been submitted? Many others since have been posted and are now displayed on your webpage, but not my original one. What’s the matter – too much truth and cogent reasoning that is not favorable to your editor?

    ***Editor’s note: The original comment did not include a phone number as required, and overall did not meet our standards for publishing, i.e. including ad hominem attacks.***

  19. Here’s another try to see if the Cayman Compass will publish my comments … hopefully this wording now fits within the Cayman Compass’ nebulous boundaries of whatever they consider does not violate their prohibition of what they interpret as "ad hominem attacks":

    As expected, the Cayman Compass articles of June 8, 2015 attempted to cover their erroneous ways by hiding them under the blanket of “freedom of the press”. Mr. Legge says “when it comes to free speech, there is no ‘but ….’.” Apparently he is suggesting that under the banner of “free speech” the press has carte blanche to say anything that comes into its mind to say, without fear of consequences, even if that means it uses its pulpit to intimidate or insult a whole community of people and paint them all with the same nasty brush.

    Neither “free speech” nor “freedom of the press” makes it acceptable for a publisher to demean and castigate and damage reputations of any individual or group of people. It doesn’t make it acceptable for a newspaper to display lopsided preferences, disgraceful prejudices or misguided perceptions of that people group. Just because many Caymanians by and large may be tolerant, longsuffering and forgiving of those who came to our shores more recently and still haven’t learned to respect the dignity of the people of the community they have entered, should not be interpreted to mean Caymanians individually or collectively are powerless to defend their reputations or their rights in their own country. If you misinterpret silence, politeness or patience as ignorance, weakness or acquiescence, then you do so at your own peril. That is the lesson of the vote in Finance Committee on Friday.

    The Cayman Compass editorial of June 3rd 2015 degenerated rapidly from the sublime to the ridiculous. Its opening statement was laudable: “Corruption in a country corrodes, erodes — and eventually destroys.” No doubt the Premier and every other right-thinking Caymanian agrees with that. But from there the editorial went relentlessly downhill. First the editorial implied that in Cayman corrupt behavior “is so commonplace, we tend to normalize it, refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is,” and claiming explicitly that in Cayman we excuse corrupt behavior as due to “cultural differences”. Then the editorial slipped even further downhill by implying that “people in Cayman” have been so “culturally steeped in” corruption that they “truly don’t know [corruption] when they see it”.

    In so doing the Cayman Compass editorial paints all the “people in Cayman” as either corrupt or entirely incompetent in recognizing corruption, and it paints the Cayman Islands as a place where corruption is rampant and embraced by the community at large. That is a huge insult to the vast majority of people in Cayman who strive to maintain good ethical standards, and Cayman’s financial services industry that works so hard to maintain the highest standards of propriety.

    Just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t mean you should say anything that pops into your head. Just because there is not a law preventing a someone from doing something, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should do that thing.

    Furthermore as expressed by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenck v. United States, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Given that international financial services comprise a hugely important component of the Cayman Islands economy, an editorial implying that corruption is so widespread and has become so endemic and characteristic in the community that nobody recognizes it, is bound to be damaging to the country and is bound to aid those in other countries jealous of our success who seek ways to damage Cayman’s financial services industry. Surely the Cayman Compass must have realized that when composing their editorial. In so doing the Cayman Compass editorial has “betrayed [its] own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies” which is the common definition of treason, so it should come as no surprise that the Premier characterized the editorial as “treasonous”.

    What is worse is that in the Cayman Compass articles of June 8, 2015, there is not even a hint of editorial recognition that maybe the wording of the editorial of June 3, 2015 was not as well thought out as it should have been. The articles of June 8, 2015 are characteristic of an obdurate arrogance and self-righteousness that have unfortunately characterized much of what the Cayman Compass has become since it changed ownership. The words reveal the heart: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.

    The Cayman Compass’ judgement has become so clouded, its perception of Caymanians so disdainful, and its thirst for sensationalism so insatiable, that it apparently considered the most appropriate response was for its editor and his wife to have 24-hour police protective guard and then flee the country the day after the Premier criticized the newspaper in the Finance Committee meeting. In so doing the Cayman Compass has created even more fodder for international detractors to use against Cayman and its reputation as an international financial center. All this, rather than doing the mature responsible thing and admitting the words of the editorial were reckless. But instead those extreme reactions in themselves reveal how dangerously misguided and absurd the Cayman Compass has become.

    So if the Cayman Compass abuses its freedom it is not immune from the liabilities and consequences arising from what it publishes. It should be no surprise that the representatives of the people group the Cayman Compass has insulted, have voted to withdraw their commercial support for the newspaper that so offended that people group. Those people are not saying there is no corruption, they are not saying there should not be freedom of the press, but they are saying unequivocally that the Cayman Compass crossed a line that the people of this country found to be disgusting and therefore the newspaper is not worthy of those people’s continued financial support. That’s it. In response to that vote, the Cayman Compass reports of its editor needing 24-hour police protection, its editor and his wife going into self-imposed exile, or any other form of martyrdom are little more than self-serving extreme over-reactions attempting to distract attention from the offensive behavior of the Cayman Compass.

    Put simply, the Cayman Compass is now reaping the bitter fruit of the bitterness the newspaper has sowed: “Da wha ya get!” The Cayman Compass and its leadership need to man up, learn from this incident, get over it, and apply their expertise and energies to help us build our nation up rather than tear it down. If the Cayman Compass is incapable of doing that then please just leave Cayman alone, and don’t hold your breath waiting on us to join your editor’s pity party wherever it is he has fled to.

  20. Such careless accusations by the ”leader” of a country that is trying to raise its image above global perception…

    The last time that I checked, the CayCompass was a private media house, operating in a free country. The points in the editorial are nothing new being said…but the timing may have irked those who are watching an internationally, embarrassing episode unfolding as the US takes aim at FIFA and the financial sector.

    Shifting the blame to Mr. Legge and the Compass will not erase the bigger problem. The leader”s comment implies that corruption is actually rampant and persons are protected…in a culture in which the media is muzzled for a simple editorial.

    Instead, a better approach would have been to liaise with local media on some ”damage-control” tactics, instead of hurling accusations and threatening not to advertise with the Compass.

    Can you imagine if the Compass passes on Alden”s comments to international media, and these comments are published globally? Whose image do you think will suffer more? Compass? Think again…

  21. @Jenny Taylor
    I have hard time understanding your comments and position
    Communication is really about taking someone else’s perspective, understanding it, and responding.
    Comments from those with an attitude of superiority, disdain and hateful remarks for those who may lack knowledge or don’t have the bigger picture view are actually damaging.
    Developing a healthy respect for people whose opinions differ from our own is more productive.

  22. What Alden has done here was successfully take this situation and use it to distract from issues that are currently lingering over his head while successfully driving deeper the wedge between the Caymanian and Non Caymanian society.

    It would have been way better for him to answer this editorial with facts showing what Cayman is doing to combat corruption at the highest level, just like how Fidelity said they would do regarding the FIFA scandal, all the bank had to do was say they will show full cooperation with the investigation being conducted as well as preform their own internal audits. What this situation seems like is that Alden had no response so he just started kicking and screaming.

  23. @J.D.Mosley-Matchett – omg! NY Times!!!

    This is exactly what I was afraid of.

    How ill-timed is Alden’s attack on the single, most popular news-house in Cayman – Compass – the only news house with the clout to gauge international opinions from within.

    Plus, as a newspaper, the Compass is doing exactly what it is there for. Absolutely no one can muzzle the media and expect favorable returns.

    At this point, the government should have already scrambled together a Crisis Communication Task Force to vet and lead all inbound and outbound communications, where possible. They need professional help.

    Neither the people nor the Compass needs a leader who spurts ”off-the-cuff” comments like an immature child and his pals…in a situation that requires strategic thinking. Well, after this damage, Mr. Legge will not need revenues from future advertising dollars…the proceeds from the coming defamation lawsuit will secure his retirement comfortably.

  24. I have anecdotal support for Mr. Legge when he charges ”Islanders” with wide spread, low level corruption. During a recent stay in West Bay, renting an apartment in a 20 unit complex and driving a car, I had occasion to examine the safety stickers on the windshields of the cars regularly driven by other tenants, many of them expats. I was shocked to find that about half were expired, most of them seriously so. Since a vehicle with an expired safety certificate would not be insured, I wondered who would pay the damages if one of these drivers struck me or my friend with their vehicle. I heard from others that this is not unusual, that a large percentage of older vehicles on the island cannot pass the safety examinations and are therefore not legal nor insurable. A shocking number of drivers of these cars simply ignore the law and get away with it. I saw these particular cars come and go unchallenged for several months while I was there. Safety on the road for insured drivers? Somewhat of a fiction. This safety inspection program for autos should be cancelled. It is neither enforced nor enforceable. Let the police and the insurance companies handle the problem of getting unsafe cars off the road. And bravo Mr. Legge!

  25. While most regard the governments action as a childish retaliation – an automatic knee jerk reaction to unfavourable comments, great care must be taken that this action does not in fact BECOME corruption, even though that was patently not the intention! Nor is the childish behaviour limited only to the CIG.

    Corruption can take many forms, and while the FIFA scandal allegedly hinges on bribery, cash payments to gain a business advantage. There are darker more sinister forms of corruption such as extortion, where payments are coerced using threats or intimidation.

    There is also blackmail, where pressure (open or implied) is used to force or coerce an action or statement, or perhaps, to gag a critic!

    The irony is that a response to an invective on corruption,
    through lack of good judgement almost becomes an example of it.

    I am sure the Premier rues the vote to withdraw advertising,
    Many public notices MUST appear in print to be legal and failure to do so will cause them to be challenged in the courts – gazetting a road closure for example. The hardest part will be to find a palatable way to make that U-Turn.

    Once that is corrected, then the problem of preventing any future potential for corruption becomes the pressing issue.

    If the CIG is free to withdraw advertising on a retaliatory whim, that is no different to blackmail – will an editor betray their integrity and tone down or quash a story when balancing the financial interests of and consequences to the newspaper.

    With the ill considered funding withdrawal corrected, there then must be a bill to ensure such an action cannot occur in future, thereby exorcising any spectre of blackmail (however soft or subtle) and constitutionally enshrining the rights of a free press in a democratic society!