On Wednesday, Justin Devon Manderson, who was accused of killing Victor Oliver Yates Jr. on Jan. 3, was discharged from custody after multiple Crown witnesses backed out of testifying in the case. “We cannot proceed without witnesses,” prosecutor Patrick Moran said.
We want to be clear that we are not accusing Manderson of committing this or any crime. He has not been, and may never be, tried in a court of law for the charges he faced, including murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm. Manderson is innocent until proven guilty.
Nonetheless, someone did murder Mr. Yates, and that killer is still among us.
Intimidation and the fear of retribution extend far beyond murder cases, to instances such as domestic violence and sexual abuse. It even finds its way into white-collar government bureaucracies, business boardrooms and executive suites.
As journalists, we can report that Cayman’s leaders and “ordinary citizens” are routinely reluctant to speak up on serious issues facing the country if they think their names will be appended to their remarks. In other words, they will speak freely privately but recoil from having their words associated with their names.
If the proverbial “Martian” were to arrive in the Cayman Islands, he may well be forgiven for believing that the most common surnames here are “Ebanks,” “Bodden,” and “Anonymous.”
In fairness, it is extremely difficult to discern whether the threat of retribution is real or imaginary. What is certain is that the fear is pervasive. The perception, for example, is that if one publicly criticizes the government or the civil service, there may well be retaliatory consequences – work permits may be delayed or declined, contracts withheld, paperwork “misplaced” …
Our own experience is that these fears are largely exaggerated, but their widespread perception suggests that they should be addressed – and condemned – by our elected leaders and by our governor who represents the principles and values of our sovereign.
After all, freedom of speech without retribution by government is a guaranteed basic right in the Cayman Islands, enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.
At the Compass, as our readers (and letter writers) know, we do not publish anonymous correspondence on our website or in our newspaper. That practice will continue and, in fact, will be expanded.
For some time, we have looked upon our weekly popular online poll with growing unease because many of the comments that are included in the accompanying article are made anonymously. Additionally, publishing the results of the online poll (though we stipulate they are unscientific) nevertheless imbues the results with an unmerited air of accuracy, in terms of gauging the overall opinion of the Cayman public. There have also been instances where people have attempted to “hijack” some of the more “controversial” polls. For example, our recent survey on the cruise dock attracted more than 50,000 duplicate votes by unknown parties attempting to manipulate the poll’s outcome.
Consequently, we have made the decision to cease that feature altogether. Today’s poll will be our last.
At the same time, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new feature called “Sound Off” – that will appear on our website starting Monday. Sound Off is an invitation to Compass readers to tell our editors what’s on their minds, and to leave tips or other news leads, without having to register on the website, or provide a name.
We won’t be publishing anonymous or unverifiable comments, but it’s our way of keeping our ears to the ground. Like the online poll, Sound Off will include a topic of the week in order to spark discussion, but we actively encourage people to send us their thoughts or information on any subject whatsoever.