EDITORIAL – Gov. Kilpatrick: Three cheers for one more year

Governor Helen Kilpatrick
Governor Helen Kilpatrick

It comes as welcome news that Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick has decided to extend her time in office another year, until September 2017.

Governor Kilpatrick — who is the first woman (and more importantly the first chartered accountant) to hold the position of governor in Cayman — has conducted herself admirably during her time here and has become a well-known and well-liked public figure in the islands.

We and many others are pleased that she will remain a member of our community for a bit longer.

The additional 12 months may prove to be the most challenging of her tenure, but also potentially the most rewarding. We needn’t remind our readers that the country’s next election will occur during that time frame, and Cayman’s campaign season is “high tide” for political passions, emotions and sometimes anger. It is useful and reassuring for these transitions of power to occur under the steadying influence of a veteran executive.

The duties of Cayman’s governor, like any foreign service officer, are binary. One part is largely ceremonial, for example the regular receptions at Government House, speeches, appearances at events, bestowing of honors, photo opportunities, etc. — all of the activities that play out in public, which get Governor Kilpatrick’s face in this newspaper, and which, to the ordinary citizen, she is best known for.

The second part is more practical, more substantial and oftentimes far more serious. This involves closed-door discussions, high-level meetings, phone calls overseas, paperwork-shuffling and the handing down of final determinations. Many of these things the citizenry never learns about, except through their eventual impacts on government.

These roles are separate and distinct but can be thought of as being two sides of the same crown.

They do, however, require different skillsets and mindsets. In the performance of her ceremonial duties, Governor Kilpatrick as a rule must be a “people pleaser,” ever-ready to smile, shake hands and share a friendly word with whomever she greets.

On the other side, when she is discharging her practical duties, Governor Kilpatrick must be the opposite. She needs to be tough, no-nonsense and yet conciliatory … but only to a point. She must be comfortable being the person in authority charged, when necessary, with delivering “the bad news.”

Aside from the election, the extra year should give Governor Kilpatrick the opportunity to address with renewed vigor some of the most important issues facing our country that fall under her remit.

Under the heading of law enforcement, Governor Kilpatrick is responsible for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, which will soon be without a full-time police commissioner, once David Baines leaves at the end of May. As most of our readers are well aware, Commissioner Baines’s early departure comes after a (to employ the governor’s words) “recent barrage of unfair criticism and defamatory comments” from some segments of the population.

Until a new police commissioner is appointed, Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis will take charge of the police service, joining the growing ranks of Cayman’s “acting” leaders, which include the acting auditor general (since October 2015), the acting complaints commissioner (since December 2014) and the acting information commissioner (since December 2013) — important watchdog posts under the aegis of Governor Kilpatrick which have gone vacant during her tenure but remain unfilled.

Also concerning is the state of Cayman’s constitutionally and legislatively created commissions, which have been plagued variously by vacancies and lack of supporting legislation, and several of which are barely functioning or not at all.

Then there are the outside threats to Cayman’s viability as an economic entity, the most recent being “The Panama Papers” investigations that, while not directly relating to Cayman, will result in even greater pressures being placed on offshore financial jurisdictions, including Cayman.

Over her final year-and-a-half, the best that Governor Kilpatrick can do for Cayman is to adopt, and strictly adhere to, a three-word mantra explicitly prescribed in the Cayman Islands Constitution, that is: “promote good governance.”