How much do the people of the Cayman Islands really know about their U.K.-appointed governors?
For many, we would argue, not that much — apart from a glimpse (or perhaps a handshake) at a Government House event, photographs or quotations appearing in the newspaper, and perhaps the knowledge, generally, that the governor is charged with promoting “good governance” in the Cayman Islands.
The publication of annual reports submitted to the British government by Cayman’s governors, over a period of 20 years, provides the rare opportunity to peer behind the doors of Government House and gain a glimpse of what has been on our governors’ minds.
For the most part, the yearly “despatches” to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are targeted precisely at the elusive notion of “good governance” and how the governors have attempted to steer Cayman officials toward it. The reports are also tinged with the tapestry of human life, and from time to time, candid statements that if uttered aloud in public might be construed as “un-Governorly.”
The issues that seem to preoccupy our governors are familiar ones to members of our community and readers of the Compass: For example, crime, natural disasters, international finance, immigration, tourism and irresponsible government spending — within the context of an awareness of the potential explosiveness of a Caymanian-expatriate divide.
What may not be as apparent is governors’ steady focus on particular topics, such as pro-environment causes and efforts to combat local drug use.
And then there’s the un-ignorable presence of elected lawmaker McKeeva Bush — or, as Governor Michael Gore described him, “the scourge of my predecessor but an honest and dedicated man who has already proved his mettle …”
As somewhat of an aside, one dynamic we found interesting was governors’ tracking of Caymanian attitudes toward gay rights. Most recognized the reluctance of our country’s socially conservative population to accept the adoption of those rights locally. At least one identified pro-gay rights pressure from the European Union as a potential catalyst for the splintering of Cayman’s relationship with the U.K.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, successive governors have kept their fingers on the populist pulse, in order to gauge the likelihood of Cayman rising up in a true pro-independence movement. The analysis of the issue was generally punctuated with the observation that most officials and Caymanians understand the benefits of the existing relationship with the U.K. and do not desire to forge ahead on their own.
We would say that, informed by regional history and the state of local current affairs, that conclusion is both accurate and wise.
Still flush from the successful visit to Cayman from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in early 1994, Governor Gore wrote, “Everyone was clearly delighted that their Queen had decided to revisit the Islands.
“The trappings of the United States may be evident in the Cayman Islands but there remains a close affinity for Britain.”