“There is no future … in isolationist policies, in over-protectionism and constantly hammering … the source of Cayman’s prosperity.”
– Premier Alden McLaughlin
On Tuesday in the Legislative Assembly, the elected leader of our country stood tall and delivered a principled message of inclusion, decency, judiciousness and foresight.
The premier’s speech represents an important moment for Mr. McLaughlin as a statesman and the Cayman Islands as a society.
When our country first began to achieve success as a financial services and tourism destination, Cayman’s population – local and foreign – was largely unified by a sense of common purpose.
Over the decades – as the expatriates’ share of the population approached 50 percent – amid the accumulating trappings of wealth and the evolving physical landscape of our islands, the appearance of inequality (some real, some perceived) simultaneously began to develop.
Are some individuals in Cayman “better off” than others? Of course.
Is almost everyone in Cayman – to a man, woman and child – “better off” now than they would have been in Cayman’s economy of 60 years ago?
Also of course.
Rather than focusing on the undeniable common prosperity enjoyed by our country and made possible by the mutually beneficial partnership forged generations ago between Caymanians and non-Caymanians – waves of politicians, opportunists and the downright disgruntled have increasingly engaged in oratorical odium that has reverberated within the walls of the Legislative Assembly, been amplified on the campaign trail and echoed throughout the anonymous comments on local websites and social media.
With words and deeds, they have widened the cracks fragmenting our population and caused new fissures to form.
Premier McLaughlin in his House remarks was calling on the people of these islands to reject purposeful divisiveness and the hate speech promulgated by the loud and the few. On the House floor, such speech is protected by parliamentary privilege; in the media it is protected by anonymity.
The premier’s speech was an affirmation of the basic alignment of views of Cayman’s two major parties and leading politicians – Mr. McLaughlin and Speaker McKeeva Bush, who, to give him his due, has long sung from this songsheet.
Of course, there will always be hate-filled voices in our community, and neither the premier, the speaker, or anyone else in our free society should attempt to silence them (unless they breach the boundaries of libel and defamation).
No, the antidote to hate speech, divisive speech or merely speech that we may find disagreeable, paradoxically, is not less speech – but more. We must identify, isolate, and vociferously condemn those who choose to divide us as a small island nation, populated roughly equally by Caymanians and foreign residents who have moved here from more than 100 countries.
In truth, many of Cayman’s actual adversaries exist beyond our borders, and they are launching continual assaults on our country, the fundamental underpinnings of our economic model and our conservative social values.
These are beliefs worth standing up for and, collectively, speaking up for.