Letters – Giving a voice to the people

“Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The free exchange of ideas is a necessary component of any healthy democracy. That is why the Compass reserves space in each issue for readers and leaders to share their perspectives as letters to the editor.

In 2017, we published dozens of letters from readers discussing everything from pet peeves and pleasant experiences to development and international affairs. Today, we republish excerpts from some of those letters as a reminder of the importance of informed opinion and public deliberation, and in the hopes of inspiring many more letters in the year to come.

Jan. 10: A New Year of great possibilities … and no need to fear Trump

We here in Jamaica and the Caribbean are about to embark on a New Year, one which offers extraordinary opportunities and possibilities for those who dare to dream big.

I would like to encourage all of our countrymen to reach out with both arms stretched wide for a future filled with hope, a chance for new beginnings and the range of opportunities available to us in measures I believe have never been seen before.

I am aware that many among us are labouring with fear and apprehension about the new United States President-elect Donald Trump. I, personally, think a Trump Administration will be great for all of us. I have known him since the 1990s and our paths have continued to cross. While he, like all of us, has his faults, a great many of the things the mainstream media say about him are just not true.

The Donald Trump I know is by no means crazy, prejudiced or a bigot. He is probably the most patriotic, nationalistic American I have ever met. He is always engaging and respectful. He is a well traveled individual from New York and someone I regard as a highly international man. He is not a politician and so he does not polish his words as well as a seasoned politician would. Instead, he shoots from the hip and says it like it is.

I believe he means to do the best he can for the United States and that he will be good for Jamaica and the Caribbean region. Each time that I met him I found him to have a tremendous respect for our region. He was particularly very inquisitive about Jamaica and always wanted to know about life in our country. In a historic gesture, within the first week after the election, Vice President-elect Mike Pence called our Prime Minister Andrew Holness. That immediate, warm, welcoming telephone call is a signal that this new U.S. Administration intends to keep Jamaica in its focus. …

Hon Gordon “Butch” Stewart, OJ, CD

Feb. 24: Physician responds to Lisa Turner’s death

The reality of life is that from the moment we are born the ultimate endpoint is death. Death has an even more shocking and devastating impact when it appears to be untimely or premature, as in the case of Ms. Lisa Turner. Her passing reminds us that tomorrow is promised to no one. My thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family. Having lost both parents within the past two years I can empathize with your pain.

I was not involved with Ms. Turner’s surgical procedure or her postoperative care and await the completion of the post-mortem and medical reviews which will hopefully explain the cause of her death. Until that time we should refrain from speculation.

Medicine is an imperfect science, and as long as it has as its two focus points physicians and patients, there will always be room for human error. We as physicians, healthcare professionals and hospitals must try our best to limit these errors. If we can not eliminate them, at least learn from them.

Some of the most valued lessons I have learned have been from mistakes I have made.

As we strive to improve medicine in the Cayman Islands, it is advisable that:

  1. Health care professionals continue to push for higher standards and excellence in quality healthcare;
  2. We educate the community that in medicine there will be complications, those complications can lead to death, and that can happen whether it is Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital, the Health Services Authority, Health City Cayman Islands, South Florida Baptist Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Cleveland Clinic or any other hospital. That is not an excuse it is simply a reality; and
  3. We are transparent and accountable.

Darley Solomon, MD

March 9: Liquor sales at gas stations

I am publicly calling for an investigation by Minister Wayne Panton into the cabinet order 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 regarding the prohibition of gas stations obtaining liquor licenses.

At the Liquor Licensing Board meeting held Dec. 5, 2016, Prentice Panton, David Khouri and myself appeared before the Board to object to an application brought by Gary Rutty/Peanuts Ltd. for a grant of a package liquor license within the precincts of a gas station in Prospect, the details of which are already well known to the Board. The basis of the objection, was twofold:

That the previous Chairman, Campbell Law had acted ultra vires when he incorrectly made the grant for the license unilaterally under Section 13 of the Liquor Licensing Law (2016 Revision) instead of a consideration before the full Board under Section 12; and

That the grant was prohibited by the existence of an Order in Cabinet which had existed at least since 2002 prohibiting grants to gas stations.

It was my contention that the prohibition was a separate order, separate from lifting the moratorium and that it was not automatically revoked when the period, lifting the moratorium, had expired. We further contended that for the prohibition to be revoked it would have required a subsequent gazette order. The Board disagreed with us and made the grant in favor of Garry Rutty/Peanuts Ltd.

However, we had asked for the matter to be referred to the Attorney General as a matter of national importance considering that it went against long established practice, that saw a moral incongruity with gas stations serving alcohol and gas in the same establishment, not to mention that in the event that our arguments proved to be correct, the action of the Board would have been ultra vires and the license and any subsequent license so granted would be void. These reasons are separate from the obvious economic fallout that the 75 package liquor license retail industry would suffer, when all gas stations (backed by powerful petrol franchises like Esso and Sol) inevitably applied for liquor licenses to match their competition Rubis, and there are 27 gas stations in the Cayman Islands. …

Robert Hamaty

March 24: Derek Haines on bad driving, texting, toddlers and dirt bikes

The awful driving habits of some of our drivers were again exposed on my run home about 5:35 p.m. yesterday (March 22).

Traffic was nose-to-tail and moving slowly as I ran south along the Esterley Tibbetts when I was again confronted by a vehicle overtaking the traffic by driving north along the hard shoulder. I held my ground and on this occasion the driver did pull back onto the road.

Over the next 10 minutes, I witnessed one driver texting with both hands off of the steering wheel whilst still moving, a toddler being allowed to stand on the center console between the adults in the front of the vehicle, a baby sitting on the knee of the front-seat passenger (airbag option I suppose), and approximately 40 percent of the other drivers using their cellphones to chat or text.

As I passed the airport, a motorcycle (trail bike) with no rear license plate was overtaking the traffic. As there was no spare seat, his passenger was standing on the extensions on the rear axle with his hands on the rider’s shoulders; no helmet, of course.

The sad thing is that these are daily happenings and can only ensure that our road death and injury rates are ridiculously high for a small population.

Derek Haines

April 21: Where’s my birth certificate?

… For many, many years now, I have been trying to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate but without success. I have been to our MLAs in my district and other government officials including the previous governor and asked for their assistance, but up until now they have done absolutely nothing to help me.

Also, the personnel in the General Registry, the department responsible for birth certificates, have repeatedly refused to issue me a copy of it.

I am a Caymanian, born on June 15, 1956, to James Derwin Whitaker and Grace L. Smith. I was later re-registered by my mother as being born on June 1, 1957, and my father named as Kivi Albert Ebanks. My name was then changed to Turly Albert Ebanks. This should never been allowed to happen. My “original” birth certificate has the correct details and I need my true identity back. It is not right for me to be living like this. … If not one politician can help me then they are not worthy of their seats in the House.

Turly Albert Ebanks

April 25: Who’s trashing the Brac?

It was Earth Day and once again we found ourselves cleaning up after those shape-shifting, mythological, but-all-too-real duppies who inhabit the bluff on Cayman Brac.

Those rascals had been at it again, partying and wrecking this beautiful island! I could not believe it.

They must boogie at night because we had already walked down Ashton Reid road a day or so before, collecting their discarded beer cans, bottles, cigarette packs, styrofoam dinner plates and boxes; and we had bagged them up for the trash collectors.

But there was the mess, all over again.

Unbelievable!

Why do they want to litter such an island gem and what can we do about them!?

Surely they were here even before people settled the place.

Maybe some of the old-timers can communicate and give them a comeuppance. Or the teachers in the schools. Or the pastors.

Maybe some of these good candidates hoping to be elected … maybe some of them speak duppy.

Roger Bowen, Cayman Brac

May 17: Qualities to look for in political candidates

We have only seven days to go until a historic election in the Cayman Islands. Maybe everyone has made up his/her mind already, but I felt compelled to share the following thoughts and hope you will find it relevant and helpful in this very important decision.

I am most heartened to see a large number of young, mature, seasoned, educated professionals that have decided to offer themselves to their country at a time when they have so much to give, so much time to give, so much to learn, and so much to tackle. I am heartened that many of them have been trained in Creative Christian Character and that gives me reason to feel optimistic.

Most politicians are viewed as selfish, over-confident, untrustworthy, and in it for the money. We have had some reason to believe that eyes are dazzled by the money, the prestige, and the power, and I am not naive enough to believe that some are not like that but I choose to take a different view.

Although I have had a number of disappointments in our representatives, I choose to believe that many are unselfish, sacrificial and passionate about this small island country and its people. It takes both a lot of pride and a lot of humility to ask the people to give you a job every four years, to brag about yourself and your accomplishments and to take the “abuse” from the naysayers.

This election is historic in many ways, not the least of which is that choice has been greatly reduced and we are no longer able to vote for the person in our districts that we feel is best for the country. Our choice has been limited to a very small group who has chosen to become candidates in a mini-constituency of approximately 1,500 people. …

You may not have all the information you need about your candidates … but find out what you can, establish your priorities, rate them and then finally, pray for guidance in making a choice. You have only ONE vote.

Choose thoughtfully, critically, prayerfully.

Marjorie Ebanks

June 21: Lawmakers setting a frugal example?

I was just trying to stay calm whilst reading of MLAs’ unconscionable “constituency allowances.” …

It is especially disappointing to note the disgraceful amounts of money claimed by our two Sister Islands representatives. They have apparently been collecting $15,000 between themselves each month, supposedly for constituency and “travel requirements.” This amounts to $720,000 over the last four years. …

I have a suggestion for the next four years, based upon the wonderful example set by our Premier in 2009, when he decided to forego his “constituency allowance.” If all of the MLAs withstood the temptation of greed and limited any “constituency needs” to a bare minimum, the country would save some $2.5 million over the next four years. …

Brackers do not think kindly of Government frittering away money in an unnecessary, unmonitored fashion. I sincerely hope representatives, in exercising their Christian conscience, will simply claim a minimum monthly allowance for their negligible “constituency” needs going forward.

J.L. Bodden

June 26: RIP, Judge Douglas

RIP, Kipling Douglas, one of the greatest judges in Cayman history. I came before him 20 or so years ago as six people were arrested for speeding on the Brac’s lower crossover road.

We were all speeding the same (39 MPH in a 25 MPH zone) and when he asked if any of us had anything to say, I said if so many of us were going the same speed, perhaps there was something wrong with the police radar machine.

Judge Douglas said he was letting me off without endorsing my CI licence as perhaps I was right! I paid the fine and drove carefully ever after on the Brac. A brilliant man and fine judge, God bless him!

Nan Socolow

July 19: Something new in Cayman education? Let’s return to the old

The recent story of 17 students passing a math exam out of 139 re-taking it points out the sorry state of education in Cayman’s public schools. We have spent millions of dollars on new physical facilities which turn out the same unacceptable results. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and expecting different results.

Want a different result? Go back to the tried and true old ways. Ever since educators bought into “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in other words, into the “new math,” that there is no need for teaching English grammar nor sentence construction, and into the fantasy that every child is intellectually curious, many high school graduates cannot read, write or do basic math, let alone know very much about the wide world around them. This is the product being foisted on unsuspecting, but increasingly aware, employers. …

I do not blame teachers who are caught up, along with students and their parents, in this grand charade. However, it is time to stop the charade and tell the truth. Why were methods of teaching and doing math, which had been successful for centuries, thrown over for the “new” math, the new utopia? I would venture a guess that Linton Tibbetts, when growing up on the Brac, was not taught the “new” math. I would also venture that, along with the “old” math, he was taught English grammar, geography, physics and civics. …

Paul Simon

Aug. 26: Why all this hatred for ‘Foots’?

Not many years ago a young Jamaican lady apologized to the Caymanians for what her countrymen were saying about Caymanians. Now some of us Caymanians would like to apologize to Mr. Ronald “Foots” Kynes regarding the way Caymanians have been treating him.

The scripture tells us that God created us equal in His image and likeness, so how can we have hatred in our hearts concerning Mr. Kynes and his art pieces? God loves him just as much as anyone else.

This reminds me of what Jesus said about those without sin casting the first stone. He even told His disciples that people might kill them and think that they were doing God a favour.

Where have Cayman’s God-fearing people got this hatred from? Where is the love?

Velma Herod

Sept. 22: Visitor is concerned by growth

I have been coming to Grand Cayman since 1983. Nice island, good people and beautiful water. I had occasion to spend some time there recently for the first time in several years.

As I usually do, I rented a car and drove around the island. I was stunned at the massive growth and increase of traffic. I hope you get a handle on things. It’s just like driving around in the U.S.: stressful.

As a Caymanian told me, “We have lost our island charm.” Sadly, she’s right.

Larry Neichter
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.

Oct. 4: The necessity of true values-based decisions

It has been wisely observed that when public policies are crafted and decisions made with financial gain as the “bottom line,” the end results are never in the interests of the public at large. In a free-market system, it is natural to expect that a major value steering the decisions of merchants is financial gain; money is the bottom line. However, governments exist to ensure that capitalism’s greed does not go unchecked or unregulated.

Reflecting on the ongoing drama of “Peanuts” and the Liquor Licensing Board, and the growing list of cast members, it is clear to me that the values driving public policy and merchants’ aspirations are too similar to provide any protection of public interests. Clearly it does not matter that the results of mixing gasoline and alcohol, so to speak, create a deadly cocktail, as our road-death records remind us. Nor does it seem to matter that there is no dearth of retail outlets for the sale of liquor in our little island, nor, sadly, that the one day that Caymanians traditionally held some level of respect for, and therefore exercised some restraint in the matter of dispensing liquor to the public, is now being treated like any other day.

I suppose that policies and decisions are made by those in authority on the basis of what is fair. But fair to whom? Is it just the merchants that must be considered, so that if “Coconuts” has a license to sell liquor, then to be fair, one cannot deny “Peanuts.” What about the rest of us? The general public? Does it not matter that it is an established fact (not personal opinion) that alcohol as a drug has caused more deaths in multiple ways than any other drug – legal or prohibited?

I applaud the notion of “value-based decision-making” as a sane and conscientious approach to policy formation and actions. Thus I would plead for our legislators to revisit, review and reappraise the values that underlie the laws, and therefore shape the decisions that bodies like the Liquor Licensing Board are constrained to make.

There are values far greater than financial gain that must inform the decisions of public-serving bodies, from the Legislature down to statutory boards, if the true interests of all persons are to be served.

Alson Ebanks
Senior Pastor, Church of God Chapel

Oct. 17: Anguilla is grateful for aid from Cayman

I have lived on your sister island and British Overseas Territory of Anguilla for more than 30 years.

Being in the financial services industry (and serving on the boards and councils of various organizations), we have great working relationships with excellent service providers in Cayman.

It is my regret that I’ve only been to Cayman once, about 25 years ago when Cayman hosted the training sessions for incoming Rotary presidents and secretaries and, even then, much about Cayman impressed me.

As adequate words do not exist, and in my capacity as a private but very appreciative individual, please allow me to express the utmost thanks to the Government, the Rotary Club (and especially Chris Johnson), Health City Cayman Islands, as well as all of the people of the Cayman Islands for all of the help and assistance they have provided to Anguilla in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

I am in receipt of a donation and this is being handed over to the Anguilla Red Cross, who have been doing excellent work, making sure that those in the greatest need are taken care of.

We are gradually recovering but it will take quite a while before we are fully recovered, but we would not be at this stage without your thoughtfulness, decisiveness and generosity.

Heaven forbid that Cayman should ever “get an Irma” but I would expect that Anguilla would do what it could to help.

With gratitude,

Graham Crabtree

Nov. 21: Protecting marine life is a matter of survival

As much as I appreciate and support the National Conservation Council’s dedication to and faithful efforts toward preserving our environment, I respectfully and fervently disagree with their proposed change in plans to phase out spearfishing (aside from licensed lionfish spears).

I grew up fishing and spearfishing in California, but gave up both after witnessing how devastating my own spearfishing was on reef fish, which are territorial and much longer lived than I had thought in my youthful ignorance. …

Mature fish do not cross pelagic waters, so there is no new stream of them coming in from the deep sea. The edge of our shelf acts like an aquarium wall to them.

Studying marine biology, I learned that egg production increases exponentially with a fish’s age and size. Unlike us, they never stop growing as they age. The older and bigger, the more valuable they are to any restoration effort. It is human nature to go for the largest fish you can find, so spearfishing, which affords selectivity, is very effective at reducing replenishment. This is especially problematic on our reefs, which are severely over-fished from roughly 40 years of unsustainable take by a wide variety of methods … not just from spearfishing!

My argument is not about how we got into this dilemma, but what we must now do to resolve it. Having moved to Cayman in 1983 as a scuba instructor/underwater photographer, I heard our most experienced divemasters grumbling and moaning about how quickly all of the big fish and big schools of fish were disappearing, and soon saw it for myself. The big old territorial masters that I had gotten to know intimately and could count on greeting the divers I was leading, were not returning after spawning season. With thousands of dives since, I have seen our most valuable tourism attraction vanishing before my eyes. …

There is more at stake than merely what is currently tens of millions of dollars per year in diving tourism income if we fail. This is a significant, potentially perpetually sustainable food stock for all future generations of Caymanians that we are losing. … At the very least, every resident should download the Department of Environment’s easy-to-use phone app called “Siren” available on its website, which makes all of the regulations immediately accessible to you so that you can become part of the solution. Use it to help stop poachers and to avoid unknowingly becoming one yourself. He hath founded it upon the seas and then He made us His stewards.

Courtney Platt

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