Anwar Choudhury was sworn in Monday afternoon as the Cayman Islands governor during a ceremony at the Legislative Assembly building in downtown George Town.
The U.K.-appointed representative said he was humbled by his new responsibilities, the first such posting in a British Overseas Territory during his long public service career.
“I know I will have much to learn in the months and years ahead,” Mr. Choudhury said during his first address to the Legislative Assembly. “I am here to serve you … nothing gives me more pleasure than to serve.
“You will find my door open to you. I will defend your rights and prosperity with everything that I have at my disposal.”
Rather than avoid some of more controversial matters that U.K.-appointed governors have sometimes been reluctant to address in the past, Mr. Choudhury seemed to prefer to meet them head-on during his introductory address.
For instance, he noted some media reports had labeled him Cayman’s “first Muslim governor.” Mr. Choudhury is Muslim, but he said that’s not how he sees his new role.
“I am, first and foremost, Her Majesty’s governor and your governor,” he said.
The new governor set out four distinct areas his administration would focus on specifically during his time here, listing them as: crime reduction, protecting Cayman’s financial services and independent judiciary, protecting human rights and forging closer links between Cayman and the U.K.
Mr. Choudhury said he’d spent a career protecting people’s human rights regardless of their color, race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation and intended to faithfully serve the Cayman Islands Constitution in that regard while in the governor’s office.
Both Mr. Choudhury and Premier Alden McLaughlin during their respective addresses Monday afternoon listed crime-fighting as a top priority. Mr. Choudhury said he was encouraged by recent comments Mr. McLaughlin made in the Legislative Assembly about the establishment of a new border control agency and a coast guard.
“I will not compromise in this area,” the new governor said of crime reduction and public safety. “It is our responsibility to keep these islands safe so we can enjoy our quality of life and not lose it to crime.”
Premier McLaughlin welcomed Governor Choudhury during his own address to the assembly Monday and offered a bit of advice to the new U.K. appointee. Mr. McLaughlin noted that Mr. Choudhury would be the sixth governor he has served alongside as an elected assembly member.
“The governors who have done best in these islands are those who took the time to understand the people, to understand the issues which the country faces and to not believe that there is some cookie-cutter approach which can be uniformly applied across the [British] territories with good results,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Governor Choudhury arrived on a Cayman Airways flight just before noon Monday at Owen Roberts International Airport where he was greeted by an honor guard of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, led by Commissioner Derek Byrne.
Premier McLaughlin, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush, Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller and most of the serving members of the Legislative Assembly were also on hand to welcome the territory’s new appointed leader. Senior public officials including Attorney General Sam Bulgin, Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson and Civil Service Portfolio Chief Officer Gloria McField-Nixon also attended.
Governor Choudhury emerged from the plane and walked down the jetway, holding his three-month-old daughter, Emilia, in his arms. Mr. Choudhury’s wife, Momina and his two older daughters, 15-year-old Amani and 12-year-old Ambreene walked behind, one of them taking the small child into her arms when Mr. Choudhury went to greet the deputy governor and the premier.
Mr. Choudhury also said Monday that he has an adult son who works in the financial services industry who may join him in Cayman later on. He said his entire family was looking forward to their time in Cayman, including the “now famous” baby Emilia.
After a brief review of the police guard on the airport tarmac, Mr. Choudhury met and spoke with each attending MLA and senior civil servant who had all lined up in two rows next to the police guard; a sort of impromptu review of the territorial leadership.
Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush said he was glad to meet the new governor, who indicated during his brief talk with Mr. Bush that he’d “heard a lot about” the Cayman Islands House Speaker.
“I was happy to see him with his family,” Mr. Bush said shortly after the new governor’s arrival.
Mr. Bush expounded on those comments later on in the Legislative Assembly: “I must say, sir, I was glad, happy to see you walk off the plane with your baby in your arms and your family following. I think it bodes well for the new beginning.”
The Cayman Islands Cadet Corps had two representatives on hand who offered a small basket of goodies from the islands, including rum cake, barbecue sauce, pepper jelly and mint candies, which was given to Mr. Choudhury as he walked to the governor’s car to depart the airport.
Premier Alden McLaughlin’s office noted it would also present the new governor with a basket of vegetables picked fresh from the premier’s private farm in East End as part of a nighttime celebration at Pedro St. James Monday evening.
Diplomat, military man
Mr. Choudhury is likely to approach the governor’s role from a very different perspective than his predecessor, Helen Kilpatrick, who was an accountant who worked her entire career in the U.K. before arriving in Cayman. Mr. Choudhury’s service includes a stint with the military and experience working on three continents, but this is also his first posting in the Caribbean.
The Bangladeshi-born British citizen has spent the past five years as the U.K. ambassador to Peru. Before that, Mr. Choudhury served as the U.K. foreign office director of “diplomatic excellence” from 2012 to 2013 and director of “international institutions” from 2008 to 2011.
He was the British high commissioner in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 2004 to 2008, the first non-U.K. born, ethnic-minority individual ever appointed to that post, according to reports in the British press at the time.
Earlier in his career, he served as director of e-government for the U.K. Cabinet Office between 2000-2004.
He also has significant experience in the British military, having served in both the Royal Air Force and at the Ministry of Defence.