Governor: I’m ‘the luckiest diplomat’ in the UK

Twelve-year-old Ambreene Choudhury arrived at the governor’s residence on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach Monday afternoon and immediately ran out the back door of her new home to look at the sea.

“Dad,” she asked her father, Cayman Islands Governor Anwar Choudhury, “is this real?”

“That’s what it feels like,” Mr. Choudhury said of his first day in the British Overseas Territory that he’ll be governing for the next three to four years.

“It’s difficult to explain the feeling of arriving in this wonderful, beautiful island. I’m a people person, and what really took me is the warmth … the wonderful warmth of the people. It just feels that the people here are something special.

“I have been on these islands no more than a few hours and I’m already beginning to understand what you mean by Caymankind,” Mr. Choudhury told an audience of hundreds at Pedro St. James Monday night. “Caymankind has a very generous heart, a big smile, and an embrace that makes me feel like the luckiest diplomat in the U.K. today.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin warned the new governor earlier on Monday that all in Cayman is not sandy beaches and bright sunshine, particularly for a veteran diplomat who now has to take on added administrative and governance roles.

The premier put it this way: “You have … the misfortune of having to live on Seven Mile Beach and then having to dress and get in the car and come to work.”

However, Monday night at Pedro St. James was not the time for serious work discussion, said Mr. Choudhury, 58, who marveled at the singing prowess of Rudi Myles and Miss Cayman Anika Conolly, who both performed during the event. He also said the later show by the Cayman Islands Folk Singers group made him want to get up on stage and join in.

“They say the job of an ambassador is to eat and drink for your country,” Mr. Choudhury said. “I would not only want to eat and drink for your country … I would want to sing and dance for your country. I look forward to the next three to four years … working with you, singing with you, dancing with you … to take this country into the brightest, most prosperous future we can have.”

Different job

Mr. Choudhury, who spent about five years as the U.K. ambassador to Peru before arriving in Cayman, told the Cayman Compass in a separate interview Monday night that ambassadorial experience will help in the years to come. Yet, he said he viewed the governor’s position as a combination of diplomatic work, with some policymaking and administrative work thrown in.

“As an ambassador, you’re representing your country in a foreign land,” he said. “[Cayman] is part of our country, as I see it anyway. So this is about governing the best you can to set a strategic direction, helping to get the best quality of life, the best outcome for our country. It is a different role.”

One area Mr. Choudhury said the governor could assist in is bringing ties between Cayman and Britain closer, which he believes the pending separation of the U.K. from the European Union could help to effect. “That will have some challenges for us, but it will also create many opportunities for us.”

“I want us to be closer as a family,” he said, indicating his belief that Cayman could do with some more promotion in the Mother Country. “I want people in Cayman to go to the U.K. more, I want the people in the U.K. to come here.”

For instance, Mr. Choudhury wondered aloud during Monday night’s event at Pedro St. James whether Her Majesty, the Queen of England had ever heard Rudi Myles sing the U.K. national anthem.

“If not, maybe she will,” he said. “[His performance] blew me away.”

Same vision

Mr. Choudhury acknowledges that the relationship between himself and Premier McLaughlin, the elected head of Cayman’s government, is in its early days. However, he said Monday night that he was encouraged the two seemed to have a “common understanding” around crime-fighting plans.

The new governor said he supported Mr. McLaughlin’s statements made recently in the Legislative Assembly about the combining of Her Majesty’s Customs with the Immigration Department for border enforcement, as well as the creation of a new independent coast guard to patrol Cayman’s waters.

“We are blessed with paradise … we need to keep it as that,” Mr. Choudhury told the audience at Pedro St. James, getting some cheers. “We cannot, we will not, allow crime to take away our way of living.”

Mr. Choudhury said Cayman’s little-used National Security Council would meet as soon as possible to discuss crime-fighting strategies.