“Anwar Choudhury, Governor of the Cayman Islands, has been temporarily withdrawn from his post to allow the FCO to investigate a number of complaints against him.
“The Deputy Governor, the Hon. Franz Manderson, will be the Acting Governor until the investigation has been completed.”
— Full statement on the departure of Gov. Choudhury, Cayman Islands Governor’s Office
Just more than two months after his arrival, the Governor of the Cayman Islands is gone – in bureaucratic-speak, “temporarily withdrawn.” What is unspoken, but readily presumable, is that he is unlikely to return.
Whatever the actual intentions of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (in conjunction with top officials in the Cayman Islands), the manner in which they have handled the situation involving Anwar Choudhury has had the direct effect of besmirching the name and character of a 15-year diplomat with decades of service in the U.K.’s public, private and military sectors.
Additionally, the mystery-cloaked “withdrawal” of the governor has left Cayman without the leader of our executive branch of government, the “CEO” of some 6,000 employees in the public service, and the titular head of the country, deriving his authority from Her Majesty the Queen.
What is Mr. Choudhury’s alleged offense? Did it happen in Cayman, or elsewhere? What is the nature of the “number of complaints”? Who made the complaints? What does the FCO’s investigation entail? What are the potential consequences? What has happened to our governor?
The truth is, we don’t know.
Publicly, all we as a country have been presented with are reputation-destroying generalities. Privately, as a newspaper staffed with well-connected journalists, all we have heard are unpublishable whispers, and hints of the existence of one or more “fireable offenses” that officials won’t confirm, even under the strictest “off the record” terms.
We can think of at least three people who do know the content of the complaints leveled against Mr. Choudhury. First, Head of the Governor’s Office Matthew Forbes, who (from multiple anonymous sources) we understand generated the complaint on behalf of governor’s office staff.
Second, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who is now the acting governor in Governor Choudhury’s stead. Third, at least one FCO official in the U.K. who received and acted upon the complaint.
What those three entities have in common, in addition to their knowledge, is their shared vow of silence on this issue that rivals anything we’ve seen in a monastery.
Adding a fourth to this cast of players is Premier Alden McLaughlin, who, in the absence of forthcoming comment from the FCO, appropriately took it upon himself to issue a public statement to his country on Mr. Choudhury’s “withdrawal” based on the information he had been told.
We won’t refer to any specific work of William Shakespeare, but a common thread in political dramaturgy is the toppling of a strong-willed and controversial leader by a cadre of rivals from within. The “withdrawal” of Mr. Choudhury to the U.K. for investigation may not constitute an assassination, but it certainly was an ambush.
In fact, we have been reliably informed that Mr. Choudhury’s wife, Momina, who remains on island with their newborn child, was not even notified by U.K. officials until late Wednesday afternoon that her husband had been relieved of his position. That is unacceptable and cruel by any civilized standard.
While the allegations against Mr. Choudhury remain, for now, “classified” – it is no secret that, as governor, Mr. Choudhury styled himself as an agent of change, interpreting his provenance for “good governance” as a charge to burn back Cayman’s out-of-control bureaucratic briar patch. That has made him many friends in the private sector, outside of government – but just as many opponents inside government.
In the absence of evidence and explanations, that is the narrative that has begun to take hold in the local community, which warmly embraced Mr. Choudhury and his family since his first day on the job, with his popular esteem growing as a result of his personal energy and proactive proposals.
At this point, we will reemphasize that we know little about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Choudhury’s departure. If U.K. or local officials do choose to present information on this topic that elucidates or illuminates the course of action that is being taken, we will readily listen and are prepared to amend our editorial position in response to the available facts.
But until then, our position is this: Give us the evidence – or give us back our governor.