Cayman Islands Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush has thrown his support behind a public petition to install longtime senior civil servant Franz Manderson as Cayman’s full-time governor.
A www.change.org petition seeking support for Mr. Manderson, 52, to become the British Overseas Territory’s first Caymanian governor was circulated around the islands last weekend and has collected more than 600 signatures.
Speaker Bush said he believed the time is right, given the uncertainty over the appointed U.K. governor at present, for promoting Mr. Manderson, who has held the post of deputy governor in Cayman over the past six years.
“I think it’s an excellent move and whosoever came up with the idea is certainly a good-thinking person concerned about our future,” Mr. Bush said. “I have always maintained that if a person can carry on the work that another person should be doing, then there is no reason not to consider him/her for the substantive post.”
Mr. Manderson served as acting governor after former Governor Helen Kilpatrick left the islands in early March. He has also been in the acting governor’s post since the sudden departure of Governor Anwar Choudhury on or about June 12.
No word has come from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office as to Mr. Choudhury’s fate. Officials have merely said the 59-year-old Bangladeshi-born British diplomat has been “temporarily withdrawn” from the job pending the outcome of an unspecified investigation.
Not all Cayman Islands lawmakers have taken such a rosy view of the proposal contained in the Change.org petition.
“I most certainly do not want in any respect to convey the impression that Mr. Manderson is not a capable and competent leader,” Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo said Wednesday. “However, this move would compel Mr. Manderson, or any other Caymanian chosen for the role, to abandon his loyalty to this country and instead assume a role that would require him to put the interests of the United Kingdom ahead of the Cayman Islands.”
Moreover, Mr. Suckoo said the petition seems to make the supposition that Mr. Choudhury will be permanently removed from Cayman, and seems to support a move toward Caymanian independence from the U.K.
“I suggest that those who are pushing this petition, including the Hon. Speaker who has been actively soliciting support for the petition, let the country know exactly what the motive is behind this petition,” Mr. Suckoo said. “I am very concerned that those who should know better are promoting this impossible idea as a plausible solution for replacing … Governor Choudhury.”
Mr. Bush fired back, stating petition opponents would “find a reason” not to support it “unless it’s them or their crony” selected to be governor.
Cayman’s constitution allows the U.K.-appointed governor to quash legislation passed by the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly if it is found contrary to the interests of Her Majesty’s government. Any appointment to the governor’s post would be made by Her Majesty, the Queen of England acting upon recommendation of the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Although the petition has generated significant discussion on social media sites, there is no indication from Mr. Manderson that such an appointment would be accepted even if it were offered. He has not commented on Cayman Compass questions regarding the matter.
In practice, there could be several problems with appointing a Caymanian governor, not the least of which that other U.K. territories might then demand that their own residents be appointed to their respective governor posts.
Also, the Cayman Islands elected government is seeking to obtain a number of changes to the 2009 Constitution Order, largely aiming to lessen the U.K.’s ability to legislate for its overseas territory. Those changes also include proposals to reduce the powers held by the U.K.-appointed governor.