A quartet of MPs from “across the pond” – we’ll call them Cayman’s “Fab Four” – struck all the right notes on their recent visit to these islands, calling for revision of the United Kingdom’s “untidy” and unequal treatment of its overseas territories.
None of the four – Martin Vickers, Henry Smith, Col. Bob Stewart and Andrew Rosindell – all Conservatives, were complicit in the House of Commons’ May 1 decision to compel Britain’s Overseas Territories – but not the three Crown Dependencies – to create public registers of company ownership. (Messrs. Vickers, Smith and Stewart voted against the amendment. According to parliamentary records, Mr. Rosindell did not vote on the matter.)
Indeed, the four (all members of the All Party Parliamentary Group) appear sensitive to the deteriorating relationship between the U.K. and its overseas territories.
Like Lord Tariq Ahmad, a steady ally who most recently visited in June to discuss public registries and hurricane preparedness, these four elected members appeared eager to understand the U.K.’s relationships – and its responsibilities – to its territories.
Their visit has us wondering how many of the 650 sitting members of the House of Commons have ever visited Cayman to examine firsthand what many have referred to as our “economic miracle.”
Judging by their actions (and the sheer volume of painfully misguided statements uttered during that fateful May 1 debate), many MPs’ “understanding” of the Cayman Islands appears to have been gleaned from John Grisham-like novels, not actual experience.
Throughout their four-day visit, our VIP guests were able to see a somewhat representative image of our islands and our people. Their itinerary took them from the fish market in George Town to Health City in East End, from West Bay to Cayman Brac.
We are not so naïve as to think the current contentiousness between Cayman and Great Britain can be resolved by a brief “goodwill tour” – no matter how pleasant. Still, we allow ourselves to hope the four MPs will serve as willing and capable advocates for our community – forming a “bridge over troubled waters,” so to speak.
During these tense times, even as government officials and business leaders work behind the scenes to attempt to minimize the damage done both by Parliament’s “public register” vote and the unceremonious (and unexplained) suspension of our well-received new governor, Mr. Anwar Choudhury, Cayman cannot have too many friends telling our story, correcting misinformation and encouraging more U.K. decision-makers to come here to form, firsthand, realistic perceptions of the territory they oversee.
Perhaps an underused resource to edify parliamentarians on the Cayman Islands would be the former U.K. governors who actually served here. After spending a number of years in Cayman, many, if not most, left with a genuine love for our people and an appreciation for our culture. Their voices, more than any PR agency we might employ, would have far more access and credibility in the halls of Westminster.
When the All Party Parliamentary Group returns this autumn, we would encourage them to bring along more of their colleagues – as large an entourage as they can muster. We trust they will come to think of Cayman as a welcoming second home, one, we would remind them, that not only flies the Cayman flag but proudly the Union Jack as well.