EDITORIAL – ‘Conspiracy of silence’ surrounding the Choudhury affair

“Following an investigation into a number of allegations Mr. Choudhury will not return to the Cayman Islands as Governor, but will return to another diplomatic posting in London.

“A short term successor will be appointed soon while the recruitment process for a permanent replacement is under way.”

… “Notes for Editors: The FCO will not be commenting further.”

– Statement, U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me,
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died,” said he,
“I never died,” said he.

– Joan Baez, “Joe Hill”

If British officials believe last week’s two-sentence statement on the removal of the territory’s governor will be the final word in the story of Anwar Choudhury in the Cayman Islands, they are dreaming “happy dreams.”

When they removed Mr. Choudhury from office, with no notice and no explanation, they created a victim whose legend is now exceeding any actual accomplishments he (or anyone else) might have been able to achieve during his short stay on these islands. As time goes on, and the authorities remain silent, we can assure them that Mr. Choudhury’s reputation will grow – and the U.K.’s will diminish. It was, and is, a public relations blunder by the FCO not even worthy of a rank amateur. They are in the process of transforming Mr. Choudhury into a martyr.

Mr. Choudhury, of course, was Cayman’s governor for mere weeks, just long enough from his arrival in late March to make an impression as a leader with an intuition for the pulse of the people and a determination to cut through, and cut down, the country’s asphyxiating bureaucracy.

Then, in mid-June, in the equivalent of the dead of night, Governor Choudhury suddenly was no longer among us – “temporarily withdrawn from his post to allow the FCO to investigate a number of complaints against him,” according to the U.K. powers-that-be, writing under the anonymity of the “Office of the Governor.”

Following an “investigation” that lasted longer than Mr. Choudhury’s tenure as governor, the FCO finally confirmed what almost everyone long suspected: Mr. Choudhury is not coming back.

By refusing to present facts or substantive statements, the U.K. – and local officials – have invited Cayman residents to create their own interpretation of events, based on rumors, conjecture and their fertile imaginations.

Here’s one take: Confronted with unsubstantiated allegations, the FCO acted precipitously and prematurely removed Mr. Choudhury from office. The ensuing investigation either proved the allegations, disproved them, or what is most likely, demonstrated the allegations were unprovable. The FCO’s playbook then became familiar to anyone who closely follows governments: Pull out the checkbook and start drafting the nondisclosure agreement.

We assume we will never learn much more about the governor’s removal from the FCO or Mr. Choudhury, but information may come out through other sources.

Certainly, Premier Alden McLaughlin is under no obligation to maintain the FCO’s brand of silence. After all, it was Premier McLaughlin who broke the news about Mr. Choudhury’s removal in June. (FCO officials apparently felt no urgent need to share the fact that they had removed the territory’s top figure in government, and head of Cayman’s roughly 6,000 public servants.)

Remember, the governor and the FCO work for the Queen, but the premier and our MLAs work for the people of Cayman.

Gentlemen, is there anything about the Choudhury affair you would like to share with the people who elected you, whom you represent and, ultimately, to whom you report?