Perhaps the third time will be the proverbial charm. In recent months, Cayman has had two short-term governors – Governor Anwar Choudhury (who was summarily recalled to England under still-secret circumstances) and Acting Governor Franz Manderson (the local favorite for the full-time appointment). Now Martyn Keith Roper will soon take up the Governor’s post full time.
Speaking on behalf of all of us in the Cayman Islands, we congratulate Mr. Roper and welcome him and his wife Elisabeth to our shores.
By all accounts, Mr. Roper is superbly qualified to excel in his new assignment. He has extensive diplomatic experience, having served in postings as diverse as Algeria, Paris, Brazil and Kuwait (during the outbreak of the first Gulf War). He comes to us from his most recent position as Minister and Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing, China, where he oversaw a network of more than 800 people working in five diplomatic posts.
The Halifax, West Yorkshire native has also worked with other British Overseas Territories and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (Out of diplomatic courtesy – and good manners – we’ll withhold our thoughts on the OECD for a more appropriate time and place.)
We have no doubt that during the course of his globetrotting career, Mr. Roper has learned to pack light – as any seasoned traveler does. Unfortunately, when he arrives in Cayman, he will find that there is significant “baggage” waiting for him.
He will assume the office in the aftermath of former Governor Choudhury’s brief tenure and mysterious removal. The FCO’s terse announcement that Mr. Choudhury would not return to the island, but would be reassigned in London, left an unpleasant aftertaste in a community that had largely embraced Mr. Choudhury and his family. Those feelings, we assume, will dissipate over time, but the process would be accelerated if the U.K. were to be more forthcoming on what actually took place.
Another issue, if we may offer our new governor a brief political primer, is the U.K. Parliament’s decision last May to force overseas territories (but not Crown Dependencies) to publish registers of beneficial ownership of companies registered in their jurisdictions. Most islanders, especially those who travel in financial services circles, view that action as both unjust and provocative.
We in Cayman would be wise to remind ourselves that U.K. representatives are here, first and foremost, to represent the interests of their home country. All high-level diplomats on foreign soil have to deal with that reality. The best of them do it with grace and aplomb, but no one in Cayman should be displeased or surprised when Mr. Roper puts the interests of England above those on the ground in Cayman. That is part of the “bargain” that goes along with territories being part of the U.K. family.
The constitutional constraints on Mr. Roper circumscribe his (and England’s) ability to influence and intrude into Cayman’s local affairs. Nevertheless, it would be a misreading to assume that our governors’ role here is largely social and ceremonial – entertaining at Government house, cutting a ribbon here or there, and issuing proclamations. The truth is the governor’s mandate is serious indeed.
Mr. Roper, and his predecessors, have broad – even Draconian – powers to enforce and ensure such notions as “good governance,” national security (meaning particularly the police), and, ultimately, the performance of the civil service.
These are consequential responsibilities and, at this moment in Cayman history, all are in need of serious review, if not outright remediation and repair.
But, it is not the intent of this editorial to frighten Mr. Roper and his wife “Lissie” (as he calls her) away. Quite the contrary.
We are confident they will find our “verdant isles” to be populated by a people who are genuinely friendly and universally welcoming. All are eagerly anticipating their arrival and looking forward to their stay among us.