When Governor Martyn Keith Roper, OBE, arrives today with his wife Elisabeth, they will be greeted with all the pomp and pageantry we associate with Cayman’s “changing of the guard.”
They will be welcomed by government leaders and a police guard of honor at Owen Roberts International Airport. They will pay a visit to their new home at Government House before returning to George Town for Governor Roper’s official swearing in.
If they follow precedent, they will in their early days tour the districts, greeting our people and seeing firsthand the islands that have been entrusted to Governor Roper’s leadership. In fact, we can reliably report that the new governor will be visiting the Sister Islands on Friday.
We should bear in mind that protocol plays an important role in times of significant change. Familiarity, and even formality, is a comforting touchstone reminding us that while individual governors serve for but a brief time, the Office of the Governor is an enduring and stabilizing institution.
The role of governor – indeed, the role of most diplomats on the world stage – includes many ceremonial and symbolic responsibilities. The importance of these duties should not be discounted. In fact, Cayman derives much of its identity, its “British-ness,” from the governor’s personification and representation of the Mother Country.
But the governor also serves an executive function, ultimately responsible for the safety and security of these islands and their people. Moreover, as governor, Mr. Roper is constitutionally charged with promoting “good governance,” overseeing the civil service, as well as appointing members of the judiciary and public commissions. He also possesses a significant, if rarely exercised, authority to overrule legislation passed by our elected officials when he feels their decisions are not in the interests of the public, or the Queen.
It is a powerful position, so understandably all eyes will be scanning for telling clues to Mr. Roper’s temperament, personality and propensities as he becomes familiar with the islands and his responsibilities.
Our advice to him – and to the Cayman people – frankly, is to relax. The relationship between the governor and the governed will evolve at its own pace. It should not be rushed, and opinions and conclusions should not be “jumped to” precipitously or prematurely.
We fully expect that the next few days for Mr. Roper and his wife will be a bit of an overwhelming blur. “Franz” and “Alden” and “Ezzard” and “McKeeva” may be household names to us (their surnames might be needed for formality but certainly not for identification). But for the Ropers, these VIPs will be little more than faces in an anonymous sea.
Fortunately, Governor Roper will have a good guide among his staff, in particular Matthew Forbes, who serves as the chief of staff in the Governor’s Office. Mr. Forbes and Mr. Roper are well acquainted, their career paths having intersected during previous diplomatic postings (Mr. Forbes in Shanghai, Mr. Roper in Beijing). Importantly, Mr. Forbes has been in Cayman long enough to know the “good guys” from the “bad guys,” and, overall, who’s who.
Soon after a number of governors have arrived on these islands, the publisher of this newspaper has given the newcomers a fairly large pin-on button. It reads: “The Cayman Islands – they’re something that happen to you at mid-passage.”
This newspaper welcomes Governor and Elisabeth Roper. Speaking for all who call Cayman home, we are delighted to have you among us.