EDITORIAL – The lights come back on at Government House

It’s no coincidence that so many literary giants found inspiration in the halls and on the grounds of England’s country manors, which in reality were the economic (and often official) hubs of rural life in times gone by.

In English prose, the country house appears frequently, as settings and also as characters. More than a static backdrop, these stately homes and their bustling communities drove the plots and inspired the musings of authors as diverse as Sir Thomas More, Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Kazuo Ishiguro and many others.

Here in Grand Cayman, our “country’s house” – Government House – holds a similarly pivotal role, significant in terms of symbolism and function. In recent months, the home’s darkened windows and hollow hallways reflected the somber and uncertain mood of our territory, as Cayman has been swept up in intrigue and whispers surrounding the abrupt removal of former Governor Anwar Choudhury.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the overall expectation leading up to the arrival of Governor Martyn Roper and wife Elisabeth was one of, if not joy, certainly relief.

Government House may be “ever so humble” in comparison to, say, official residences such as the White House or 10 Downing Street, but in many ways it is the “hearth and heart” of Cayman Islands society. Most governors have honored that tradition by hosting events, dinners and functions, like Monday’s private welcome reception for the Ropers, attended by (according to our count) some 200 invited guests.

At the conclusion of what must have been a long and wearying day of traveling and ceremonies, the governor and his wife greeted with grace and kindness the crowds of inquisitive strangers.

Although they had only been in Cayman for a few hours, the Ropers already appeared at ease in their new home and in their new roles.

Those of us who first arrived to this country as adults can well imagine the thoughts that raced through the governor’s mind when he caught his first glimpse of the Caribbean Sea from the back veranda of Government House.

What better first impression could there be for our country than the unparalleled view of Seven Mile Beach on a gorgeous day of sunshine and soft breezes?

Certainly, we would hope, Cayman appeared favorably compared to some of the governor’s previous (perhaps less picturesque and more challenging) postings, for example, the weeks where he was “held hostage” in Kuwait during the invasion and occupation by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, or when he was among a group of British diplomats expelled from Iran.

On the part of Cayman, the appointment and arrival of the governor signifies a return to normalcy after the tumultuous departure of the brief-tenured Governor Choudhury.

During the months-long interregnum, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson stepped up (yet again) to act as Cayman’s governor, but by definition, no “acting” appointment can carry with it a sense of certainty or permanence.

Having a U.K.-appointed governor is a necessary component of Cayman’s status as a British Overseas Territory – a relationship that confers benefits upon both the colonizer and the colonized.

One of the greatest advantages for Cayman, of course, is the political stability upon which is predicated our public safety, judicial system and financial services industry – and by extension, our social and economic well-being.