Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the speech Prince Charles delivered in front of Cayman’s leaders and well-wishers during a reception, Thursday, at Pedro St. James.
It really is a great joy for my wife and I to join all of you this evening in this rather beautiful setting and to be here in the Cayman Islands. I can really say how greatly touched we have both been by the welcome we have received over these past two days and how much we have enjoyed meeting so many people here as well as on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Believe it or not – well, you have been told by everybody, I think – that I first came to these beautiful islands in 1973 which just proves that I was young once, when I was serving in the Royal Navy on the HMS Minerva. Of course, in those days, as the Premier reminded me yesterday, he was only 12 years old and I’ve met a lot of others by the way who were only 12 years old over the course of today and, of course, as he mentioned, the population of these islands was just over 10,000 people, so an extraordinary amount has changed over the intervening decades and, if I may so, the progress you have made is quite remarkable.
Today, these islands are blessed with excellent schools and hospitals and first-class business and tourism infrastructure.
This is all underpinned by a strong legal system, civil service and police force that provides a secure society, which is the envy of many in the region.
None of this has happened by chance and I could only hope that you are all justifiably proud of what has been achieved on these islands through the foresight, hard work and determination of so many people.
Today, the Cayman Islands punches above its weight in the region and globally, both as an important centre for financial services and as a major tourism destination.
Your new airport, which my wife and I were invited to officially open yesterday, will strengthen your hand in both these regards and will, I trust, ensure Cayman’s position for the future.
With all of this rapid development, there is, it seems to me, an ever greater need to protect your natural environment. I was pleased to see some of the excellent work that the Central Caribbean Marine Institute is doing in Little Cayman to help protect the precious coral reefs that surround these islands, as well as those elsewhere in the world.
Accelerating and potentially catastrophic global warming, along with the acidification and pollution of our oceans are nothing short of a planetary crisis that effects us all and, of course, the health of our oceans is absolutely vital for our shared survival.
For years, I have tried to warn of this impending crisis and of our fundamental responsibility for our children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance.
Now those very children are crying out for concerted action rather than just empty words. In this context, it was heartening to hear the Minister of Environment announce the expansion of Marine Protected Areas which are of such crucial importance.
This is, of course, a most encouraging step but is one that can only really be effective as part of an integrative management plan that deals with waste treatment and plastics. I understand that work is being developed on such a plan and I much look forward to hearing how it progresses since it seems to me that the Cayman Islands could become a shining example of best practice in integrated and genuinely sustainable management of its land-based and ocean resources.
Such an integrated approach is not only essential to protect our eco systems but also, particularly in the Cayman Islands’ case, to protect the long-term viability of economic sectors such as tourism on which they are utterly dependent. Such an innovative and far-sighted approach could become a beacon for the Commonwealth to help lead the world and indeed the whole of nature out of this appalling crisis of our own making.
While on this subject, I can’t help wondering whether the Cayman Islands’ extraordinary financial expertise might not be used in some innovative way as a catalyst to support the urgently needed financing of environmental investment throughout the Commonwealth.
Above all, ladies and gentleman, our visit to the Cayman Islands, the most populous of all the British Overseas Territories, has given us a much appreciated opportunity to celebrate the strong and enduring bond between the Cayman Islands and the U.K. and the importance of the Overseas Territories.
I was so proud to hear of the support that was given by the Cayman Islands to your fellow overseas territories in the region after the devastating hurricanes of 2017, the effects of which I saw for myself when I visited the British Virgin Islands, as well as Antigua, Barbuda
and Dominica. That impressive response underscores the closeness of the vital connections we all enjoy as part of the British family.
We are deeply grateful to have been given such a special welcome on all three islands and to have met so many people from such a diverse range of backgrounds who now call these islands home.
As we leave you this evening, we will take with us the fondest memories of these beautiful islands and the warmth of the Caymanian people.