May 29, 2017

The Editor Speaks: Sharon sizzled

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I was asked to speak last night (Wed 17) at Candidate for George Town East Sharon Roulstone’s Yard Meeting. It was nothing big. Just a few words and a prayer. The prayer was very specific. It was not just for Sharon but for ALL the candidates standing in the May 24th Elections. After a small hesitation I agreed. I was actually humbled.

The Roulstone family were the first family I met when I arrived here 36 years ago. My first rental apartment was from Sharon’s late grandmother and father on South Church Street opposite the old Seaview Hotel.

After I married Joan I found she was very close to Sharon’s mother and aunt, Beth and Gracie.

The family is much loved and Sharon is a real beauty with grace and intelligence on a scale of 100.

Sharon is a lawyer and has been on many government boards including the red hot potato – .

I had never heard her speak on a platform anywhere so I was curious.

Her sister, Shirley, did a very competent job as MC. My turn to speak came and went very quickly. I kept it short. The ever growing audience were not there to hear me.

Sharon came on the stage and immediately captured our attention. She had some notes but she didn’t really need them. What she said came from the heart. She was sincere and, yes, she took a lot of swipes at the present Progressive government but it wasn’t done with malice or a nasty smirk. I hope you are reading this Kenneth Bryan. It was done with figures and her solution. And she asked all of us there: “Don’t our children deserve better?”

Sharon was speaking about the public education system that hasn’t made pretty reading for the Progressives. That they had done better than the McKeeva Bush government before them wasn’t much comfort.

This is what she said:

“Education is the foundation of any civilized country and if the foundation is weak, the country cannot expect to continue to build on it. Over the course of the last three administrations [PPM. Bush, PPM] Education has not been a priority and we have seen the effects. School leavers cannot get jobs or tertiary education because the standard of education has declined to the point where students don’t need maths or English to graduate. We are not preparing our children to compete on a a local, much less, global level which is necessary for many of Cayman’s financial services jobs. Being denied the ability to participate in growing the Cayman economy.through meaningful work creates social and other ills and undermines the foundation of which we speak.

“We continue to ignore Education at our peril. It is time we elect true leaders who will put the needs of our children first by ensuring the Education budget works bottom up, not top down. This will ensure that our children get the resources they’ve been denied, the best quality teachers and the learning support they desperately need in the classrooms. Isn’t that where learning starts? I am running for the largest demographic on non-voters – our children. Please help me be their voice. A vote for me is vote for them.”

I 100% believe her.

Sharon concentrated most of her time on Education and her second was where this last Progressives were really, really poor – IMMIGRATION. I have voiced many Editorials on this subject and this total mess can be where the Progressives may fail in getting re-elected. I warned them time after time but it fell on deaf ears or blind eyes.

My expression “the Progressives Achilles Heel is Immigration” was used by many of the would be MLA’s at the debates. Hmm. I never got the credit either.

Sharon didn’t use it. She was constructive:

“Jobs, Training and Immigration. These three issues all relate to each other but to date, Government has no effective system for linking them to identify the gaps in the job market, providing the training that is required to fill them and provide effective Immigration policies that allow jobs to go to qualified Caymanians. Further our Immigration regulations have not kept pace with our changing circumstances and they, along with the way in which all work and residency permissions are considered, require an overhaul. The current backlog of Permanent Residency applications with their attendant legal implications is but one example of a failed system.

“The system failed primarily because of the disinterest of a government which had no regard for the lives held in the balance and now they want another four years to try to get it right. I know how to get it right, I have a solid background in Immigration and my finger is on the pulse of our current employment needs.

“I believe the solution lies in bringing all three areas under one umbrella entity where their synergies work to produce the most desirable and efficient outcomes. I understand our need to ensure Caymanians have preference for the jobs for which they are qualified, our duty to train or upskill those who require a “leg up” along with the recognition that we will always depend on those with specialist skills to make up the shortfall. We can no longer ignore these pivotal, overarching issues and we certainly cannot wait another four years to try to get them right.”

Sharon got a rousing applause and cheers on all of that.

There was a lot more she said and obviously I did not agree with some of her points, especially on the Independents being preferable to the Party system.

I have to say of all the candidates I have heard Sharon has impressed me the most. She held the attention of everyone present and answered all questions with clarity and thought.

She pressed for more dialogue with the private sector and said if she was elected she would press for partnerships with the private sector and use their expertise. What we do now is amateur and does not work she claimed.

I cannot argue with her on that.

Sharon sizzled and was a wonderful burst of sunshine to what has so far been a pretty tame election.

Most of the televised debates apart from two have been dull. Some of the problem is the structure of the debates. It may work for radio but for television it needs action not static bodies and very dull people giving the questions. Moderators they are not.

On that showing Sharon you deserve to be elected.

Afterthought: Sharon very nearly had to pull out of the election as after she was nominated she was diagnosed with cancer and had to go away for treatment. She also discovered her insurance company refused to pay for the treatment she had done abroad. She said she now understands first hand at what the general public are saying about woeful .

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