Cayman Islands MLA calls for study of root causes of declining social conditions
With the Chief Justice highlighting the pressing need for more courtrooms at the Opening of the 2019 Session of the Grand Court this week (Wednesday, January 16, 2019), MLA Alva Suckoo is again raising the alarm that the social conditions of Caymanians are declining and has called on Government to address underlying causes with urgency.
Mr. Suckoo issued this call to action against the backdrop of the Social Mobility Motion recently debated in the Legislature and which failed to gain the support of the Government. The MLA’s Social Mobility Motion had asked the Government to commission a study on the root causes of the barriers to Caymanians moving from one socio-economic strata to the next.
“This would include,” he said, “understanding the root causes of increasing criminality.”
In his address Chief Justice Anthony Smellie stated: “And so I leave this subject this year on the cautionary note, that while we will soon have another courtroom for the conduct of criminal trials, we already urgently need at least three more to ensure that the Summary Courts, as well as the Grand Court, can continue to dispense justice in these cases in a timely manner.”
Commenting, Mr Suckoo said that he regards this statement as “a stark warning to the country that criminality has grown beyond the capability of the courts to dispense justice in a timely way and signals the breakdown of law and order on a widening scale.”
Mr. Suckoo said that the Chief Justice’s warning about the court’s capacity to dispense justice in a timely way brought the need for the study his Motion had called for in sharper focus: “We now see these concerns highlighted by the Chief Justice,” he said, adding: “I hope that while the Government essentially trivialized my Motion, they will pay close attention to the Chief Justice.”
Turning to his disappointment that the Motion failed to win the Government’s support, the MLA said that he had envisaged that the study would ultimately lead “to the creation of policies and initiatives to address the myriad existing social problems that serve as obstacles to Caymanians leading productive and happy lives.”
Mr Suckoo said that he believes that these obstacles continue to impede progress of many Caymanians, despite the many development projects in progress and that promise so-called “trickle-down” benefits for everyone.
“Far too many people are not earning enough to sustain themselves and their families, many are not sufficiently educated and trained to be able to secure adequate wages, and far too many are turning to criminality,” he said.
As a result of these declining social conditions, the MLA said, pressures are being felt in the court system, in the way we do business, in family life, and in the school system: “We see it every day—more and more people are showing up in the court system, serious crimes have become commonplace, cheap labour has become a requirement of doing business, and our children are leaving the school system unprepared to fend for themselves.”
To rectify these declining social conditions, Mr. Suckoo said, a new approach was called for: “What is needed is a radical shift in thinking and in our approach. We can no longer simply react in an ad hoc fashion to every problem that is thrown at us,” as that would inevitably “result in more courtrooms, a bigger prison, and a society where law and order is reduced to where we no longer feel safe and secure.”
Mr. Suckoo decried this traditional reactive approach and appealed for a proactive mindset that would examine the root causes of social problems in order to gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to reverse the trends.
“Until we change our thinking and our approach, our social conditions will continue to deteriorate,” Mr. Suckoo predicted, tracing the increasing demands for facilities at the court: “We went from needing a new courthouse and securing a new building, to needing three additional courtrooms not even a year into the new building’s acquisition. If that doesn’t concern the Government, then they are living in denial.”