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Ex reporter stands up for Cayman’s media

John EvansJohn Evans, the Englishman who lit the fuse on the “Operation Tempura” fiasco when he was a reporter on Grand Cayman working for Cayman Net News has complained to a United kingdom Member of Parliament about what he calls is the an almost unprecedented attack on the media in the Cayman Islands by the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office.

I have re-published in full Evans’ letter to Elizabeth Truss MP dated 17 July 2014 following permission from the author.

Elizabeth Truss MP was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 15 July 2014. She is the Conservative MP for south west Norfolk.

To: Elizabeth Truss MP

From: John Evans

Date: 17 July 2014

Dear Mrs Truss

Cayman Islands

Firstly, my congratulations on your new appointment. There is always a feeling of reflected pride when the abilities of ‘our MP’ are recognised in this way.

Unfortunately, I am writing to again raise the sorry saga of Operation Tempura and the seemingly never-ending, and increasingly expensive, fallout from it

Attached are four pages from a 28-page decision by the Acting Information Commissioner of the Cayman Islands. The full document can be found at appeals by clicking on the link to Decision 41.

To briefly put this all in perspective. The report that is the subject of this FOI request was prepared in 2010 in response to a complaint filed by two former members of the Operation Tempura team. In January 2011 details of the complaint were published by the Financial Times. Under circumstances that are still unclear, the report was then quickly finalised and released to one of the complainants in March 2011 on condition that the contents were kept secret. The 185-page report cost CI$335,000 (roughly £240,000) and the legal costs so far run to CI$190,000 (£135,000) for the Governor’s Office and CI$175,000 (£125,000) for the Information Commissioner. This fiasco has cost at least £500,000 to date and looks likely to add a lot more to that figure in the coming months. As with Tempura itself this expenditure has achieved absolutely nothing except to raise more awkward questions about what was really going on and why it is all still being kept secret.

I filed the initial FOI request and appeal, which was upheld, back in 2012. Last year the Governor’s Office disputed the appeal ruling forcing a Judicial Review. In April 2013 lawyers acting for the ICO decided to exclude me from those proceedings and at that point my direct involvement (although not my continuing interest) in the FOI process ceased.

The submissions of the Governor’s Office revealed in the latest decision are rather disturbing. I have highlighted sections that are an almost unprecedented attack on the media in the Cayman Islands. The reaction to these comments from my contacts on the Islands ranges from anger through incredulity to a blunt, “What can you expect from them.” However, their underlying response is one of resentment from media who have always acted responsibly and, despite determined attempts to obstruct them, worked hard to cooperate with the very people who are now criticising them. Having myself worked out there as a journalist I know that there are issues with media coverage but in the vast majority of cases they stem from excessive secrecy in the public sector and the almost childish attitude of some civil servants and politicians to media interest.

Far from being ‘wholly unregulated and uncontrolled’ as the Governor’s Office and/or the FCO allege, the media in the Cayman Islands is not only a model of self-regulation but the journalists out there spend a lot of time struggling to deal with a public sector that is not only itself ‘wholly unregulated and uncontrolled’ but is in many cases completely dysfunctional. I would suggest that what the Governor’s Office really means by this comment is that the media’s persistent and diligent oversight gives the public an insight into the way the Cayman Islands are being run that is often very embarrassing to the people supposedly in charge.

My concern here is that this ill-considered and ill-informed attack on the media sends out a very negative message about the role of the UK in governance of the Islands. It suggests that the Governor’s Office and the FCO not only fail to respect the role of a free press in an Overseas Territory but also that they do not recognise the rights given to journalists under the terms of the constitution. Bluntly, we are talking about what could be construed as old-fashioned colonialist attitudes that are completely incompatible with the 21st century.

What I am seeking from the Governor’s Office and the FCO is a public statement on their policy towards the media in the Cayman Islands including a detailed explanation, with specific examples, of the basis for the allegations that any reporting of the requested documents would be unbalanced. Failing that I would like to see an unreserved apology made to all the hardworking journalists on the Islands for what I regard as a completely unwarranted slur on their professional abilities.

Yours sincerely,

John Evans.


See also iNews Cayman Editorial published July 15 2014 “I am proud to be part of Cayman’s media” at:


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