September 17, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Disunity is gathering steam

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The unity, or rather goodwill, that seemed to exist for a time between members of the Legislative Assembly is over and it is disunity that is gathering steam.

For the last few weeks the Opposition, aided and abetted by “the lonesome dove” Kenneth Bryan MLA, have waged war on the Government’s Cruise Ship Piers Proposal stirring the news waves up with all sorts of claims, mainly unsubstantiated (not all). When the government fought back with advertising and a public meeting, the Opposition shouted “FOUL” claiming they were trying to frighten the public into accepting their Cruise Ship Plans! A case of who shouts the loudest.

Then the Opposition revealed that one of the bidders, Verdant Isle was actually represented at the Public Meeting – Messrs. David Candib of Carnival, and Miguel Reyna of Royal Caribbean. They sat on the Government platform suggesting they were independent advisors. No wonder Government would not be drawn to name who the remaining bidders were. How stupid of government!

This revelation afterwards by Opposition Leader, Ezzard Miller, gave him plenty of ammunition to not only ask the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate but to subtly suggest it was the Opposition’s goal to “weed out corruption”, or “the perception of it”.

“We are calling on the government to be more transparent and tell the whole truth about the project instead of the selective misrepresentation,” he said.

With China Harbour not ruled out by government still in the melting pot there is certainly some basis for these disturbing thoughts.

Move on now to the sale of Cayman National Bank recommended by their parent company Cayman National Corporation. Knowing that most Caymanians are upset at this news Miller is a shrewd politician and the word unity is not top of his vocabulary.

Even though he knew the truth behind his Press Release “Opposition calls for the repayment of CI$20 million owed to the people of the Cayman Islands”, he had a pot that was already near boiling point.

This was regarding the settlement of 2004 Hurricane Ivan property insurance claims between the Cayman Islands Government and Cayman General Insurance Ltd.

Miller said, “ The investment in Cayman General Insurance Ltd, which was subsequently sold to Cayman First Insurance, was made after Hurricane Ivan under the direction of the Hon. Mckeeva Bush, the then Leader of Government Business.

“Regrettably, rather than accepting shares in Cayman National Corporation, the Government foolishly chose to accept shares in the failing insurance subsidiary.

“Two further shares issued by the insurance company have devalued the Government’s investment to a paltry CI $6.3million.

“Compounding the Government’s initial bad investment is the news that just over CI$1million in dividends have been received to date.

“This is another short-sighted decision made by McKeeva Bush, and clearly by the lack of action, supported by the Hon. Alden McLaughlin and his PPM led Unity Government. The Opposition would like to see McKeeva use the same amount of energy he is using to push for the port into getting the remainder of our CI$20million investment back.”

Bodden Town MLA, Chris Saunders, who was not privy at that time to the full facts is quoted as saying. “At the rate dividends are being repaid it will take approximately 95 years for the people of the Cayman Islands to recoup all of the initial CI$20million investment.

“Our grandchildren’s children won’t even see or benefit for a penny of that money!

“For too long, people in positions of trust and leadership have used and abused the people’s money to hide their bad decisions and have lost sight of fact that it was earned from the sweat and sacrifices of hard-working Caymanians, residents and businesses. The monies lost could have been used to improve the lives of the Caymanian people and their families.

“We want and demand that our investment is repaid once Cayman National Bank is swallowed up and is no longer Caymanian owned. The people of the Cayman Islands made that investment because Cayman National Corporation and its subsidiaries were majority owned and operated by the people of the Cayman Islands. This will no longer be the case once a majority of its shares are sold.”

Oh my!

My heart was almost bursting open and my eyes filled with tears at all the above. It was an excellent speech. Ten out of ten.

But…..

The truth was spelt out in a government reply – see “Cayman Islands Premier refutes Opposition claim that Cayman National Shareholders owe Government money” published today.

Part of The Government release says:

“The decisions taken regarding these insurance claims were made by the Government in office in 2004, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, when the Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, along with Anthony Eden and Arden McLean were members of the PPM Opposition. This is a fact of which the Leader of the Opposition as well as Anthony Eden and Arden McLean are obviously well aware. The accusation by the Leader of the Opposition that Mr. McLaughlin supported the settlement is therefore a deliberate untruth as both Mr. Eden and Mr. McLean would know.

“The government records, including a 2007 report by the Auditor General, show that this was a negotiated settlement, with the benefit of legal advice, agreed between the Cayman Islands Government and Cayman General in full and final settlement of all claims made by the Cayman Islands Government against Cayman General, arising from loss and damage suffered by the Government as a result of the passage of Hurricane Ivan. Government reached a settlement position of CI$70 million with Cayman General. The agreement provided for the payment by Cayman General of CI$50 million dollars to the Cayman Islands Government within thirty days as well as the transfer to the Government of 24% of the shares in Cayman General. This allowed Government to have quick access to much needed cash in the aftermath of the disastrous passage of Ivan. There was no loan made to Cayman General as part of the negotiated agreement as the Opposition statement infers. Government still owns the shares which are now held in Cayman First Insurance given the sale of Cayman General some years later.

“Regardless of whether or not the Opposition, or others, consider this a good commercial deal, the reality is the agreement was a legally binding contract in FULL AND FINAL settlement of all claims which the Government had against Cayman General arising from Hurricane Ivan. There is no outstanding loan and no money owed to the Cayman Islands Government by Cayman General, or its successor Cayman First Insurance or Cayman National Corporation.”

McLaughlin added, ““These disingenuous statements are part of a growing pattern of false accusations made by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues.”

When the May 2017 elections were over there was a whiff of unity in the air and hope. Tis country needed it and we still need it. Both sides are to blame and it is now like watching the horror story being played out in the USA between the Republicans and the Democrats, and who can gain the most points.

Us, the people are the last to be considered until there is an election.

We all cry out for unity and what’s best for the country. The answer would seem to be no. It’s what’s best for themselves. And the press generally goes along with it by taking sides. There’s not even unity there.

Who said the Age of Steam is over?

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