That island, as many of us may know, has a much harsher immigration regime than the Cayman Islands when it comes to guest workers, residence and attaining Bermudian citizenship.
In fact, the Bermuda legislature was recently shut down by protestors decrying proposed changes to the island’s immigration structure – which would have still made it more difficult for foreigners to attain citizenship than it is here in the Cayman Islands.
Many Bermudians were so against this change that they barricaded their house of parliament on the day the changes – billed as a “Pathway to Citizenship” by the current ruling Bermuda government, were to be debated.
This show of resistance led to the resignation of one Cabinet minister, and ultimately to the government rescinding the proposed legislation.
One commentator on the Royal Gazette’s editorial had this to say about the comparison between Bermuda and Cayman’s respective immigration polices:
“Caymanians are outnumbered in their own island. Bermudians will simply not be bullied into that position.”
While we are not opining on the merits of the different immigration policies in Cayman and Bermuda, what we are pointing to here is the difference in actions and attitudes by Bermudians versus Caymanians in a situation where a vocal majority of the populace is against a government policy or initiative.
Although historically we have been culturally hesitant to speak out and to voice dissent, we are seeing now how public pressure is being enacted in the Cayman Islands.
While we are not yet protesting en masse, linking arms and demonstrating in the streets – nor barricading the doors of the Legislative Assembly, the people of the Cayman Islands are making our voices heard.
Although we are being chastised by both our Premier and the Governor for doing so.
Of course we are referring to the situation with the Commissioner of Police and his departure.
While the public pressure came in the form that it is supposed to in a democratic representative government – via our elected MLAs, the pressure was indeed brought to bear in this case.
Although the Premier derided the actions of non-government representatives as “playing politics” and taking advantage of tragedy, by and large the Caymanian on the street was in support of greater investigation of the leadership of the RCIPS.
It was through the voices of the voters that opposition and independent lawmakers banded together despite their various differences to demand investigation and answers.
The Premier called this act of representing the people’s opinions as “irresponsible” in the wake of the announcement of Commissioner Baines’ departure.
The Governor called the pressure on Mr Baines and the scrutiny of the RCIPS under the current leadership “unfair.”
Yet that pressure was brought to bear in an orderly fashion. It came through our politicians and to a lesser extent our media. It also came through the stated comments and opinions of our people, who looked at the litany of RCIPS failures and decided they’d had enough.
Social media was flooded with questions and criticisms of not only Commissioner Baines, but the support he has been rewarded with by the Governor’s Office and the ruling government.
An online poll showed clearly that the majority of respondents were severely displeased with the governance of the police force – as were the elected representatives who brought a motion to the House to note their “lack of confidence.”
Still, we cannot help but feel – as with the independent inquiry announced by the Governor and instigated by the CoP, that all of this is a preemptive strike and a way of avoiding further debate and scrutiny.
Is the idea that if Mr Baines goes away we will all think there are no problems inherent in our police service?
That was not the point of the public’s dismay, nor that of the MLA’s motion expressing their lack of confidence in the RCIPS’ governance. Although many have been displeased with Mr Baines’ leadership, most with a negative view believe that the problems are not personal nor are they individual, but instead systemic.
We sincerely hope that Mr Baines’ departure from the RCIPS will not end the scrutiny. In the end, we all want the same thing: a police force that is above board, responsive and transparent. One that we as Caymanians can be proud of, can support, and can trust.
In this effort, perhaps we should learn from our Bermudian peers to be more vocal, to sustain the pressure, and not to accept that which we find unacceptable.