Worl' nuh level

Tamara Scott-Williams

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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Two unrelated events last week tell a whole lot about the big picture.

The first concerns the premier of the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, who came to Jamaica after being released on overnight bail from the custody of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, which said they were holding him in relation to a number of "irregularities".

These "irregularities" include the alleged misuse of a government credit card; breach of trust; abuse of office and conflict of interest, contrary to the (Cayman?) Anti-Corruption Law 2008, in addition to which he is also accused of being involved in the alleged importation of explosive substances without valid permits earlier this year.

The premier had been invited to Jamaica by the University College of the Caribbean (UCC) to deliver the main address to the graduates at the Second Commencement Ceremony and to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from UCC for his years of service as Cayman's longest-serving legislator.

Whether out of bad taste or poor judgement or both, the premier and the UCC chancellor, Dr Herbert Thompson, decided that it would be appropriate for Bush, despite the allegations against him, to address the students who were about to take their place in the professional world. The UCC chancellor in his defence said that he was "relieved that he (Bush) came".

That the premier had sent his speech in advance and that therein was a message that he felt important to be delivered to his graduands and that bit about the bestowing of the honour would have to be put on hold until "we see how things unfold".

At the time of writing, Bush's speech and the important message therein had not been posted, but his after-speech press huddle has. He insisted that since the matter was under investigation he could not refer to any details, but then proceeded to launch a campaign about "a lot of jealous people on a very small island", and about a vindictive political witch-hunt by a pathetic and jealous governor.

"I come from a side of the street that some of them (politicians) don't like. I didn't grow up as a wealthy person and some of them didn't think I should be there in the seat." Those are the challenges we face as leaders, he said. No sir, the challenge that leaders face is to be moral compass to young people.

We certainly believe in the tenet of innocence before being proven guilty, but we also believe, and after 28 years of governance of Cayman Islands the premier should know too, that appearances matter.

If it is that the premier is found innocent and the accusations baseless, then he would have been more than welcome to return to Jamaica at a future time to give a speech of any kind. But the damage has already been done. Our young UCC graduates are left with the indelible memory of a man, who may or may not be guilty of serious offences, giving them the rallying cry -- as is usual for commencement speeches -- for their future.

The other event last week was the news that Shanique Myrie's case against the Government of Barbados will be heard after they conceded that she has a case against them. Myrie, as you may recall, accused Immigration officials in Barbados of sexually assaulting her at the Grantley Adams International Airport more than a year ago.

That assault, she alleges, included a dehumanising cavity search (also known as a "finger rape"), being subjected to forceful and brutish language and being locked up in a cold, dank room before being deported from that country. Myrie, a Jamaican citizen, is seeking financial redress and an apology from the Barbados Government.

That the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is to sit in Jamaica for the first time from March 4 -12, 2013 to hear the Shanique Myrie case is a landmark. Myrie wants the CCJ to determine the minimum standard of treatment to be given to Caricom nationals moving hassle-free within the region under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

At no time during the last year, to my knowledge, has Myrie been invited onto anyone's stage to discuss the challenges that businesswomen in particular or women in general face. Instead, an approach of "let's see how things unfold" has prevailed.

And she has been treated as a pariah. When she returned to Barbados after the incident, she said: "Everybody came to look at me. Some 'cut' their eyes, while others just stared coldly. I felt like a victim, like a criminal..." she said.

It's a sad world when victims are treated like criminals. You figure out the rest.





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