Bush vs. Tibbetts: The big debate

Billed as one of the most important debates leading up to May’s General Election, Cayman Business Outlook’s question and answer session with the Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and the Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush had the 300 plus audience on the edge of their seats wondering how each leader would respond to the list of hitherto unseen questions posed by moderator Gary Linford. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports. Third in a series.

Cayman Business Outlook is a conference produced annually by Fidelity in conjunction with a slew of sponsors representing all facets of business in Cayman. Bringing in experts from overseas, the conference organisers always manage to hit the spot, bringing fresh and insightful perspectives on global issues and how they are affecting the Cayman Islands.

As Cayman is in an election year, Fidelity took a dynamic approach for its 2009 conference and for the first time invited both the Leader of ruling People’s Progressive Movement party, Kurt Tibbetts and the Leader of the opposing United Democratic Party McKeeva Bush to hear their stance on the important issues of the day.

Questions were invited by the moderator, Gary Linford, co-founder of DMTC Group and managing director of DirectorsPlus, from members of the public ahead of time which Linford then sifted through, cutting out those that were severely biased or of a personal nature. He then ensured that the questions were not seen by either leader until the actual debate took place.

Dealing with the dump

Posing the question to Tibbetts, Linford said that although the government could take credit for the development of the roads in Cayman there had been little progress on the dump (George Town Landfill, otherwise known as Mount Trashmore, such is the eyesore that grows larger daily). Linford asked why the dump was still there.

Tibbetts said it was simply a matter of money and confirmed that the Minister in charge of Environmental Health Arden McLean had engaged entities to produce scientific data to decide on the way forward. He alluded to the possibility of turning waste into energy as one possible solution and spoke of a vibrant recycling system” that had just been introduced, which would enhance efforts of waste reduction. “Funds are not immediately available,” he furthered. “We need an estimated $150 million to do the trick but we need to prioritise our funds.”

Continuing on the environmental theme, Linford asked Bush what his United Democratic Party’s views were on the proposed extension of the East-West Highway slated to cross conservation areas of Cayman.

Bush said that his party would do its best not to build roads through sensitive environmental areas and it would be a matter that his party would be addressing in the run up to the election.

The desire to aspire

Turning to the issue of crime, Linford asked Bush what he intends to do about preventing young Caymanians from entering into a life of crime.

Bush said that every government that had been in power had tried to do more to keep young people out of harm’s way and he had great sympathy with the present government in this regard.

“We have chosen to have the country we have today,” he said. “We grew up wanting more and more. We choose to have the best homes and increase our standard of living but we forget about other aspects and need to pay attention to the children. We need to ensure that our kids are doing their homework and not watching the wrong type of TV and we need to be sure we know with whom our kids are out. “

Bush continued, “We have so many fine facilities for young people, such as sports facilities, scouting, Duke of Edinburgh and other schemes, but parents need to spend more time with their children. Churches and schools cannot do it by themselves and the government definitely has a role to play as well.”

Tibbetts said that much of what Bush had said was correct and said that education was the key factor to give young people the desire to aspire.

Xenophobia in an election year

Linford then examined the xenophobia that sometimes rears its head especially during election years in Cayman and wondered why this happened during party politics.

Tibbetts said that he didn’t believe it came about because of party politics and said that he thought the country had certain difficulties that it had to face at any time, and that it was just a coincidence that it was an issue now. Tibbetts said that he had heard it said that Caymanians “didn’t like foreigners as a rule and that they felt threatened because they would take their jobs away” but the fact was that nobody should be sitting at a desk unless they had the required skill set.

“Social harmony is one of Cayman’s most important attractions and any detraction from this must be stopped,” he confirmed. “It is a huge attraction for both our financial services and tourism industries.”

Bush said he did not want to see divisive party politics and that Cayman needs to use the Immigration Law as appropriate to ensure that the so-called glass ceiling was removed in businesses to allow Caymanians to go as far as they were able to, promotion-wise.

Keeping politicians honest

Wondering whether legislation was adequate for the job, Linford asked Bush how he thought politicians could remain honest.

Bush replied that the code of conduct under which politicians operated kept them honest and said, “In a small community it is easy for people who do not agree with you to build up cases against you. So long as you keep your heart pure and your hands clean you don’t have to worry about any investigations they might conduct.”

Bush continued, “I’ve only bent the rules to help Caymanians when they cannot get ahead themselves and never when those rules have been of a criminal nature. I am in support of a code of ethics and I believe any new laws should not be restricted to politicians but extended to others as well.”

Tibbetts responded by saying that hopefully the constitution will give added reinforcement to the issue. He also said that sanctions should be increased and there were other means available to ensure politicians remained honest, including transparency via the freedom of information legislation, giving the public the right to know.


Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush just before the historic debate at the Cayman Captive Forum