BT Coalition accuses governor and FCO of “double standards”
Faced with what they consider a refusal by the UK government to consistently ensure good governance and the rule of law in the Cayman Islands, leaders of the Coalition to Keep BT Dump Free have launched an appeal to the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), asking for its urgent intervention.
“Both the Governor and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) seem selective in ensuring good governance in the Cayman Islands, and appear to be applying a double standard in the enforcement of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility (FFR) – the very law which they themselves recently forced on the Cayman Islands Government declared Mr Charles Clifford, a Coalition leader and former Minister of Environment.
“The FFR requirement for transparency and due process clearly applies, not just to the proposed cruise berthing facilities, but to all major public projects and divestitures of significant public assets.”
Mr Alain Beiner, chairman of the Bodden Town Coalition, said that he deplored the FCO’s reluctance to apply the rule of law to the so-called “ForCayman Investment Alliance” agreement, and in particular, to Dart’s proposed deal to move the George Town (GT) dump to the Midland Acres site in BT.
“Apparently the FFR does not apply to the rich and powerful. It’s scandalous that the UK government appears to consider Dart and any project it promotes to be above the law,” he noted.
Both the Governor and the FCO have stated that because a “swap” of assets is involved in the dump deal, the provisions of the FFR may not apply.
“But the FFR, along with previous statements from FCO Minister Mark Simmonds, leave no doubt”, stated Coalition leader Mr Gregg Anderson. “The divestiture of significant public assets, like the Crown land on which is located the GT dump, whether sold, “swapped” or even given away, must be done through an open tendering process to establish their true value.” “How else can the people know if our government is not trading gold for onions, particularly since many here feel that the ‘swap’ and the dump deal only benefit Dart?” Mr Anderson asked.
Coalition leader and Midland Acres resident Ms Arlene Whittaker added: As well, the FFR requires that major public projects like moving the GT dump be subjected to due process and a proper tendering process, to secure best value for money and to allow all local firms the opportunity of bidding. Minister Simmonds, while insisting that the FFR be transposed into law, made clear to then Premier McKeeva Bush that his primary concerns were transparency and good governance. Why is he not insisting that the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) be allowed to do what it recommended before being muzzled by the Bush government – to identify the best waste management solution for Grand Cayman, and if indeed a new landfill site – in an area zoned for residential/agriculture use — must be contaminated?”
Mr Beiner referred to the unambiguous rejection of the Dart dump move by the Central Tenders Committee (CTC) in December 2010: “Minister Simmonds, in his November 2nd 2012 letter to McKeeva Bush, warned of the risks of ‘…not following the proper procurement processes which have been clearly set out to you by the Chair of the Central Tenders Committee…’ But, this same CTC rated the Dart dump proposal as the worst of all tenders considered, expressing ‘great concern’ about the environmental impact of a new landfill ‘…in an area that is environmentally sensitive.’” Mr Beiner asked Minister Simmonds: “Why do you now choose to ignore the CTC’s deliberations and recommendations? Why do you choose to ignore the potentially disastrous impact of the Dart dump deal on our island’s fragile environment?”
Coalition leaders are convinced that this reluctance to ensure good governance and the rule of law in the Cayman Islands mirrors recent events in the Turks and Caicos Islands where the Governor and the FCO failed in their responsibilities. “However, the sums of money involved in questionable public projects and divestitures of public assets in the CI, far outstrip the value of alleged criminal transactions disclosed in the TCI after the intervention of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the subsequent suspension of the local government and constitution. And far more serious than anything uncovered in the TCI, the contingent liability from Dart’s dump deal is staggering in terms of potential material, health and environmental damage,” Mr Anderson noted.
“We are sincerely hoping that a TCI debacle can be preempted here, but our letter to the FCO of November 16th 2012 remains unanswered”, stated Mr Beiner. “We have not even received an acknowledgement from Minister Simmonds.”
Mr Clifford adds that the Coalition is hoping for an urgent response from the FAC. “The people of the Cayman Islands are counting on your review of this matter and on your involvement to help ensure that we in the CI enjoy a similar degree of good governance and the rule of law as the people in the UK.”