PPM’s Sister Islands candidate Moses Kirkconnell on the campaign trail in West End, Cayman Brac, on Tuesday night.
In addressing the rebuilding and economic restoration initiatives underway in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, PPM Sister Islands’ candidate Moses Kirkconnell said the next two years may be the “most challenging” time experienced by residents of the Sister Islands. During a public rally on Wednesday, 29 April, Mr Kirkconnell spoke of Government objectives achieved both before and after Hurricane Paloma’s strike in November of last year, and reminded the crowd of more than 200 people “there is not a more resilient people in this world.”
In a political season that has divided voters into categories of Independent, UDP and PPM, Mr Kirkconnell continued to make appeal to a singular community, which he said, was collectively united by a tragic experience.
“It makes us understand that we will forever be one. And we will forever depend on each other,” he said.
“Everyone of us here had something wrong … we stood next to each other and we took care of the business of the day as quickly as we could. … And we did it in a way that just happened naturally. We did it in a way that we didn’t hear people complain about it. We did it in a way that we just went about our business, day after day, putting things back together.”
As the work of putting things back together continues, Mr Kirkconnell outlined priorities for the next twelve months.
He said of immediate importance was ensuring that “coffers from Paloma” were properly managed.
“The plan for us now is managed and worked out on a daily basis. It is contributed to and thought about by most of the leaders in the Cayman Islands, and how we can rebuild our Island to a better condition than it was before Paloma, both from a home standpoint, from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint, from an infrastructure standpoint, from a communications standpoint. All these things are taken into consideration as we put this plan together,” said Mr Kirkconnell.
He expressed satisfaction with recent visits from assessors affiliated with the National Recovery Fund, as well as contributions being made by concerned citizens and commercial enterprises, and credited such support and government resolve, with residents’ ability to rebuild damaged homes rather than be relegated to trailers for shelter.
“So they stepped up millions and millions of dollars to make available that we continue the process of rebuilding Cayman Brac and Little Cayman in a way that it was before. To encourage people to rebuild their home, to stay here … we have already proven that we stood the test and we’re a strong, resilient people that have been though this and will continue to rebuild this Island completely,” said Mr Kirkconnell.
He went on to encourage the audience to think about the upgrades that had been implemented prior to Paloma, describing electrical systems, shelter reinforcements, and structures transitioned to provide care for the sick and elderly. “What would we have done if that had not been available?” he asked.
“Think about the annex at the community center. It is now being used by the hospital. Think about the ways that these were done, built by local contractors in this community in the same way that we used Paloma fund and money coming in to give work to the local contractors … And I believe that again, as we go through the weeks ahead, we are seeing how this money is being injected, how it’s being used and how it’s being used to rebuild this community in a proper way,” he added.
Mr Kirkconnell went on to list a few of the projects in which he feels particular pride, from the island’s new sports field, new daycare centre and new hall at the high school to the Anne Tatum Ramp that provides access to bluff land and the new medical wing at the Aston Rutty Centre.
As for the future, Mr Kirkconnell spoke of several initiatives that would ultimately serve to benefit the community.
The first involved more support for young business professionals. Mr Kirkconnell said that between the support and mentorship currently being provided by the Investment Bureau, and the opening of a new Development Bank, help would be available for young entrepreneurs and small business alike.
He also said with the opening of new businesses (such as the Alexander Hotel) and reopening of businesses (such as the Brac Reef), islanders would see more job opportunities and money coming into the local economy.
The significance of tourism was also addressed, and Mr Kirkconnell stressed the importance of better air service.
“We also have to clearly understand that we have to get a better air service. And we have to work, we have to get into the US market, the direct flights, we have to get the correct equipment, and we have to do good in a way that meets the economies of scale,” said Mr Kirkconnell.
He went on to say that efforts in this regard had led to new flights scheduled with Miami last year, and this had been stymied by the hurricane. “But this year, with approximately a hundred new rooms available for the season, it will be my push and it will be the push of the tourism businesses to get direct flights into the United States and to strengthen our domestic flights between Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac,” said Mr Kirkconnell.
As for other job creation, he said his administration would work closely with the Brac’s new branch of the University College of the Cayman Islands.
“Construction jobs are here and I wrestle with this and I want to say this to you tonight. We have 500 large odd work permits on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong. I want to push in the direction of the University College to expand the vocational training that is offered there now,” said Mr Kirkconnell.
His idea is to partner with government in the fields of tourism and environment to offer apprentice programmes in addition to the vocational training that UCCI offers.
In his final remarks, Mr Kirkconnell said “the other part of moving forward” was voting in support of the constitutional referendum.
He said that he was supporting the referendum based on feedback he received from the range of people who had attended a variety of meetings held in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. He also expressed concern that the Cayman Islands did not become independent from Great Britain. “Now that’s number one, most important,” said Mr Kirkconnell.