DG Speaks During Defence Bill Debate
Deputy Governor, Hon. Franz Manderson in his contribution to the Defence Bill, 2020 debate Monday, 19 October 2020, emphasised that the formation of a regiment in the Cayman Islands “is a dream being realised for many of our local visionaries, pioneers, leaders, and laymen, including our Honourable Premier.”
He noted that as clearly set out in the bill, the CI Regiment was being formed particularly to provide disaster relief, humanitarian aid and security with the Islands. Such regiments were already existing in some other OTs, notably Bermuda since 1949, upon which the CI Regiment is based.
Besides, CI Regiment officers have already deployed and are hard at work in activities being undertaken in Cayman’s response to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the full text of the Deputy Governor’s contribution, as prepared, please see below.
Mr Speaker, I rise to give my contribution to another historic Bill, namely the Defence Bill 2020, which ensures the formation of the first-ever Regiment for the Cayman Islands.
Mr Speaker, you will recall last year’s visit by then UK Minister for the Armed services Brigadier Mark Lancaster, during which time the concept of the Regiment was discussed again. To that end I am, and the Cayman Islands should be, most grateful for His Excellency Martyn Roper – not just for his support – but also his genuine enthusiasm, and his drive in encouraging the UK Government to support the formation of a Regiment for these Cayman Islands and its people.
Indeed, the formation of a Regiment for the Cayman Islands is a dream being realised for many of our local visionaries, pioneers, leaders, and laymen, including our Honourable Premier.
Mr Speaker, as is clearly set out in the Bill, the Cayman Islands Regiment is being formed in particular to provide disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and security within the Cayman Islands. In a year as marked by many major challenges to our responders such as the large fire at the landfill, an earthquake, a global pandemic and a close brush from Hurricane Delta, Mr Speaker, it is not lost of any of us that these Islands are very much vulnerable to an array of disaster threats, each with potential to disrupt critical infrastructure, services, and supply chains. Those threats can take many forms, and as we are experiencing – we are very much at risk of being faced with the overwhelming effects of multiple disasters striking at the same time.
As the Chairman of the National Hazard Management Council, Mr Speaker, I am confident that the Regiment will serve to advance our national resilience by building up a corps of volunteer reservists who are trained, skilled, capable, and equipped to serve individually and collectively as a force-multiplier of resources and skills. Complementing and improving the resilience and capability of our existing disaster managers and practitioners. In this sense, we have already seen the surge of capacity benefits brought to bear by Regimental officers during the recent activation of the NEOC. Mr Speaker, I anticipate that the Regiment will develop into an institution of service excellence, serving as a key component of our national resilience capability with government and public confidence.
Mr Speaker, a regiment in the Overseas Territories is nothing new Bermuda has had a Regiment since 1949, The primary role of the Bermuda regiment has recently become disaster relief. Other roles include ceremonial duties and supporting the Bermuda police department in internal security issues (both in the forms of riot-control and anti-terrorism). In fact, Mr Speaker you will recall that the Bermuda Regiment deployed in Grand Cayman and played a key role in disaster recovery. Mr Speaker, more recently The Bermuda Regiment deployed in Turks and Caicos in 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Mr Speaker while it is good to have other OTs help us in times of disaster, I know everyone will agree that it is much better if we can help ourselves and others. Thus the reason for this Bill.
Mr Speaker, other OTs are also setting up a Regiment and the UK is also offering similar support to TCI to set up a Regiment along similar lines to pre-existing OT Regiments (Bermuda, Gibraltar, Montserrat). UK’s sole focus is supporting Cayman and region in humanitarian and disaster relief by building additional resilience that we do not currently have.
Mr Speaker, there has been much negative chatter about the Regiment and most regrettably the conspiracy theories have been abound. I wish to make it clear that we are not sending our regiment to Afghanistan. Mr Speaker, it is true that the Regiment will be trained to assist the Police with security for example should there be a breakout at the Prison after a hurricane.
Again Mr Speaker let’s look at the deployment of the Bermuda regiment - In 2001, following the September 11 attacks on the nearby United States, the Bermuda Regiment was deployed, taking over responsibility for the security of the Bermuda International Airport and other potential targets. In 2004 and 2005, the Regiment deployed to the Cayman Islands and Grenada to assist in post-Hurricane Ivan restoration efforts.
The Bermuda Regiment successfully deployed a platoon of internal security trained soldiers to Barbados in 2007. There they took part in forming the security infrastructure for the WCC Cricket World Cup. They worked alongside soldiers from Barbados, Guyana, India and South Africa, in ensuring a secure environment for the Super 8 series of matches.
Mr Speaker, these are the kinds of deployment that we can expect from our brave men and women of our regiment. Mr Speaker, clearly having such capacity within the Cayman Islands cannot be a bad thing.
Mr Speaker, there has been much debate that His Excellency the Governor has too much control of the Regiment – Mr Speaker, the Governor is responsible for security – he is responsible for the Police. Our police is doing an amazing job keeping us safe and I have no doubt the Regiment will perform at an equally high standard.
Mr Speaker, let me turn to perhaps the single most important reason we should have a Regiment – that is Mr Speaker it provides opportunities to our people – to Caymanians. I am exceptionally proud that the Cayman Islands Regiment is being established as a conduit to allow many of our Caymanians to realise their goals of growing personally and professionally as part of a disciplined service that is underpinned by a world-class programme of training, professional development, and challenging opportunities.
Mr Speaker the current total strength of the Regiment = 61, 66% (40) being Caymanian, 43% (21) Non-Caymanian; and 11% (7) females. Mr Speaker, of the 96 applicants that we took through to interviews in the current recruiting (or were moved forward from last recruiting) 73% are Caymanian.
Mr Speaker, that means that there are 40 Caymanians – 40!! Mr Speaker, when was the last time you saw such a large number of young Caymanians being given an opportunity to realise their dreams?
Mr Speaker, how many reports have we read – where it was recommended that we provide this kind of opportunity for our young people- the Yolanda Ford report comes to mind – where she spoke about the cadets.
What is even more good news Mr Speaker, is that of the 10 Senior Officers in the Regiment, 50% is Caymanian – Mr Speaker, we expect that percentage to grow and I know we will all be proud when a Caymanian is leading our Regiment.
Mr Speaker more good news - we currently have 195 Cadets whom we are all proud- Mr Speaker won’t it be great some of our cadets would transition to the Regiment - Mr Speaker that has already happened – nine persons who have passed through the cadet programme have joined the Regiment as reservists. Maybe Mr Speaker, they will be a natural progression for our young Caymanians from the Cadets to the Regiment and then into the Police, CBC, Fire, Prison and other Law enforcement agencies - Mr Speaker, I believe this was the original vision for the Regiment.
Mr Speaker, I was moved when I attend the Regiment’s first passing out Parade – seeing the pride in our young people was heart-warming. But what moved me the most is what the Premier told me that afternoon- he said: “DG during the inspection of the Regiment, I spoke to the young men and women and asked why did they join the Regiment – they all said the same thing – I want to serve my Country!” Wow, Mr Speaker - isn’t that something we should be proud of - isn’t that what we should be focused on rather that spinning conspiracy theories?
Mr Speaker, last week I was most pleased to hear a Caymanian speaking of how the Cayman Islands Regiment has allowed him to embark on his own journey of personal and professional development. Lt. Theo Kelly is who I am referring to, Mr Speaker. He was one of the first recruits in the Cayman Islands Cadets and is the only male Master Cadet from the Cayman Islands.
Perhaps others had the benefit of hearing Lt. Kelly speak recently on several radio shows about his journey as a Junior Officer with the Cayman Islands Regiment. Mr. Speaker, he shared that he always aspired to attend Sandhurst Royal Military College after completing his A levels; and now 10 years later and through his service with the Regiment, he was able to realise this meaningful life goal. In addition to refining his skills in command, teamwork, psychology, and strategy, Lt. Kelly also shared that his most profound takeaway from the training he received at Sandhurst was the latest practices used in leading, drills and training, which he is excited to infuse back into the development of the Cayman Islands Regiment.
Mr Speaker, the Defence Bill 2020 presents the legislative framework through which reservists can continue advancing their country’s capacity to provide the people of these Cayman Islands with security, humanitarian assistance and relief during times of national vulnerability, or in any number of other circumstances where major events require a surge of resources and skills to render a range of basic, advanced, and specialised services.
Mr Speaker, as we are already witnessing through the personal journeys of Caymanian reservists and officers such as Lt. Kelly, those serving in the Cayman Islands Regiment are compassionate, motivated problem solvers, often with families and commitments to an employer; training mostly in their spare time for the love of service to this country. As such, Mr Speaker, it is important to recognise the incredibly important support and encouragement that reservists receive from their families and their employers alike.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, all persons who have and who will undertake to voluntarily enlist as reservists deserve recognition from society for boldly channelling their talents, time and energy to drive this historic achievement.
Speaking of achievements Mr Speaker, let me wind up by listing some of the vital work that the Regiment has already performed.
Mr Speaker, members of the Regiment:
Organised the ordering, logistics and delivery of testing kits, equipment and supplies for Covid testing.
Supported the establishment of the original Government quarantine facilities – RSM
Provided security for the Government quarantine facilities - Junior Officers
Assisted with the design and establishment of the Family Life Centre Alternative Medical Centre- RSM
Manned the COVID travel helplines - Junior Officers
Supporting the border reopening by manning the isolation monitoring teams - Reservists (ongoing).
And Mr Speaker, members of the Regiment are on the streets right now- monitoring persons in home isolation.
Mr Speaker, the Cayman Islands is a global leader; we are a proud people, we want to equip our young people with all the skills and training for success, we want to be resilient and protect our people in times of disaster – we want to keep our people safe and secure. Mr Speaker, the Regiment achieves all of that – we have an overriding duty to support our young Caymanians, the Regiment and this Bill.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.