Indeed it is a wonderful afternoon.
As I accept this awesome privilege of addressing you, the beautiful people of our Beloved Isles Cayman for the very first time as your new Premier, I can honestly say to you, that your love, encouragement, words of support and unwavering belief have both humbled and inspired me through what has been one of the longest weeks in my life.
I wish to first offer sincere congratulations to all 18 Members of Parliament. Each of us represent the will, aspirations, hopes and dreams of our respective constituencies and as you have taken your solemn oaths and affirmations, let us pledge to never take our people for granted. The Caymanian people have spoken loudly and clearly. We are charged with being their voice, their advocates, their representatives.
I think of the words of former U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt who once remarked, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
I also want to thank God for the many blessings that He has bestowed on the Cayman Islands.
I want each of you to know that it is my honour and privilege to serve you as the Premier of our Country – the Cayman Islands. It is also my honour and privilege to lead this Government that will represent ALL of the people of our Cayman Islands.
Similarly, it is my honour and privilege to specifically represent the wonderful people of my home constituency of Newlands. Thank you for your trust and confidence.
I must also recognse my family today. My wife Jane, my son Cody, foster child Isaias and my mother Cecile, my brothers and their families. At this point I would also like to recognise and thank another family member who though not a blood relative, she is family none the less - Leanora Smikle (or Rose as we know her) who is the CEO of the household and head zookeeper with five dogs, one cat, one parrot and an assortment of agoutis to be responsible for!
I say to all of you that I will never be able to pay you back for those long sleepless nights, or to thank you for being there in the front row of my meetings.
I also want to thank the families of all those who were elected for sharing your loved one with us. Their time away from you, while serving their country, can never ever be replaced, and the country owes you a debt that can never be repaid.
I want to thank the Governor, his Senior Management team, and the entire Public Service for their service to our islands.
I want to thank the staff at the Parliament and the Protocol Office for organising this event today.
We must also recognise that we still are experiencing the miracle of life without masks- a gift that few around the world can comprehend. This is no doubt a precious gift and so we should forever be thankful to our former Premier, Hon Alden McLaughlin for his steadfast leadership during this period of the COVID
-19 global pandemic and the contributions he and his administration over the past two terms have made to our country.
But most of all, I want to thank you, the Caymanian people for giving all of us a life of purpose and service.
It is the Caymanian people why we are gathered here today to witness the peaceful transfer of administration as required by our Constitution.
This event represents the collective will of the Caymanian people and everyone that was sworn in today has the constitutional and moral responsibility to ensure that the will of the Caymanian people is reflected and respected in our policies and priorities over the next 4 years.
This event could not have been possible without you the people coming out by the thousands to exercise your democratic franchise and for that – all of us who contested the general election are very thankful for your participation.
And despite the events of the past week, where there was certainty and uncertainty – this is how democracy works and more importantly, it is how democracy was designed to work.
The modern democracy celebrated around the world today bore fruit from the American revolution.
It recognizes that as a people we will always have differences, disagreements, discord, and dissent.
But it also recognizes that we should have debate, discussions, and dialogue to arrive at consensus.
This event today represents that consensus.
The Campaigning is over. It is time for us to work together to build consensus, build our community and build our country.
The story of our country, our people was never about doing what easy but rather doing what was right.
It was our abilities to overcome these challenges that made us who we are and because of these challenges – we are better people, better citizens, and a better community.
It was this better community that created our rich culture and our rich heritage.
It was this better community that allows us to be neighborly, friendly, and tolerant of others.
It was this better community that created the economy we have today that makes the Cayman Islands one of the best places to live and work on this planet. An economy that we must strive to support and continue to grow in order to better serve our communities and Country.
In short, community creates country.
The story of our country, our people, is one that says we are too rich to be poor, too talented to be denied opportunities, too blessed to have the daily stresses we do and too proud to be disheartened without pursuing solutions.
As a rather sobering testament of our changing times here in Cayman, it is believed that this may be the first time in the history of our Parliament, that there is no sitting member within its chambers who has served as a seafarer. There is no doubt in my mind, that our Parliamentary predecessors who served at sea, in that great Caymanian tradition, developed a unique perspective on Cayman’s place in this world. I therefore wish to pay tribute to their invaluable contributions to our society.
So today, this moment, this time, belongs to all of us who believe that their Government should be, can be and must be People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent.
I want to thank every one of you for your unending support and belief in the PACT Government. The initial uncertainty following the election a week ago, rather than being a paralysis, empowered democratic voices to be expressed in many forms and showed the community spirit that creates country.
As noted earlier though, the campaign and the uncertainty of Government is over and the songs, memes, posts, photos, dances and rants that have filled up your social media space during the campaign and shortly after should cease. We must always ensure that our behaviour reflects respect and dignity for those we may disagree with and contributes positively to our national discourse.
Fifty people stood in this election and, only 19 could be successful. The Independent candidates won the largest share of the vote. But more importantly than the largest share of the votes is the knowledge that despite our policy differences, we are united in our desires to make a positive difference to the communities we serve.
Public service is still a noble cause and, I pay tribute to those who have served, currently serving and those yet to serve.
Over the past several months, many of the Independent candidates have been discussing our vision for a better, socially and economically fairer Cayman. These are matters than can be addressed while protecting and promoting a strong and more diverse economy. We are not the only country dealing with socially corrosive issues like income inequality and wealth disparity but we must work together to find solutions for these problems as that is the way to build stronger communities and a stronger country.
As independently minded as we all are, we shared a common purpose: to uplift the lives and better the lives of every Caymanian and those who call the Cayman Islands home. We chose to focus on the 95% that we have in common and ignore the 5% in respect of which we differed.
We chose to focus on what united us as opposed to what divided us and the results are evident today.
We have a Government that is led by Independents.
A Government that reflects the political will and wishes of our people.
A government that shows that despite coming from diverse backgrounds we, like every Caymanian today, and those that came before, have the capacity to set aside differences and work together to create a political community that will create a better Cayman and a better country.
I repeat that it is therefore my honour to be elected as Premier and to take us forward with new leadership.
A leadership that will protect our greatest assets – you our citizens.
A leadership that will be kinder, yet unafraid to constructively address any vested interests that may be holding back our country.
A leadership that will be creatively responsive to your daily concerns: rising inequality; stress on our quality of life, environmental considerations and rising costs of living.
A leadership that will confront failure, liberate your aspirations and fight for opportunity for all.
A leadership that will uphold our constitution and promote our social and religious values that guide our islands.
A leadership that will operate in the framework of good governance.
A leadership that will collectively carve a path forward and work alongside the people to find employment and ensure affordable access to needed services.
That is our PACT to you. But as citizens, you too have responsibilities.
We are only as strong as the weakest amongst us and our shared humanity must be the glue that continues to bind us together.
Over 180 nationalities call the Cayman Islands home. The uniqueness that this brings to our islands is largely responsible for our success and we should not give a platform to those who seek to create division by focusing on skin colour, accent or whether we are Caymanian by birth or choice. We are One Cayman and must continue to build on that foundation going forward.
The actions of many pioneering men and woman have taken our islands from the one that time forgot to the one that many want to share in its success story.
But as with all foundations, we must not forget who built them and I would like to therefore congratulate the record number of five women who were elected to Parliament in this election cycle. I am proud that we have four strong and capable females pledging to work with PACT and know that the compassion they will bring will serve as a blueprint to improving the working and daily lives of women, especially mothers.
We know that mothers are our first teachers and as Government, our job is to ensure that from cradle to grave, we instil and provide the necessary pathway for lifelong learning. Education remains the only route out of poverty and the cure to the many injustices committed in the name of ignorance.
Like many other nations, we too must confront our own ignorance on many issues.
Our stance on the environment and limited regard for living more sustainably must be adjusted. Our need to over-consume and dependency on imported products must be reviewed. Our carbon footprint is too high. Our need to quicken the pace towards clean renewable energy is essential. As is our need to ensure that climate resiliency measures are considered and implemented in everything we do – this is the existential threat to our way of life. The loss of irreplaceable mangroves or the extinction of our marine life is a price too high to pay.
Each generation owes the next generation a moral duty to be good stewards of and minimise as far as possible any harm to this planet we all share. As the famous poem goes:
We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves by fires we did not light.
We sit in shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from person we did not know.
This is as it should be.
Together we are more than any one person could be.
Together we can build across the generations.
Together we can renew our hope and faith in the life that is yet to unfold.
Together we can heed the call to a ministry of care and justice.
We are ever bound in community.
May it always be so.
And may it also be so that we remember that fragility of our mental and physical health which was surely tested during COVID
. The fact that we are one of the very few countries not to have gone back into any form of lockdown, speaks to our resilience, discipline and patience as a people. But when our borders reopen and they will only when it safe to do so, we cannot revert to the stress of worrying about being one medical emergency away from destitution or poverty.
Access to good health care is a basic human right and cannot be a privilege just for the few.
Likewise, restoring our faith in the democratic process must also be a priority.
There must be more openness in the way Government business is done. That is the hallmark of good governance. You the citizens must not only be part of the process but also know the actions being taken on your behalf or in your name.
Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favour rather than silver and gold.” I can confidently say that every single member of the PACT Government would always choose to have your support and respect.
I would like to say that that our best days are still ahead.
Our best life is still ahead.
And speaking of life I want to take opportunity to acknowledge a hugely significant day in the life of one of our iconic and wonderful Caymanian women. Ms. Ethel Ebanks is celebrating her 103rd birthday today. Happy Birthday Ms Ethel! Of course, it is especially poignant that she shares her birthday with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth! I do hope that I can come to see you soon Ms. Ethel and offer my birthday greetings in person.
In closing, let me say that the government that I am privileged and humbled to lead is committed to serving you the people through strengthening our community one person at a time because we recognize that Community Creates Country and it will be our honour and privilege to represent all of the people and always put your interests first for love of you and for love of country.
May God bless you all and may God continue to bless the Cayman Islands.