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Speech

We have succeeded, as I have said, because we steadfastly refused to accept isolationism and nationalism as part of our political and social culture.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Published 13th March 2019, 3:36pm

Good morning everyone. Special welcome to all of the Youth Parliamentarians, their families and friends and supporters again who are here again on another Commonwealth day as we celebrate a connected Commonwealth and also as we celebrate the contributions of our Youth Parliamentarians. I always get to come last, it seems, so by the time I get up to speak everybody has said what I had prepared to say so I shall cast that aside and speak to you a little bit about some of the things I have been thinking about and I’m sure others have as well. Aldus Huxley spoke about a brave new world. That’s a long time ago. What we are living in and what this generation, what your generation has before it is not just a brave new world, because there’s lots of that. Technology is at an all-time high but also a very scary new world. The purpose of this exercise, the Youth Parliament in terms of building leadership skills and knowledge and understanding of the political process and giving you an opportunity to articulate what really moves you is increasingly important in the world in which we live. The Honourable Speaker alluded to a Cayman that he grew up in, I grew up in, the Leader of the Opposition grew up in. We grew up in the same Grand Cayman. A Cayman where, when we were born, there was no radio station, no television, no telephones; places like East End and North Side had no electricity. That is where we have come from in about 60 years. We came from a population then of about 8,500 people to a population now, in my estimation, is about 67,000 people; all of that in that period of time. Women only got the right to vote and stand for office 60 years ago. Now Cayman is one of the foremost progressive small countries in the world where there is a wealth of opportunity available to those not just of us who are of this place but to those who have come and joined the population here. The Honourable Speaker spoke about some 130 nationalities in the population of these Islands. That, I believe probably more so than one single factor has been the contributing factor, the principle contributing factor, to Cayman’s tremendous success; our willingness to accept and invite other people to come and join us to help build this nation. I raise that because the world that we are now dealing with more so than any other time, I believe, certainly in our lifetime and certainly since World War II is headed down a road where isolationism, nationalism, militants, racial and ethnic tensions, hate speech, anti-immigration sentiment are on the rise. We see an increasing tendency of countries to elect persons to high office who are nationalists in their outlook, who are isolationists in their viewpoint and who increasingly blame all of the woes of their nation on things like immigration and religion and the ethnicities of the people who are coming into the country. We see the threat if not the reality of trade wars between the two most developed and important nations in the world – China and the United States. We see and we hear the anti-immigrant and nationalist sentiment that’s expressed in the supposed need to build a wall to keep immigrants coming from Mexico into the United States. We see on television every day the crisis – economic, social and political crisis – in Venezuela and the impact that is having on the lives of the citizens of that once great country. We see the growth in tensions, which have existed for many years between India and Pakistan over the Cashmere Region. Brexit; again a situation brought about because, among other things, too many foreigners taking over the jobs and opportunities of British citizens and we see, which I actually experienced with my own eyes, the now weekly burning, setting fire and protests of the Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests in France. This is the world that you all are set to inherit and your responsibility, which will come along faster than you think, believe you me. I think when you start to get older years come faster. I swear Christmas comes every six months now. When I was a child it took two or three years. But seriously, this is the world that you are being prepared and which you must prepare to deal with. Cayman, though small that it is, is an increasingly important country, nation in this world given particularly what we do provisionally with financial services to the world. We have succeeded, as I have said, because we steadfastly refused to accept isolationism and nationalism as part of our political and social culture. And while there is rhetoric from time to time around – from these benches, on the talk shows – that’s always been the case but by in large Caymanians have understood that our success is linked to our willingness to take the best and make them part of us and grow the kind of nation that we have. Your generation has greater opportunity than any that has come before you in these Islands. All of the studies and surveys and reports, not nationally but internationally as well indicate that your generation is one of the most anxious, the most worried, the most concerned that has ever been. You worry about your economic prospects, the future, the future of the world. You worry about climate change. You worry about discrimination. You believe, and I think this is wonderful, like no other generation before you, that equality is a God-given right regardless of your colour, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your gender, regardless of your sexual orientation. That I believe holds great prospects for this world and I, my sons are a bit older you are now, the youngest is 23, but I still believe I have enough insight through them and through their friends to the thinking of your generation to be able to say with confidence that the future of this country is bright, it is secure because you care more about the things that are important and the things which are sustainable and which will allow this country to endure not just for the next generation but for generations to come. And so your experience here, some of you have been here before, and so your experience here today and the work you’ve done over the past months and indeed for some of you over the past years in helping prepare you for the leadership role I know all of you will take, if not in these hallowed halls, certainly in Cayman society is so important and so encouraging that I believe that the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker, myself and other colleagues can be heartened in knowing that when the day comes, as it inevitably will, that when we depart these chambers, these chambers will be inhabited by people who have been better qualified and who have better judgment and experience to continue to lead these Islands over the course of the next 50 years and beyond and be an even greater beacon of opportunity and light than it currently is. I wish you all well in your deliberations today.