(CNS): Civil servants who are not in senior management positions or directly involved in issues relating to government policies that become the subject of protests and marches can attend these demonstrations, including the event planned regarding the dredging of George Town Harbour on Saturday, the deputy governor has confirmed. Like the policy relating to petitions and signing up for causes that may oppose certain public policies, civil servants can take part provided they do not have a connection to the issue during the course of their work and there are no objections from their line managers.
Speaking to CNS on the day of the recent ‘gas price’ march, Franz Manderson said that the clarification that government employees can attend demonstrations came ahead of a protest held in East End in June 2011 after the premier at the time, McKeeva Bush, had offered his backing to a proposed project to create a seaport in the High Rock area, which also posed severe threats to the environment.
“The documents we have issued covers all of this,” he said. “The whole thing started regarding a demonstration up in East End … that’s when we developed the policy. In my opinion, in the same way that they are allowed to sign petitions, they have a right to take part in a protest provided they follow the guidelines in the policy.”
With the nod from the top of the civil service, public sector workers can attend and show their opposition to the dredging, which threatens some 30 acres of marine habitat in George Town, included unique ancient coral reefs and associated marine life, as well as wrecks, both directly in the dredging footprint and indirectly from silt and turbulence during the years of construction.
Environmental activists and those opposed to the current port plan are hoping that a protest involving significant numbers will send a clearer message to the Cayman Islands Government that the public consultation results, which showed the community was three to one against the plan.
Local photographer Courtney Platt, one of the organisers, told CNS that the rally is about asking government to look again at this plan and see if the same goals of attracting the larger cruise ships and growing cruise passenger numbers cannot be achieved some other way.
“There are several good options already on the table. This is not a question of build the current plan or die, as some proponents for the current plan would suggest,” he said.
“The EIA, EAB, DEMA letter to government, Ellen Prager letter to government, CITA letter to government, National Trust for the Cayman Islands letter to government and many others have clarified that dredging in the harbour, despite massively expensive mitigations, will kill a significant portion of Grand Cayman’s marine park, natural heritage and tourism attraction,” he said.
“Alive as a tourist attraction, the harbour’s reefs hold an unquestionably significant economic value for the Cayman economy far into the future,” he said, sharing a position supported not only by the original environmental impact assessment (EIA) but also the recent updated business case.
He warned of the size of coral destruction outside of the dredging area and said that the world renowned Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto, Soto’s South and the Cali Shipwreck are all in grave peril, presenting an inconceivable loss to the islands.
“It is the government’s responsibility, not ours, to find an adequate way to increase cruise tourism without dredging and destroying the harbour ecosystem,” he said, pointing to at least three alternative proposals government should consider with no reef damage, such as enhanced tendering, including shore-side security clearance, the Cayman Sky Bridge or an alternative plan set out in the Baird EIA.
The peaceful demonstration, which is set to start at 3 pm at the George Town waterfront across from Breezes by the Bay, comes in the wake of the premier’s announcement to move ahead with the current port plan. Despite the accepted significant threats to the reefs, the premier has said that it is about choosing between the environment and the economy. People wishing to sign the People’s Initiated Referendum Petition are asked to bring their voter registration number.