Thank you for allowing me to address a statement that was attributed to me and published in the Cayman Net News regarding Jacques Scott’s application to the Liquor Licensing Board to relocate their Red Bay Liquor Store to the Countryside Shopping Plaza in Savannah.
The article, by Mr. Lyndon Martin a self proclaimed ‘investigative reporter’ for Cayman Net News and a member of the UDP who was voted out of office by the people of the Sister Islands in the last General Election, quoted me as saying ‘Government would take action if the board did not reverse the chairman’s decision.’
To the best of my knowledge Mr. Martin wasn’t even present at the second community meeting in Savannah where he alleged I made the statement. I certainly didn’t see him there and I have asked several other people that were present and they didn’t see him either. So I asked myself – why then did Mr. Martin create this quote and attribute it to me when in fact I didn’t make any such statement and the approximately 100 people in attendance at that meeting would know that wasn’t what I said.
The answer to my question became clear when I read the editorial in the Friday, 25th May, edition of Cayman Net News criticising Minister Eden and me for the position we have taken on this issue. It was clear to me then that Mr. Martin’s story and his ‘created’ quote, which he attributed to me, was simply to facilitate that editorial and the editorial stance of Cayman Net News. How sad but thankfully the public understands the political posturing that is taking place and the connection with a certain radio talk show.
For the record I have not taken a public position on this matter and I have NOT called for the chairman’s resignation. I have not done so because as the Minister responsible for the Liquor Licensing Board I must be careful not to influence the board’s decision one way or the other as this could have legal implications for either party in the court proceedings.
I have, as a representative of the people of the Electoral District of Bodden Town, attended the two public meetings on this matter and listened very carefully to the arguments both for and against Jacques Scott’s application. I have also received many representations from people in the Savannah and Newlands community who have very strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
I would like to make it clear that government does not have the authority under the law to direct the decision making of the Liquor Licensing Board. While neither Minister Eden nor I will make the decision for the board, we do expect the board to follow the letter of the law in deciding whether to grant or refuse Jacques Scott’s application. What I said and what I stand by is that if the board (and that includes the chairman) does not follow the law as it currently stands then the Government will take action.
It has been mentioned publicly on several occasions and at the last public meeting in Savannah that Government should simply direct the board to refuse the application.
I encourage those who would desire that outcome to not allow anyone to mislead you. I took time to explain this issue at the last meeting and I will do so here as well.
If the Government issued such a directive then clearly the board would follow it and it would be a quick but short win for those in the Savannah and Newlands community who are opposed to this application.
The reason for this is that the applicant, in this case, Jacques Scott, would continue their legal proceedings in court and the court would certainly rule that government had usurped the authority of the board. This would result in the court overturning the board’s decision and ruling in favour of Jacques Scott.
The Government has a responsibility to ensure that due process is followed and that the law is complied with so that there is no bias and that it is fair to both sides.
On a separate point, an extensive report has been done on the Liquor Licensing Law and this will serve as the basis for proposed amendments to the law in the near future but this is irrelevant to the current application, which must be dealt with under the current law.
The Liquor Licensing Board, along with all other boards in the Cayman Islands, serves an important role in our democracy; providing our citizens with opportunities for broad participation in executing policy in our country.
For any government to interfere with the deliberations of a sitting board would corrupt the process and set a dangerous precedent for the autonomy of these key elements of our participatory government.
In closing I encourage everyone to respect the strong opinions on both sides of this argument. Our freedom to express our ideas, even if they differ from those of others, is a cornerstone of our system of government; democracy is alive and well in the Cayman Islands.
Now let us allow the board to decide this matter within the confines of the Liquor Licensing Law.
Charles E. Clifford – Minister Tourism, Environment, Investments and Commerce