Brackers against voting changes

There is little support across the Sister Islands for any constitutional change to the way the two islands elect their political representatives, Cayman Brac residents said at an opposition United Democratic Party constitutional meeting Friday.

The crowd of about 30 declared themselves unanimously against the government proposal, which would see the Sister Islands remain a single electoral district with two representatives but would only allow electors to vote for one candidate rather that the current entitlement of two.

Brac resident Raymond Scott said he has found virtually no support on the Brac for the proposal. ‘Cayman Brac says no to one-man-one-vote,’ he said.

Another attendee, Temple Tatum, also railed against the proposal.

‘This one-man one-vote … at the next election, all of us, whether we as Brackers or Grand Caymanians or Little Caymanians should put our feet down and say no,’ he said.

People’s Progressive Movement Government leaders have said their plan to keep the islands as one electoral district with two representatives while proposing to divide all of Grand Cayman into single member constituencies recognises there is no appetite to split the islands into two districts.

But they have said it would be inconsistent to introduce a one-man one-vote system on Grand Cayman and not do the same on the Sister Islands, pointing out that one-man one-vote would ensure every citizen’s vote is worth the same.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush described the proposal as ludicrous and West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin said his opposition United Democratic Party has not been able to find any evidence of such a system operating anywhere else in the world.

‘People on the Brac are adamant they don’t want any change at all to their voting system,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘It will only increase the divisiveness of our communities.’

Mr. Anglin warned that if a popular candidate secured 600 of around 900 votes on offer and the rest of the votes were roughly shared amongst another six candidates, a second candidate could wind up being elected with between 50 to 75 votes.

‘Is that democracy?’ Mr. Anglin asked. ‘How can that possibly be democratic?’

Mr. Anglin said the proposed system doesn’t make sense, saying it could lead to someone involved in illegal activity being elected because they have the clout to be able to drum up less than 100 votes.

‘You all know what happens during some campaigns. We all know how all of a sudden Christmas is in May,’ he said.

Sisters Cabinet guarantee

Those at the meeting heard Mr. Bush reiterate his position that a revised constitution should include the guarantee of cabinet representation for at least one Sister Islands MLA.

He pledged to include a Sister Islands MLA in his Cabinet if his party wins government at elections next May, drawing enthusiastic applause from those at the meeting.

PPM legislators have opposed giving such a guarantee, saying it would lead other districts to also demand guarantees of Cabinet representation.

They have instead proposed that a Sister Islands MLA be appointed as a liaison to the Cabinet minister responsible for District Administration, if no Sister Islands legislator is in the Cabinet.

Sister Islands MLA and government backbencher Moses Kirkconnell told a Brac constitutional meeting earlier this year that a guarantee of Cabinet representation for the Sister Islands could be counter-productive, particularly if the representative came from the opposition. ‘They would be locked out,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said at the time.

But both Mr. Bush and UDP Sister Islands representative Julianna O’Connor-Connolly said the guarantee is needed because of the islands’ geographical isolation from Grand Cayman, particularly when a storm is approaching.

‘I believe that strongly because they are disconnected from Grand Cayman. So someone from here would be on the ground,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘I think it is good democracy and ensures better distribution of policies.’

The need for such an arrangement was demonstrated only weeks ago as hurricane Gustav approached, Ms O’Connor-Connolly said, when she found herself waiting for some time to get approval to distribute plywood to residents on the islands from a senior civil servant on Grand Cayman.

Mr. Bush also confirmed that the Sister Islands will be represented at upcoming constitutional negotiations with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly to be one of the four opposition MLA’s in attendance.