Today’s Editorial, January 27, 2009: More debates needed

We must congratulate the organisers of the annual Fidelity Cayman Business Outlook for their foresight to include in this year’s conference a debate between Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush.

This was not the first debate between the two leaders, but what made this different is that neither of men saw the questions in advance.

In addition, the questions – which were submitted by the public – were not easy ones, and dealt with a variety of difficult issues such as the rollover policy, the prioritisation of infrastructure projects, and the bill of rights in the new constitution.

With less than four months before the elections, this debate gave the conference attendees – and a live Radio Cayman listening audience – the opportunity to hear the leaders of our two political parties weigh in on the issues.

We give credit to both Mr. Tibbetts and Mr. Bush for agreeing to attend the debate, especially since neither had participated in this kind of event before and it had to be somewhat uncomfortable for them to do so.

Both men had their ups and downs during the debate, partially because of the nature of the questions. Some questions were answered directly, while others were danced around in true political fashion.

However, what was welcome in its absence was the kind of political rancour that has come to be all too commonplace during debates in the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Tibbetts uttered virtually no criticisms of the opposition during the debate, and while Mr. Bush did criticise some of the policies or inactions of the current government, he did so with a sense of statesmanship. He also, for the most part, told the audience how a government he led would do things differently.

What was perhaps most interesting in the two men’s responses was how much common ground there really is between them. Shave away the political rhetoric, and Mr. Tibbetts and Mr. Bush seem to agree on as many things as they disagree.

With the challenges Cayman faces, it’s comforting to know the chasm separating the two political parties isn’t as wide as we all might have thought.

As for who fared better in the debate, we’ll just say this: the country won. Honest, unrehearsed debates like this are a step forward for our democracy and we hope more are staged just like it in the future.