Former legislator Gilbert McLean launched his campaign for re-election last week, promising to introduce a national lottery if elected.
Insisting that challenging times required creative solutions, Mr. McLean said a former Commissioner of Police indicated almost a decade ago that as much as $1 million was being spent on ‘numbers’ games every week in Cayman.
‘If that is right, we are talking about an informal economy that is making about $52 million a year,’ he said at a rally in Savannah Wednesday night.
‘Wouldn’t that be good if that was available to the government … for education and public health services?’
Mr. McLean labelled numbers games as ‘that thing that just about everybody buys every day and everyone says isn’t happening.
‘You wouldn’t have to worry that when you go to buy a lottery ticket you might be arrested because you wouldn’t be doing anything illegal,’ he said.
The former Cabinet Minister said Florida’s lottery has netted the state billions of dollars for education since it was introduced in the late 1980s.
‘Why should we not utilize this money that is here now?’
The suggestion drew an enthusiastic response from the modest crowd that watched the rally from the roadside and from parked cars outside the restaurant and barber’s shop behind the Savannah Texaco. But he conceded the proposal will not be met with universal support.
Rallying under the slogan of ‘real world skills; real world understanding’, McLean is running as an independent in Bodden Town – the district he represented twice before losing his seat in 2005 as a member of the UDP. Mr. McLean also served as a Sister Islands MLA from 1988 to 1992.
Explaining his decision to run as an independent, he said party politics is proving too divisive in Cayman. ‘The community has never been divided into one part PPM and one part UDP.’
One of the best results would be for Cayman to emerge from the election with a coalition government, he said.
‘I’m not going to support any side in the house. I’m going to support other independents like myself who I think share similar objective and values.’
Long-time political colleague and friend Roy Bodden introduced Mr. McLean, describing him as a man proven to be capable, honest, intelligent and fearless.
‘This is not the time for spineless men – for men who can’t take pressure; for men who can’t think and for men who hide out at the closest watering hole,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘These are times for men of mettle.’
Mr. McLean was scathing of the performance of the ruling People’s Progressive Movement Government, bemoaning the state of the country’s finances, the level of government borrowing and long-running delays with having government accounts audited.
He asked why the PPM is spending millions of dollars on four new schools but seemingly nothing on teachers. ‘Buildings do not teach children, teachers do,’ he said.
The former Health Minister said the PPM have done next to nothing to protect Cayman’s financial services industry, adding that he was astounded to hear Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts dismiss as ‘political posturing’ Barack Obama’s position on tax havens and offshore finance.
Lamenting the state of the country, he said the Metropolitan Police Investigation into police corruption has failed to produce evidence that could justify its current $6 million price tag. He also questioned where the RCIPS’ ‘invisible helicopter’ is.
‘We do not know if it exists but $3.5 million of my money and your money has been spent on it.’
Another idea floated by Mr. McLean was to change the law to require that 50 per cent of pension money taken from employees be invested in the Cayman Islands. ‘It’s our money; we have the right to use it,’ he said, adding that it would be the perfect way to finance small business loans.
Mr. McLean acknowledged that the UDP’s grants of Caymanian Status in 2003 probably cost him his seat at the last election but added that the PPM had played on people’s prejudices, insinuating that status had only been given ‘to one nationality of one colour.’
However, Mr. McLean agreed the status grants were not the ‘the best thing that ever happened’ to the country.
He said he didn’t initially know about the status grants and when he found out, protested them to then Governor Bruce Dinwiddy.
‘He told me that he didn’t really mind because part of his remit was to encourage the Caymans to integrate as many long-term residents as possible.’
When Mr. McLean realised that it wasn’t going to stop, he decided that he too should propose people that had made positive contributions to the community. They included doctors and teachers as well as two women that had been here for almost 50 years.
He said the status grants had been made partly as a response to fears that a lawsuit was about to be brought that would seek to award status to all people that had been here for five years or longer, meaning up to 15,000 new people could become Caymanian status holders.
‘I have not heard of any of those persons that have been granted (status) being involved in criminal activity and I know there were many good, good people that received the status grants.’
He said it’s time to move on from the issue.
‘It’s now six years old. It’s done.’