Forum pits old Cayman vs. new

Last Thursday night’s political debate at the Savannah United Church outlined sharp differences between the two participating candidates and also appeared to symbolise a gap between Cayman’s generations.

People’s Progressive Movement party candidate Anthony Eden and independent candidate Sandra Catron fielded questions from a Chamber of Commerce panel and the audience of about 30 on-lookers for nearly two hours. They are contesting the election for one of three available Legislative Assembly seats in Bodden Town district.

Mr. Eden, the current Health Minister, is seeking his fifth four-year term in office. Ms Catron is seeking her first. The two, separated by about 30 years in age, disagreed on several issues Thursday evening.

Asked whether they would reduce the size of the civil service to help balance the budget, Mr. Eden said no, Ms Catron said it would have to be considered.

‘That is the last thing we would do,’ Mr. Eden said.

Ms Catron favoured a ‘proper assessment’ of the size and functions of various departments within the civil service before making any final decisions.

‘It’s not a popular position for any politician to take, but its something we’d have to look at,’ Ms Catron said.

Ms Catron said there should be less emphasis on cruise ship tourists, who are generally well outspent by stay-over visitors. Mr. Eden favoured the construction of a permanent dock to eliminate the use of tender boats to ferry cruise ship passengers back and forth, making their visits easier and more pleasurable.

An audience member asked a question about how the candidates would vote on the constitutional referendum, also planned for 20 May. Mr. Eden answered with an ‘absolute yes.’ Ms Catron answered a definite ‘no.’

‘There has to be (a modernised) constitution so it’s not coming all the time from the top down,’ Mr. Eden said. ‘We’ve seen what has happened to the police, it just pains my heart.’

Under Cayman’s constitution, the UK-appointed Governor maintains ultimate control over the police. The current governor has ordered an independent investigation into the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the cost of which has now topped CI$6 million.

Ms Catron focused rather on critical civil rights protections she feels were left incomplete or eliminated entirely from the draft bill of rights. She said the non-discrimination section of the bill of rights will not even protect the rights of many Caymanians within the country.

‘That’s the bottom line here folks,’ she said, ‘equality for all. I’ve heard people say that this constitution is far from perfect. I refuse to settle for something that is far from perfect.’

The two even disagree on the most important issues within Bodden Town.

Mr. Eden highlighted the importance of cleaning up and rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. He said more aftercare programmes for school kids should be set up and run at community centres, and that littering continued to be a major problem within the district.

Ms Catron said crime, and the district’s economy topped her list.

‘There’s a false sense of security that we won’t be touched (by the world financial crisis),’ she said.

Both candidates favoured more spending on social programmes for children and the elderly. But the two took decidedly opposite views on how to deal with convicted criminals.

‘It is time to stop pussy-footing around with these hardened criminals,’ Mr. Eden said, adding that he believes the death penalty should be reinstated in Cayman and that he favours mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years for those caught in possession of firearms.

Ms Catron said she would rather see police and the education system focused on a gang intervention programme, with emphasis on reintegrating wayward teens and young adults.