Four election candidates were quizzed on everything from tourism to crime and education, district matters and the environment Friday evening at The Chamber of Commerce District Candidates’ Forum in West Bay.
A large crowd turned out to the John A. Cumber Primary School hall to hear what independents Reginald ‘Choppy’ Delapenha, Woodward ‘Woody’ DaCosta and Dora Ebanks and United Democratic Party candidate Captain Eugene Ebanks had to say.
Candidates were asked if they would support selling or leasing Boatswain’s Beach, which is losing about $500,000 a month, to private investors or support the continuation of subsidies.
Mr. Delapenha said he wouldn’t support a sale because it’s important to the history of the Cayman Islands. ‘However, what I think would have to be done is that it would have to be looked at carefully, determine the viability of it and then make the necessary adjustments to make it profitable and if it’s not to be made profitable then at the very minimum the loss must be minimised to the point where it makes sense to the overall tourism product that we offer.’
Captain Ebanks said Boatswains is a vital part of Cayman’s tourism product and it can be made viable.
‘I feel that if it’s a part of our heritage we should protect it to the point where, even if it isn’t making a lot of money it’s still paying its own way. I don’t think we can get it to support itself until we can get supporting amenities to bring the traffic to that facility.’
Mr. DaCosta said, ‘Something that costs $68 million dollars to have the capacity of 3,000 people per day is a losing, losing proposition.’
He suggested a co-partnership with a private entity to make it viable, but was against selling the property. ‘The problem we have in Cayman is we’re selling out all the property and we have nothing left as a Caymanian people.’
Mrs. Ebanks said Boatswain’s has been a part of Cayman’s heritage and leasing could be considered.
They were queried about top West Bay issues.
Captain Ebanks said, ‘I think until we address those issues – the policing, the unemployment and the crime issue – we will continue to have problems, not only in West Bay but throughout the Island, and West Bay is no different from the rest of the districts.’
Mr. DaCosta said crime and lack of jobs are problems. ‘The psychological downtrodden of our people is the main problem that we have,’ he said. ‘We need to create a vocational school from the middle school level all the way up.’
Mrs. Ebanks echoed the need.
‘There’s so many careers that our young people could train for.’
She said an adult literacy programme and recreation facilities are needed for youth in West Bay.
Mr. Delapenha said job loss is a big problem, which is tied with crime. ‘You put people to work, they feel good about themselves, they earn money, they don’t have time for crime.’
He also spoke about the need for a community centre and sporting facilities.
Candidates were asked about the Conservation Bill.
‘We have far too many areas in the district of West Bay where people have just simply dumped things,’ said Mr. Delapenha. ‘Unless we enforce legislation for littering and dumping it’s just going to be a huge problem for this district.’
Captain Ebanks said run-off from the dump is causing marine slime that flows through the North Sound down to Safehaven.
He said while the trash situation, especially in Barkers, needs to be addressed, the most important issue is to relocate the dump to protect the North Sound.
Mr. DaCosta said his concern is the mangroves at the head of Barkers. He doesn’t want to see them destroyed and butchered.
‘Remember two things Cayman has – our environment and our people – if we don’t have this, what do we have?’
Mrs. Ebanks said litter is a major problem.
‘I also feel we need to do something about the refuse going into our sea. That’s really important. We should look into that immediately.’
On the issue of a cruise ship dock in West Bay, Captain Eugene supports a cruise jetty for tenders but not a dock. ‘It would create too much congestion in the district and destroy too many prime dive sites if you had to dredge for a dock.’
Mr. DaCosta said a dock goes against the environment would create too much congestion. ‘I’d have to completely revise that whole entire area,’ he said.
Mrs. Ebanks said there are not enough businesses in West Bay that cruise ship visitors would patronise.
Mr. Delapenha said he would not advocate anything be done if it’s not properly thought out.
Some tension arose in the middle of the forum when Chamber CEO Wil Pineau forgot to ask Mr. DaCosta to answer one of the questions. Mr. DaCosta spoke up and said he was feeling like a ‘third wheel’ within the whole process.
He also referred to a request he made a few days prior to the forum to change his appearance date but said he was not permitted to as he was told all the dates were confirmed and published in the newspaper.
‘Having said that, I have come to understand that there are several changes in the UDP in this whole entire line-up, even though the paper has been published.’
Mr. Pineau said some people requested changes of dates because of travel reasons and as a result of that, certain candidates changed dates. ‘We allowed that because they would not be able to appear as part of the forum.’
But Mr. DaCosta said, ‘Rules are rules and it’s unacceptable.’
He said any independent that wants to change dates in the forum from now on should be allowed to do so.
Mr. DaCosta also complained that some of the candidates were seemingly reading answers from a script. ‘It ticks me off,’ he said.
Mr. Pineau told Mr. DaCosta that no one received questions prior to the evening. ‘If certain candidates have prepared themselves in writing because they knew what may be asked, because these are all issues out there in the public domain, they have the right to do that sir.’