Little support for referendum

Government backbencher Alfonso Wright was the only one of four George Town election candidates prepared to endorse the proposed constitution at a candidates’ forum in Red Bay Thursday night.

United Democratic Party candidate Mike Adam avoided declaring his voting intention, describing it as a private and personal decision, while fellow district UDP candidate, Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden, said she was going to vote no in the referendum on the constitution on 20 May.

‘I don’t feel as a citizen of this country that I have been given ample time to read the documentation in its entirety,’ Ms McGaw-Lumsden told a crowd of about 60 at the Mary Miller Hall. ‘There are ramifications and consequences and there are various sections that I am not quite comfortable with.’

George Town Independent Burns Connolly said he was also a leaning towards a no vote on 20 May. He feels there aren’t enough checks and balances on the powers given to the new premier, the leader of the opposition and Cabinet ministers under the proposed document.

He said he is extremely concerned with a provision that allows the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition to make minor and uncontroversial changes to the constitution without a referendum.

Outlining his support for the document, Mr. Wright said some are viewing a yes vote as an endorsement of his People’s Progressive Movement government.

‘[They] have deliberately set out to discourage people from voting for the constitution so that they are not encouraged to vote for the PPM at the same time,’ Mr. Wright said.

He threw a thinly veiled barb at Mr. Adam for not declaring where he stands on the constitution.

‘To say it is an individual decision… if you are seeking to be the next government of this country, you must be able to direct your people as to what they should do. That is what they elect you for.’

Candidates at the forum were also asked about whether they have complied with a section of the constitution that requires them to publish in the Cayman Islands Gazette any government contracts they or their companies might have. Failure to do so has has landed two Bodden Town candidates in hot water (see Caymanian Compass, 24 April).

Messrs. Connolly, Adam and Wright gave simple yes answers to the question. Ms McGaw-Lumsden said she was a director of National Security Services, a company that provides security services at government schools, but had stepped down in March, and so has no interest in government contracts to declare.

Top three issues 

Chamber of Commerce President Stuart Bostock asked the candidates to rate the top three issues facing the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Wright pointed to the economy, unemployment and housing.

On the economy, he said 90 per cent of what is happening is out if the Government’s control, adding that residents in the Cayman Islands are still considerably better off than those in other Caribbean countries and territories.

‘We are simply biding our time and doing the best that we can as the world acts on this unprecedented global financial situation,’ he said, calling on the private sector to share the burden with government.

‘We continue to look for government to solve all of the problems, but the business sector needs to be mindful that unemployment contributes to crime and crime affects everyone, including the business people.’

Ms McGaw-Lumsden listed the state of the financial sector, crime and unemployment as her top concerns.

‘There is no dialogue between the private sector and the public sector,’ she said about Cayman’s financial services sector. ‘That needs to happen.’

She complained that too many officers are leaving the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and that a full-time Police Commissioner is still not in place, leaving morale amongst the force at an all time low.

She said unemployment must be tackled because it breeds crime, which in turn will deter tourists and foreign investment.

Mr. Connolly listed Cayman’s national debt of almost $700 million as one of his biggest concerns, as well as unemployment and crime.

‘It’s about $70,000 per Caymanian,’ he said of the debt situation. ‘We have on top of that unfunded pensions, and a deficit budget this year of [$29 million], which is likely to close well north of that.’

Mr. Connolly also reiterated his plan to promote Cayman as the financial center for Cuba as it opens up. ‘We know there is going to be a huge flow of money going there.’

Mr. Adam listed the local economy, crime and unemployment as key concerns, adding that the government has failed to have a plan in place to address the issues.