The Elections Office has refuted repeated claims this week from the United Democratic Party that it has advised the party on the eligibility of two of its Bodden Town candidates.
In a statement Wednesday, the party’s General Secretary Rolston Anglin, said the entitlement of candidates Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour to contest and be elected in the General Election ‘has been confirmed by the Elections Office and the honourable attorney general.’
The statement did not, however, address the eligibility of candidates.
Speaking with the Caymanian Compass Thursday, Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez told a different story.
‘It’s a decision that will have to be made by the courts,’ he said, adding it is not for the Elections Office to advise of the eligibility of candidates to contest elections and become members of the LA.
Attorney General Sam Bulgin has also said the matter is one for the courts.
Mr. Gomez also refuted similar claims made by Mr. Scotland on Tuesday’s Rooster 101.9FM’s Cayman Crosstalk program.
Mr. Scotland had told the programme the two are in compliance with all the requirements of the Elections Law and the Constitution, adding ‘we have had communications with the Elections Office as well and they concur with those statements, too.’
Mr. Gomez denied the claim.
‘I didn’t speak to Mr. Scotland,’ he said, adding ‘it’s not in our hands. It’s a matter for the courts if someone challenges it after the election under section 23 of the constitution.’
At a meeting in Savannah Wednesday night, Mr. Seymour hit out at the media over the furore about the two men’s eligibility and urged voters to stand by them on Election Day.
‘Don’t let the media houses decide our representatives,’ Mr. Seymour said. ‘You are bright people and you understand what our opponents are trying to do to derail your hopes.’
The eligibility of both men has been drawn into question after they missed the 20 April deadline for candidates to have interests in government contracts published by way of government notice.
Both Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour have admitted having interests in government contracts, or in Mr. Seymour’s case, in a contract with a government-owned company. The men described missing the deadline to publish as an oversight, and have since had the interests published in a special extraordinary gazette on 24 April.
They have also said the contracts are in the public domain and that they listed their ownership of the companies that hold the relevant contracts in the Legislative Assembly’s Register of Interests, which is a separate requirement on candidates under a different law.
Section 23(3) of the Cayman Islands Constitution says that registered voters, candidates that believe they have the right to be elected, and the attorney general can make an application to the Grand Court to determine whether a person has been validly elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly.
Cabinet minister and rival Bodden Town Candidate Charles Clifford, who was also appearing on the radio show Tuesday, weighed in on the issue, saying he accepts it was an oversight on the pair’s behalf.
‘But I don’t know whether that changes the legal consequences,’ Mr. Clifford said.
‘Based on my reading of the constitution … they are currently disqualified from holding public office in the Legislative Assembly.’
Whatever the legal position, Mr. Clifford demanded that the issue be resolved quickly and called on the Elections Office, the governor or the attorney general to make a statement clarifying the situation.
But with Mr. Gomez’s insistence that the issue is one for the courts to deal with after the election, there seems little chance that the debate over the two men’s eligibility will die down any time soon.
Although both candidates have vowed not to let the issue distract them from their respective campaigns, the saga could deliver a critical blow to the UDP’s chances in the crucial Bodden Town race. The UDP only slated Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour in the district.
Mr. Gomez has previously stated that his office gave multiple reminders to candidates about meeting eligibility requirements, including the obligation to disclose interests in government contracts.
The requirement was also highlighted in a handbook given to election candidates on Nomination Day, 25 March.
Both candidates have said the two different requirements to disclose interests, both by government notice and on the Legislative Assembly’s Register of Interests, caused confusion.
As the Caymanian Compass reported Tuesday, a score of other candidates, including Cabinet Ministers Kurt Tibbetts, Alden McLaughlin and Arden McLean, were late declaring interests to the LA’s register, but that requirement is contained in a different law that carries a different penalty, and they are unlikely to face sanction for the breach.
In the 24 April Extraordinary Gazette, Mr. Scotland listed government contracts held by two of his companies. They include work on the parking lot of the new Government Office Accommodation Project; repairs and upgrades to government sports fields; the reconstruction of Dorcy Drive; and a design contract for the extension of the East-West Arterial.
Mr. Seymour’s declaration said his company, Airport Professional Services, has a contract, ‘not with the government’, but with Cayman Airways, the national airline.