Political hopefuls pledged to address flooding problems in Bodden Town at the Chamber of Commerce District Candidates’ Forum in Savannah last week.
United Democratic Party hopeful Dwayne Seymour blamed quarry blasting for the flooding in the Belford Estate area, saying something had to be done. He also called for proper road drainage systems to make the area less flood prone.
‘There is no way Twyla [Vargas] should have to get on the radio every week,’ he said, referring to the vocal Cumber Avenue resident.
People’s Progressive Movement incumbent Charles Clifford described flooding as the most urgent issue in the district and one his government has done something about by conducting engineering studies on flooding in both the Savannah Gully and Cumber Avenue.
‘The engineers have come up with solutions … now we need to move to the implementation phase,’ he said.
Independent candidate Theresa Pitcairn said government could help residents in flood prone areas in the short term by assisting with hurricane shutters for windows and doors.
Gilbert McLean, who is also running as an independent in the district, said engineering solutions to the problems exist, but what is needed is a government that will put up the money needed rather than constantly talking about it.
On a night when debate between candidates remained mostly congenial, the most acrimonious exchange came when candidates were asked to identify the greatest achievements of the PPM – a task some candidates said they had difficulty doing.
‘I can’t point to any achievements of the present government,’ Mr. McLean said, launching into the A list of areas in which he said the PPM had failed.
‘There has been the exercise of attempting to build four schools at one time and none are completed,’ he said. ‘There has been the disappointment of the huge expenditure that is going on in the country.
‘The country has never been in this amount of debt in its history.’
Mr. McLean complained about the $1.5 billion in government spending that remains unaudited and the $3.5 million that had been spent on ‘an invisible helicopter’. He also expressed anger that no one was held accountable over the Hassan Syed fiasco.
Mr. Seymour said he, too, was having difficulty thinking of PPM achievements.
‘Perhaps if you gave me the question in advance, I could have found one,’ he said, adding that people are worse off now than they were before the PPM took office.
Ms Pitcairn said she had admired Education Minister Alden McLaughlin’s courage in making education such a priority, and for discussing the introduction of a minimum wage.
However, on education she feels Mr. McLaughlin ‘lost his way by focusing on infrastructure rather than the business of education’.
Mr. Clifford limited his answer to some of the challenges Cayman’s tourism industry has faced since he took over as Tourism Minister, but he returned to the question at the end of the evening.
Among the dist00rict achievements he mentioned were the building of the East-West Arterial road; the new Savannah Post Office; the Newlands boat ramp; the proposed redevelopment of Coe Wood Public Beach; the establishment of the Market at the Grounds in Lower Valley; and work on the Mission House in Bodden Town and the Breakers playing field.
The candidates were also asked whether they agreed with the section 19 eligibility requirements under the Cayman Islands Constitution that have brought into question the eligibility to serve in Legislative Assembly of Mr. Seymour and UDP district colleague, Mark Scotland.
Mr. Clifford, Ms Pitcairn and Mr. McLean all simply stated they agree with the provision, Mr. McLean adding that it has been there for decades.
Mr. Seymour, whose candidacy has been rocked by the furore, said there is a conflict between the Elections Law and the Constitution that needs to be fixed.
Both Mr. Seymour and Mr. Scotland have complained that the dual requirements to disclose interests on the Legislative Assembly’s Register of Interests, as well as the constitutional requirement to have details of government contracts published by way of government notice,, has caused confusion for candidates.
‘I think right now there is a problem with both laws correlating,’ Mr. Seymour said. ‘The Elections Law doesn’t marry with the Constitution. That definitely needs to be reviewed.’
Later in the night he called for Bodden Towners to stand by him and Mr. Scotland and to not let ‘the media houses choose our representatives’ or for his opponents to snuff out voters’ hopes.