Bittersweet ‘yes’ vote for Alden

Vows effective Opposition from PPM

It was a bittersweet afternoon for Alden McLaughlin and his People’s Progressive Movement colleagues Thursday.

Hours earlier voters had emphatically ousted his government from power, only to give decisive approval to the draft constitution that Mr. McLaughlin, more than anyone, had so tirelessly championed.

With some of the spoils of his efforts now set to fall to his political rivals in the United Democratic Party, Mr. McLaughlin could not help but acknowledge the Shakespearian nature of the outcome.

‘There is a certain irony in [referendum passage] that causes me a wry smile,’ he told the Caymanian Compass hours after the ‘yes’ vote.

But the outgoing education minister was quick to add that he believes the document is a crucial development for the Cayman Islands, no matter who is in charge.

‘I am absolutely overwhelmed at the fact that it has got through,’ he said. ‘It is what the country needs if we are to continue to move forward.

‘If we had lost the referendum and won the government, I still would have felt hugely disappointed.’

The George Town MLA has agitated for a new constitution since running for office in November 2000 and took the helm of his party’s constitutional modernisation efforts after it swept to power in 2005.

The new constitution received the backing of almost 63 per cent of the electorate during Wednesday’s vote. It will be sent for the Privy Council’s approval next month before a phased implementation begins.

The historic ‘yes’ vote was the product of an almost 16-month public education campaign and came against a backdrop of various failed or aborted efforts to modernise the country’s constitution spanning a decade.

‘I believe it is a good document,’ Mr. McLaughlin maintained Thursday. ‘I believe there are adequate checks and balances on the various additional powers that are conferred on the premier.’

The people have spoken

Mr. McLaughlin spent Wednesday night and Thursday morning at his party’s headquarters in George Town. There the mood had turned from hopeful to grim as the night drew on and the size of the party’s loss became apparent.

‘Obviously I would have liked a different result… but the people have spoken,’ he said.

‘To lose the government in light of the tremendous strides that we have made is a difficult thing to cope with and to rationalise,’ he added.

Mr. McLaughlin said the party had obviously got a number of things wrong while in government.

‘The country spoke loud and clearly… for one reason or another, we lost the support and confidence of the majority,’ he said.

He said his party will do all it can in opposition to keep the new government honest and accountable.

‘We will be as effective an opposition as the country could want,’ he said. ‘We are all experienced; there are no newcomers.’

‘We will be constructive and offer the PPM agenda as an alternative to what the government does. We will support them when that is the right thing to do,’ he said.

‘We have a critically important role to play in the opposition and that we will do.’

Press freedom

Mr. McLaughlin said he will be paying close attention to ensure that the culture of openness and transparency his government fostered is not scrapped under UDP rule.

‘I just hope the media is not intimidated into essentially saying little to nothing about what the government is doing, as has been the case in the past,’ he said.

‘They are no longer intimidated and afraid to be critical,’ Mr. McLaughlin said of the press. ‘It is going to be interesting to see what happens.

‘I think we have changed the culture of governance in Cayman,’ he added, pointing to regular televised Cabinet press briefings and the Freedom of Information Law as two key achievements.

‘I think they are critically important for keeping government honest and for ensuring good governance,’ he said.

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