Clifford slams PPM, party system

Ex-minister bids adieu to former allies

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Former Tourism Minister Charles
Clifford announced his resignation from the People’s Progressive Movement
political party Wednesday night in a bluntly-worded, two-page letter which was
e-mailed to several members of the Cayman Islands media.

Mr. Clifford, a long-time civil
servant until he successfully sought public office in the May 2005 elections,
was unseated in a general election four years later in his home district of
Bodden Town.

In the months following his defeat,
he attempted to lead a protest march against the now-ruling United Democratic
Party government over its immigration policies and plans to divest the new
government administration building in George Town. However, that march never
occurred as PPM leaders later backed away from supporting it when the UDP
government said it would no longer seek to divest the administration building.

In his e-mail Wednesday, Mr.
Clifford chastised the current PPM leadership, which he said was not
aggressively opposing the “flawed policies of the incumbent government”.

“It seems there are no real
differences between the PPM and the UDP on the macro policies relating to the
economy, environment, immigration, growth management, human capital
development, social programmes and strategic planning for Cayman’s future for
the next 50 years,” he wrote. “If there were real differences, I would have
expected the PPM opposition to be much more aggressive and resolute in their
objections.”

According to Mr. Clifford, the
current party politics system embraced by the Cayman Islands has become
dysfunctional and has led politicians to be “more focused on campaigning than
on addressing the complex issues facing our country”.

The current system of party
politics sprang out of the so-called government “coup” in 2001, when members of
the government split off and formed separate coalitions, which later formed the
two political parties of today.

Since then, party politics has
dominated Cayman’s elections landscape. The only independent candidate to have
been elected during the 2005 and 2009 cycles was North Side’s Ezzard Miller.

“We have adopted and tried the
regional model of party politics and we know now that it will not work in
Cayman; it is indeed one of the greatest threats to our continued success as a
country,” Mr. Clifford wrote. “There are many examples of this failed system
around us, so we would be irresponsible if we continue to embrace it.

“We must acknowledge when we have
made a fundamental error.”

The former tourism minister went on
to say that both PPM and UDP were “in the midst of a leadership crisis” because
of the current party system.

“Neither of them have properly
functioning branches outside of their West Bay and George Town bases, hence the
reason why they have not addressed their own leadership issues,” Mr. Clifford
said.

Mr. Clifford did not state whether
he would run for office in the next general election cycle as an independent
candidate, but said he did intend to remain involved in local politics. He
urged others who had not been previously minded to seek public office to
reconsider.

George Town MLA and Opposition
Leader Kurt Tibbetts issued the following statement Thursday on behalf of the
PPM regarding Mr. Clifford’s situation:

“While we regret Charles Clifford’s
resignation as a member of the PPM and the PPM Executive, it really comes as
little surprise.

“Mr. Clifford has had little interest
or involvement in PPM matters since the last elections, with the notable
exception of his promotion of the proposed march against the government’s
proposal to sell the new Government Administration Building. He has not
attended any meetings of the PPM Executive since the Executive’s decision not
to proceed with the march following the government’s announcement that it had
decided not to sell the building.

“In the aftermath of a major
election loss by a party it is not uncommon for there to be casualties as the
party goes through a period of self analysis and rebuilding and there are
differing views about the leadership and direction that should be taken.

“We thank Mr. Clifford for his
years of service and wish him well.”

United Democratic Party officials
were contacted about Mr. Clifford’s resignation and comments, but they had not
responded by press time.

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