New PPM leader takes over

George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin was confirmed Saturday
night as the new leader of the opposition People’s Progressive Movement
political party, replacing fellow MLA Kurt Tibbetts, who announced his
intention to step aside in October.

The third term representative’s selection as party leader
was a formality because no other elected members of the PPM were nominated for
the leadership post prior to last month’s deadline.

Ray Farrington was confirmed as the opposition party’s
general secretary on Saturday night as well.

Mr. McLaughlin used his first speech as party leader to
signal that major changes will be required of Cayman’s opposition group if it
is to survive and thrive. 

“We must dispel the notion that the choice for leadership
of this country is between those who are weak and right and those that are strong and wrong,” he said to
the audience of more than 200 that gathered at Mary Miller Hall for the
three-hour event.

The
lawyer and former education minister said that the PPM would seek to redefine
itself over the course of the next two years as the political party of
inclusion. He said that detractors’ frequent assertions about the PPM being the
‘anti-expat’ party had cost the group dearly in Cayman’s 2009 general
elections.

In
that vote, the party lost half its Legislative Assembly seats and control of
Cayman’s government.

“There
is little doubt in my mind that [anti-expatriate claims] played a role in our
defeat at the polls in 2009,” he said.

Mr.
McLaughlin sought to counter that perception by inviting anyone who has been
legally resident in Cayman for at least five years – including work permit
holders – to join up with the PPM 

“I
want to assure everyone…there is no bigotry in the PPM, we are only anti-bad
government,” he said.

Mr.
McLaughlin also addressed often unspoken concerns about the party’s relevance
on political issues – particularly with young voters.

“I
understand that it is not that you don’t care about politics,” Mr. McLaughlin
said, speaking to the younger members of Saturday’s audience. “Rather, you
believe that it is the older people…[who] don’t care about your politics.”

“I
care about your views, the PPM cares about the issues that are important to
you. I understand that there has to be a fundamental shift.”

Mr.
McLaughlin said he believes the PPM lost the 2009 elections largely because of
its own failings as an organisation, not because the victorious United
Democratic Party was the better choice. 

“By
any standard…the [United Democratic Party] government must get a failing
grade,” he said. “In every demographic and every district, there is
dissatisfaction with the UDP’s performance.”

The
problem the opposition party now has, Mr. McLaughlin said, is that voters could
opt for a third choice – independent candidates, or even a third political
party – in 2013.

“At
present, the PPM is not automatically the people’s choice,” he said. “Many of
you here would not like me to say that, but I believe it to be true.”

The
new PPM leader said now is the time to start the campaign for the 2013 general
elections, which are expected in May.

“Tonight
we have begun,” he said. “We must push and shout and agitate and do whatever we
have to do to be part of the national debate.”

Saturday
night also marked the official passing of the torch from Mr. Tibbetts, although
he had made his intentions known months ago.

Until
Saturday, the former opposition leader was the only leader the People’s
Progressive Movement – formed in 2001 – had ever known.

Mr.
Tibbetts remained coy about his intentions beyond his current term in office,
but said he still expects to play some role in the PPM regardless of whether he
continues to serve as an elected member.

There
were some emotional moments as Mr. Tibbetts spoke, at one point fighting back
tears as audience members yelled, “we love you Kurt”.

“Unfortunately,
or fortunately, I am one of those people who will not survive unless I am able
to serve my fellow man,” Mr.
Tibbetts said. “So, please, please do not take that away from me.”

“I am not going to
desert you,” Mr. Tibbetts told party members. “What I need to do now is to
allow the new leadership team to make their own way, to make their mark.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr. Tibbetts words are very commendable. It is very difficult for persons who has known power to let go yet Mr. Tibbets has shown otherwise.
    I wish him all the best for the future.

  2. People, from our statistical reports – when PPM was in power we saw the highest increase in government revenue in the history of the Cayman Islands. At the same time, we saw government spending the most in its history. Revenue was in the hundreds of millions and expenditures were just below that in the millions. The PPM leaders concluded because of the much revenue that they could continue with their spending until the following year despite the news of the U.S. recession. But to their shock or surprise, after Huricane Paloma damaged the Brac, a global wave of recession impacted our tourism and financial industry so much that we became short revenue, and in 2008 things turned sour. Our government expenditures sky-rocketed in the millions over our revenue, and left the Cayman Islands government with an 81 million deficit. As a result, we all knew what happened in May 2008! The people elected the UDP government and eventually, McKeeva Bush became the first Premier. Now folks, seeing that Alden (Kurts right hand man) was the same one in power back then, I can only hope that he has learnt a valuable lesson in terms of taking financial advisors seriously! I even recall at one time, their opponent, McKeeva, suggesting to Kurt in the LA to slow down or stop the spending on roads, schools, and infrastructure, but they failed to do so. Not saying had they listened to McKeeva it would had made a difference, but as leaders, they should have had enough vision to see the effects of the global recession, and at least, listen to their critics at the time. So as a Caymanian with children, I just hope Alden Mclaughlin has learnt his lesson – it could just be (and God Help Us) that he could become the countries next Premier if there is no other oppositional party. Time will tell if weve learnt from our mistakes.

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