Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush took to the airwaves Thursday, continuing to develop his lightning-quick plans for a referendum on the “one man, one vote” issue in July while kicking off the “no vote” campaign.
“We cannot afford the uncertainty any longer,” Mr. Bush said during his broadcast address. “We need to dismiss this idea quickly and turn our attention back to the important projects that will build our future prosperity.”
A day after announcing there would be a referendum on the “one man, one vote” issue in July, Mr. Bush announced the wording of the referendum question that is expected to be on the ballot.
Mr. Bush said during the Thursday evening broadcast address that the government has decided, under section 69 of the Constitution, the question the public will vote yes or no upon come 18 July.
“Do you support an electoral system of single-member constituencies with each elector being entitled to cast only one vote?”
Mr. Bush told the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that the referendum question would be decided as soon as possible.
“We are going on an education campaign to educate the people of this country and that question, or perhaps questions, will be made known as soon as possible, but definitely when we begin the campaign,” Mr. Bush told Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin.
The premier said the proposal for single-member districts was merely a political effort by members of the opposition political party.
“There is no high-minded academic principle behind their arguments for changing the voting system,” Mr. Bush said in his address. “It is political opportunism, pure and simple.”
Proponents of the “one man, one vote” initiative, who said they had garnered more than 3,000 signatures on a ballot seeking to hold a referendum on the issue by 30 November, scheduled a Friday news conference to discuss the premier’s announcement. However, that event was cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who also supports single-member constituencies for Grand Cayman, indicated last week that he had taken a dim view of the government’s “education campaign”.
“I translate ‘public education campaign’ to mean they’re going to campaign strongly against this,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. Bush did not disappoint in that regard.
“In some of our constituencies, you might get enough votes from your own relatives alone,” Mr. Bush said. “We could end up with an assembly representing the 18 largest families in Cayman. Is that what we really want?”
The premier also argued that uncertainty surrounding what voting system Cayman would use could scare away potential investors.
“That is why I called this referendum now,” he said. “We need to put the uncertainty and risk of tinkering with our democracy behind us.”
Speaking before a crowd of West Bay residents on Thursday night at a public meeting, North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller – one of the organisers of the “one man, one vote” initiative – urged people to come out for the balloting on 18 July.
“Don’t let them catch you off your guard,” Mr. Miller said. “The government knows that many people are on vacation on 18 July. Do not back down on this.”
Currently, all Cayman Islands voting districts – aside from East End and North Side – require voters to cast anywhere from two to four separate votes, depending on how many representatives their area sends to the assembly.
Mr. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean have argued this is unfair, because it allows some voters to cast multiple ballots, while their constituents may cast just one. They also say they believe the change will lead to greater accountability among elected officials.
“The people of George Town, who each have four representatives with a rather peculiar current arrangement, where each political party has two of the four representatives and each can duck and weave from their responsibilities,” Mr. Miller said during the launch of the voter petition in February. The new electoral boundaries that have been approved by Cabinet would place six MLA seats in George Town, four in West Bay, four in Bodden Town and two in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
“[George Towners] would have six opportunities to vote, where the people in East End and North Side would just have one,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. McLean said the proposal would eventually lead to better, more responsive governance.
“We have a responsibility to enlighten this country on the value of single-member constituency,” Mr. McLean said. “Every vote counts. Democracy does not flourish in the absence of equality and this is one component of that equality.”
Compass reporter Stuart Wilson contributed to this story.