Anti-‘one man’ campaign kicks off in Cayman

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.”  

 

Democracy  

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. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Both sides of the debate should put forward their point of view but neither should use public funds to do it. If either side of the debate tries to use public funds to educate in a biased manner then I hope that the Auditor General makes a full report.

  2. This referendum is to bring these Islands into the twenty first century by making us compliant with full human rights of the United Nations Charter, strengthening our voting system to allow our elected leaders to be held accountable for their actions and giving our citizens a level playing field in their candidacies. Do not believe the hype of scaring off investors as an excuse for holding this historic vote. That is not only dubious but insulting to our intelligence. What some call scaring off investors others call saving or country.

  3. Equal representation is one thing, but having only on representative in each constituency just sounds to me like there will one boss in every district making the call himself with no opposition. This may not be the best thing. Why not just push for the same amount of reps in each district like two people to debate the issues and come up with the right compromises. In the US there’s two senators for each state, which means no one person makes all the decisions and every state has the same amount of representation. Simple and fair..

  4. @NJ2Cay:

    Are you advocating that George Town should have the same number of MLAs as East End? There is a huge population disparity there, mate.

    There are two houses of the US Congress… the Senate, of which you are referring and the House of Representives, where each state sends a different number of members based on their population density.

  5. With the recent census results in the districts should be determined by population not by traditional district boundaries with approx the same number of voters represented by each MLA. The historical district boundaries need to be forgotten as they no longer serve the country.

  6. Zed – You could have a number of MLAs, determined by an equal number plus by population.

    For instance, each electoral district could have 1 MLA for 3000 people or less – Hence if WB has 10000 people, it can only have 3 MLAs. If North Side has less than a 1000 people, 1 MLA.

    But here is the cap: IF A DISTRICT HAS OVER 15000 people or more, it can only have 5 MLA’s and no more. In other words, you put a LIMIT on the number the country can have in order to prevent an excessive amount of MLAs for this very small island.

  7. I agree with panama jack on all of these divides and electoral boundaries. They are meaningless and we are just a mere rock in the caribbean sea.

    Keep it simple. For Grand Cayman have a national slate of representatives for the entire island. The top 16 candidates with the most votes becomes the island’s 16 MLAs. Done! Forget about districts and divisions. We are all one Cayman Islands.

    For the Sister Islands, have likewise a national slate of candidates. The two candidates with the highest number of votes become their MLAs. Done!

    16 2 = 18!

  8. What I am uncertain about is what if the One Person, One Vote passes, how will the current elections be run on single member constituents? Will they take West Bay and further divide the district into 4 categories (North, East, South, West) for example? What happens if you get 3 possible candidates running for one section and only one candidate in another, will that person win by default? How much further can we divide this small island? I may be mistaken but if this is the case, I think this is a huge mistake.

    Claiming this will take us into the 21st century is nonsense. Take the US for example. Each state has 2 Senators. You don’t hear people in California complaining that the much smaller state of Delaware has too much power. Even more importantly, each citizen gets two votes for the Senate seats, not one!

    Alternatively, each state has a different number of Congressman and that number is generally determined by the population per state (similar to how Cayman’s system is now.)
    If your state sends 4 Congressman to the House, each citizen gets 4 votes, not one. It is decided by population, and Cayman’s current system is decided the same way.

    I find this very skeptical that the representatives in the smaller districts of East End and North Side are crying foul, when in all fairness, the represent the smallest population. Claiming its greater accountability seems like greater divisiveness for the other districts just to suite them. Why anyone would support this who does not live in North Side or East End is beyond me.

Comments are closed.