Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin has accused the government of “hijacking” the one man, one vote referendum.
Mr. McLaughlin, speaking during a media briefing Monday, outlined a number of problems his party had with the single-member constituency, one man, one vote referendum scheduled for 18 July.
“There is a problem with the question that is being proposed; there is a problem with the bar … the percentage of votes necessary; there is a problem with the date being right in the middle of the summer holidays; there is a problem with the referendum date not being a public holiday as has commonly been the case in relation to polls in Cayman for many, many years.
“There is a major problem with the government campaigning against its own referendum question and using public funds to do so,” he said.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush announced on 12 April that the referendum question would be “Do you support an electoral system of single-member constituencies with each elector being entitled to cast only one vote?”
In a radio address that evening, Mr. Bush said: “We need to dismiss this idea quickly and turn our attention back to the important projects that will build our future prosperity.”
Mr. McLaughlin said the way the question was worded did not commit the government to adopt the principle of one man, one vote in the next election “or indeed at all”, even if the referendum resulted in a majority of yes votes.
People’s Progressive Movement Member of the Legislative Assembly for East End Arden McLean and independent North Side MLA Ezzard Miller had spearheaded efforts to bring a people-initiated referendum about one man, one vote by 30 November, launching a petition that more than 3,000 people had signed by the time Mr. Bush announced the government’s plans to hold the referendum.
“What the government has done in this case is hijack the people-initiated petition process, hijack the entire initiative and taken it over, done quite deliberately, we believe, to ensure they now have control of the process,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
“The premier and his government are clearly stacking the deck in favour of a no vote,” he said.
He accused the government of launching a campaign to defeat its own referendum under the guise of public education campaign, adding that he intended to take up the issue with Governor Duncan Taylor, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and the Elections Office.
“You cannot have the UDP … using the office of government and treasury of government to campaign against a referendum question which it has put forward, having taken that initiative away from the people,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
A motion relating to the Referendum (Single-member Constituencies) Bill, 2012, has been filed and forwarded to members of the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. McLaughlin said it was unclear from that bill whether absentee and postal balloting would be allowed in the referendum. This was an issue because the referendum would be held at a time when many voters are likely to be off island on holiday.