In the first of a series of public meetings in the run up to next week’s referendum, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush claimed political ambitions of proponents of a “one man, one vote” electoral system is the driving force behind the “yes” campaign.
The premier accused members of the One Man One Vote Committee, which launched a petition in February calling for the new electoral system to be introduced, of having political motives for campaigning for the alternative voting system. He said they could not get elected under the existing system so they wanted a different voting method, with smaller constituencies, which may give them a better chance of being elected.
Describing the proposed division of the existing six constituencies into smaller single constituencies as “madness”, Mr. Bush said: “They’re talking rubbish, trying to get elected by trying to destroy what we have and what we know works. Not today, bobo.”
Mr. Bush, standing in front of a large white banner urging people to “Vote No to One Man One Vote on July 18” at the four-way stop in West Bay on Monday night, put forward several arguments as to why the people of Cayman should not support the referendum, which the government has called for next Wednesday.
Insisting the current electoral system was “not broken”, Mr. Bush said there was no need to fix it. “Cayman is too small to be carved up and divided up to suit a few to get elected,” he said.
The meeting was the first in a series of four scheduled to be held by the UDP government. Other meetings will be held in Cayman Brac, Bodden Town and George Town in the days before the 18 July referendum. A meeting Mr. Bush said would be held on Thursday night in East End has since been cancelled.
The premier said the existing multi-member constituency system worked well in Cayman and had done so for more than 180 years.
Repeating his assertion that single-member constituencies with a “one man, one vote” electoral system would be divisive for Cayman, Mr. Bush told the assembled audience: “We did not choose the division and marginalisation of ‘one man, one vote’ to build this little island of ours. We did not choose and should not choose a ‘one man, one vote’ system, which will transform our collective, inclusive voting system into fractured voting positions or little districts [that are] isolated and divided.” He said the “reckless and sudden” introduction of a new voting system would plunge Cayman into “torrents of community division, much more than what we see today or have ever known”.
The Yes Vote campaigners have said single member constituencies will make politicians more accountable to the voters, but Mr. Bush argued that advisory district councils, “after they are up and running, will play a major role in holding MLAs accountable and responsible”.
The 2009 Constitution calls for the establishment of advisory district councils. The opposition People’s Progressive Movement has boycotted the establishment of the councils because the members of the councils are appointed by Cabinet rather than elected.
With the campaign song Brotherhood of Man’s United We Stand blaring from loudspeakers prior to the start of the meeting, about 250 people gathered to listen to Premier Bush and his fellow West Bay MLAs, Captain Eugene Ebanks, Cline Glidden and Rolston Anglin speak at the rally. All nine UDP Members of the Legislative Assembly were on the podium beside the four-way stop for the meeting.
The vast majority of attendees at Monday’s two-and-a-half hour rally were “No Vote” supporters, although a small number of “Yes Vote” supporters were also present.
Mr. Bush pointed out that the traditional 80 per cent turnout of voters in Cayman was high compared to many other jurisdictions and was an indication that the current first-past-the-post, multi-member constituency electoral system worked well and was supported by the people of Cayman.
The premier said there were more people at the West Bay meeting Monday night than the total 119 attendees of all 10 Electoral Boundary Commission public meetings held in 2010. Mr. Bush made that observation in response to assertions by supporters of “one man, one vote” that the majority of people who attended the Electoral Boundary Commission meetings were in favour of single-member constituencies with a “one man, one vote” system.
Mr. Bush said 119 people made up about 0.07 per cent of the registered voters in Cayman.
The mandate of the Electoral Boundary Commission was to review the existing electoral boundaries and to make recommendations on how best to facilitate the election of an expanded Legislative Assembly, which the 2009 Constitution stipulated should have 18 members, compared to the existing 15 members.
West Bay MLA and Minister of Education Rolston Anglin echoed Premier Bush’s assertion that the existing voting system should be retained, saying that the fact that in the last three elections, the electorate had voted for a change of government showed that the current system worked effectively. “Is that not a strong democracy?” he asked.
Responding to criticisms that the government was urging people to vote against a referendum which the government itself had initiated, Mr. Anglin said that the Cayman Island government was not unique in doing so and that governments in other jurisdictions took stances on referendums.
Further “No Vote” meetings will be held during the next week, with the next meeting being held on Saturday, 14 July at the Panama Canal area of Cayman Brac (alternate in case of bad weather will be the Aston Rutty Civic Centre); Monday, 16 July in Bodden Town Post Office (alternate Bodden Town Civic Centre); and Tuesday, 17 July, in George Town Courthouse parking lot (alternate Mary Miller Hall). There will also be a debate hosted by Generation Now at the Harquail Theatre at 7pm on Thursday night, 12 July.