Debate brings out all sides of the issue
Both sides of the ‘one man, one vote’ debate were vigorously aired Thursday less than a week before a scheduled national vote on the issue.
The debate hosted by Generation Now was held at the Harquail Theatre Thursday night.
The discussion, which was paid for by the Cayman Islands Government, featured proponents of the one man, one vote referendum; North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, People’s Progressive Movement candidate Wayne Panton and David Kirkaldy, president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.
United Democratic Party MLAs Ellio Solomon and Rolston Anglin comprised the representation for opponents of the One Man One Vote referendum.
This was the second debate on the issue, which will be the subject of a referendum held on 18 July.
During the debate, a bevy of questions were directed at the panel, including whether it was accurate to say the current voting system had proven itself to work in the best interest of the people for over 180 years.
Mr. Panton said it was inaccurate to say that the current system had been in place for 180 years, when in fact the current system had only been in place since the 1959. He said prior to this there was a system of magistrates and vestries and women and people of colour could not vote. “This is not comparing apples with apples,” said Mr. Panton.
Mr. Solomon told the audience that he felt the system that the Cayman Islands has today is one that serves the people best, despite what is now on the table as a referendum. “We should not be looking to divide the Cayman Islands into 18 pieces,” as the Territory was too small to practice that kind of politics, he said.
Mr. Kirkaldy said the Chamber of Commerce felt that ‘one man, one vote’ would force members of the Legislative Assembly to state their positions on all issues and lead to greater accountability, as opposed to members simply towing a party line.
A question directed to Ellio Solomon about the feasibility of a national vote for members and the Premier was met with agreement by the member from George Town. However, the topic was opposed by Mr. Kirkaldy, who said adding such an argument to the discussion would only “muddy the waters,” as it is not a part of the referendum.
All panellists agreed that single member voting districts would further entrench the two party system of government, but would fragment the parties to begin with.
With regard to the use of public funds by the government to campaign against its own referendum, the members of the UDP government said this was necessary to educate the public on the issues regarding the referendum.
The debate took an unexpected turn when a member of the audience went into a rage after he felt his country of Jordan had been disrespected by one of the panellists. The man warned the panellists to not disrespect his country, at which time Mr. Ezzard Miller called for his removal from the theatre. The matter was dissolved after several tense moments and the gentleman was allowed to remain for the balance of the discussion.