Improving our democracy

We the Caymanian people are not accustomed to voting on issues and so those of us that voted yes or no on 18 July must be congratulated for having participated in this momentous historical event. Although it can be assumed that many of those who voted no interpreted the referendum as a vote against the premier and his parliamentary partners thus making their vote personal rather than about the issue of equity and accountability. The premier in claiming victory over the young movers of the movement and has said that the OMOV committee was highjacked by political bosses; however, he at the moment is the only real political boss in our small island state. And had the PPM really taking control of the OMOV movement and lent their political and economic resources to it, the outcome would have been much different and the referendum might well have succeeded.  

But the success of a citizen’s movement cannot simply be measured by the success of the question put before the people. Education of voters and their mobilisation are jointly of significance to the on-going task of strengthening our democracy. For our democracy is only as strong as its citizens and it’s upon them that the responsibility of maintaining a healthy decision making process lies. 

Thus the PPM must be congratulated for allowing the OMOV committee members to exercise and experience the gift of free expression and political activism. This is not to say that I have yet come to the position of supporting the PPM, but I said long ago that there is more democracy in the PPM than will ever be allowed in the UDP as long as McKeeva Bush is in control of the UDP. And as a founding member of the UDP, I can say that the UDP was from the outset created to facilitate the political dictatorship of William McKeeva Bush and that that Party has never adhered to its constitution nor attempted to politically educate its members to the point where the will of the party was that of its members and not just its leader. When was the last time the UDP had consultations with its members by holding meetings or conventions. When was the last time the UDP held branch meetings or informed its members of the rationale for their actions in Parliament and Government.  

I am not against political parties because they may well be a necessary evil, but dictatorship in the parties leads to dictatorship in the government. As we can well see McKeeva does not abide by his party’s constitution so why would he abide by our country’s constitution. But it also appears to me that the PPM has already selected their candidates for the 2013 election without giving some very capable young and educated individuals – some of whom were involved in the OMOV movement – a chance to compete for selection by their party bosses; and this is not very democratic. So now that the people have discussed the issue of equity in our electoral system they how need to examine the issue of whether or not the two existing parties in their present composition and operation is serving our democracy as well as they should be doing and if it might not be best to weaken the party system and the party bosses that are controlling every aspect of their operation; by sponsoring and electing independents in the next general election. Certainly the OMOV movement has proven that although organisation is essential to successful political behaviour, the party is not the only organisational form capable of mobilising the people. With social media and other forms of advance communication between citizens in Cayman, it might very well be possible to bypass the two rival parties and send independents to parliament in 2013.  

For our political party system has had neither real ideological foundations nor any meaningful purpose other than situating one or two strong individuals in the position to use their charisma and access to financial resources to get others elected, but of course only after gaining from them their loyalty. And as we have experienced this is especially the case with the United Democratic Party and it would be to our detriment and a real shame if in 2013, we allow persons to be elected not because of merit but because they are hanging unto someone’s coat tail. Is it not obvious what this type of party structure is presently doing to our country? Can we not see that one man is making the decisions for all; and that his elected colleagues will follow him blindly until the end, so long as he can provide them with the organisation and financial resources to be re-elected in 2013.  

Attempting to change our electoral system to bring greater equity and accountability may have failed but it is not the only way to strengthen our democracy, for the great change will come from a change in the way we the people behave politically. And if we the people truly examine the issues as they are presented to us, and if we the people invest some of our time and intelligence in reforming our democracy by limiting the power of the party bosses our democracy will become improved and the envy of those around us. 

I encourage status holders that were so shamefully disenfranchised on July the 18th to now register to vote in the general election next year, for our democracy is in need of individuals that will ask their leaders to do nothing more for them than to create the foundation for sensible and sustainable economic growth and prosperity. 

Frank McField