The newly formed Coalition for Cayman told a packed public meeting that it aimed to put an end to party politics in the Cayman Islands.
Group members who spoke during the outdoor gathering Monday night in the car park at AL Thompson’s in George Town described the coalition as an advocacy and public awareness organisation and not another political party, saying they would not be fielding candidates for the upcoming general election in May.
Instead, the group would “identify, support and endorse” independent candidates, members said. However, the coalition did not name any potential candidates it planned to support during the meeting.
Standing on a stage with a red, white and blue backdrop featuring the group’s motto “Country First”, Rooster radio talk show host Austin Harris introduced the evening’s five speakers and also addressed the crowd of several hundred people, saying that both the United Democratic Party and People’s Progressive Movement have failed the territory. “We need change,” he said.
The meeting was the first public gathering for the group, which spent part of the evening explaining its goals and its purpose to the assembled audience.
The first speaker was Jude Scott, chairman of Cayman’s Constitutional Commission, who said successive political parties had failed to put Cayman first when running the government and that the coalition intended to end the divisiveness that existed in Cayman due to partisan politics.
Instead, the group wants to see leaders who will unite Cayman and ensure good governance, Mr. Scott said. “We call this type of leadership ‘country first’,” he said.
He said the coalition was committed to creating a forum to provide objective input and advice to help future leaders make decisions for Cayman.
The coalition would set up “issue analysis sub-committees”, said Mr. Scott, which would, as the name suggests, analyse issues and “develop objective, effective and workable solutions” which would be shared with politicians.
He added that holding politicians accountable was an “ongoing responsibility”.
Speaker Tara Rivers, a lawyer from West Bay, said the coalition was a group of concerned citizens who recognised that people were frustrated with party politics and with “government spending, debt and economic uncertainty” and wanted to see “new independent thinkers and leaders working in harmony” who could set Cayman on a new course of financial responsibility, government accountability and sustainability.
Harking back to days before the existence of the two political parties, Ms Rivers said the Cayman Islands once “thrived on independent leadership”.
“Since the introduction of political parties, we are now divided to an unprecedented level, more than we have ever been before,” she said.
Ms Rivers insisted that the coalition was not “anti-UDP members” or “anti-PPM members”, but was “pro-Cayman”.
The speakers urged members of the audience to ensure they were registered to vote and to support independent candidates in the May election.
Lawyer Jacqueline Haynes pointed out that in 2009, there were 31,000 Caymanians in the Cayman Islands, yet only about 12,000 votes were cast in the 2009 election.
If people did not vote, then they would not have a voice in what happens in their government, Ms Haynes said, adding: “We cannot afford to fall victim to the limits and labels of party politics anymore.”
Throughout the evening, scores of people donned Coalition for Cayman T-shirts, which were handed out free to everyone who signed up for membership in the coalition and went on its mailing list.
Another speaker, Johann Moxam, businessman, told the audience that Cayman was spending more than it could afford and that’s Cayman current public debt meant each resident essentially owed $30,000.
He called for more accountability in government than had been seen during the last 12 years under the two political parties. “We need leadership we can trust to make decisions on what is best for our country and our people,” he said.
Mervin Smith, the final speaker of the evening, told the large crowd, “It’s not about the red of the PPM or the blue of the UDP, it’s about the colours of our flag, the colours that unite us all.”