Members of the political group Coalition for Cayman are pushing government to change the territory’s election scheme ahead of the 22 May vote that will select 18 members to serve in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly.
The move has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition People’s Progressive Movement, including some of the assembly’s elected members who supported the “one man, one vote” referendum last July. “It’s really nothing but electioneering of the worst possible kind,” said Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, whose PPM party supported the “one man, one vote” initiative last year. “It’s misleading, if not downright dishonest.”
The coalition, in a news release issued Monday, urged all sitting lawmakers to adopt the “one man, one vote” principle, which would necessitate splitting Grand Cayman into 16 separate single-member voting districts and Cayman Brac and Little Cayman into two.
The electoral map for such a move has already been drawn, and supporters of the “one man, one vote” initiative – including North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean – have previously said implementing it would not cause any great hardship ahead of the May general election. The July referendum on the “one man, one vote” issue passed by a large margin of votes; However it did not breach the 50 per cent-plus-one threshold of all registered Cayman Islands voters who would have had to cast “yes” ballots in support of the measure.
“Caymanian voters have done their part by approving ‘one man, one vote’ by an overwhelming 65 per cent,” the coalition statement read, referring to the number who showed up to cast ballots in the July referendum. “We urge the MLAs to honour our democracy, respect the will of our citizens and put country first by immediately implementing this mandate by Caymanian voters.
“We call on each and every MLA to publicly state their position on ‘one man, one vote’. The question is clear – will you respect the overwhelming approval of this measure by Caymanian voters?”
Mr. McLaughlin questioned where the coalition members were when his PPM party members and Messrs. Miller and McLean were “campaigning up and down the country” for the referendum last year. One of the PPM candidates running for election in George Town, Marco Archer, was a member of the original grassroots group that supported the “one man, one vote” initiative. “They must know that, at this stage, it is a constitutional and legal impossibility,” Mr. McLaughlin said, referring to the possibility of having single-member voting districts in place by 22 May.
The opposition leader argued that changing the electoral map would require a rescinding of the writs of election issued on 12 December. Lawmakers would then have to change the Elections Law and, most likely, delay the general election for several months down the road – so that voters would know where to go to cast their ballots. “We have always supported the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We battled for it. The referendum was held and the referendum was lost. The PPM pledges that we will transition to ‘one person, one vote’ within the first year of being elected to government.”
Mr. McLaughlin’s personal support for the single-member districts that came as part of the “one man, one vote” proposal was questioned by former Premier and United Democratic Party Leader McKeeva Bush. During a November meeting of the House, Mr. Bush accused Mr. McLaughlin of paying lip service to “one man, one vote” while not supporting it in actual fact.
“He did not want it or he would have put it through,” Mr. Bush said. “He had the members to do it [referring to negotiations on the 2009 Constitution led by the then-PPM government], so why it’s not there?” Mr. McLaughlin responded to Mr. Bush in the House by saying the then-premier was “telling untruths”.
“[Mr. Bush] is devalued currency,” Mr. McLaughlin said on Tuesday. Members of the UDP were contacted for comment on the Coalition for Cayman’s push for “one man, one vote”. They declined to make a formal statement, but some members wondered why the coalition – which was not the same group as the initial “one man, one vote” supporters – was taking this position now.