PPM accused of ‘personal attacks’
The political group Coalition for Cayman said Thursday that there are indeed “differing opinions” on the one man, one vote issue within its ranks, following criticisms of the organisation by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin.
The coalition said in a statement that healthy democratic debate helps engender consensus based on majority opinion, but that in the case of ‘one man, one vote’, that view had already been obtained.
“When it comes to ‘one man, one vote’, the people of Cayman made a clear choice last year, and as advocates for fair democracy and for country first, the Coalition for Cayman believes that the will of Cayman voters should be honoured,” the statement read.
In July, Caymanian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that sought to implement single-member voting districts for Grand Cayman, which would have chopped up the current five voting districts on the territory’s largest island into 16. However, that referendum did not receive the constitutionally-required 50 per cent-plus-one majority of all registered voters in the Islands to become legally binding upon the government.
The Coalition for Cayman has said that lawmakers should seek to implement ‘one man, one vote’ ahead of the 22 May general election, despite the referendum result not being binding. The Elections Office said such a move would be “impossible” given time restrictions.
Mr. McLaughlin called the ‘one man, one vote’ push by the coalition ahead of the general election “electioneering of the worst possible kind”.
Mr. McLaughlin had questioned where the coalition members were when his PPM party members as well as North Side MLA Ezzard. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean were “campaigning up and down the country” for the referendum last year. He also pointed out that coalition co-chairman James Bergstrom had previously advocated against ‘one man, one vote’ as applied in a single-member constituency system.
The coalition responded Thursday that it was disappointed that Mr. McLaughlin’s People’s Progressive Movement was “already resorting to personal attacks in an attempt to discredit the Coalition for Cayman and the leaders working to promote independent-minded leadership that will put country first”.
The coalition also asked that negative campaigning for the upcoming vote be replaced by actual debate on the pertinent issues.
“The attacks only reinforce the divisive and negative image of political parties that discourages every day citizens from participating in the democratic process,” the coalition statement noted.
Mr. McLaughlin said, to his mind, the coalition still hasn’t put forth its own position on ‘one man, one vote’.
“Rather than providing voters with their position on the key issues which face the Cayman Islands, their entire campaign so far has been about how political parties are all bad and since they are not a party that means they are all good,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “So far the only position C4C has taken on any other issue is that they now belatedly claim to support OMOV, although their [co-]chairman, Mr. James Bergstrom does not.
“Meanwhile, though disparaging the party system at every opportunity, C4C operates as any party would with a common executive and a common source of funding. Putting country first means providing voters with representatives who are honest and transparent about who they are and what they stand for.”
Mr. Bergstrom noted separately in a letter written to the Compass that he did indeed have a different view with regard to what election system Cayman should adopt. However, his proposal would still provide all voters equality at the ballot box, he said.
“I personally continue to favour an alternative which would have a majority of MLAs appointed on a national basis, but ‘one man, one vote’ is still a significant improvement over the current system and is fair,” Mr. Bergstrom wrote. “The majority view of the coalition’s executive committee was that the voting public had shown strong support for ‘one man, one vote’ in the referendum and as a result, those in the position to do so should implement the wishes of the people.”
Mr. McLaughlin previously said that the coalition was being disingenuous with regard to its position on ‘one man, vote one’ and that they needed to state, one way or the other, what the group supported.
The opposition leader’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. Mr. McLaughlin has denied that claim.