However, the commissioner said during an appearance on the government radio station Thursday afternoon that the election offence of ‘treating’ is something both candidates and voters need to be aware of as it gets closer to the 22 May general election.
“If you attend a three-hour political meeting and there are soft drinks and there is light refreshment and sandwiches…that is made available to keep you interested, and it’s of a low value, that is not considered treating,” Mr. Baines told Radio Cayman’s Talk Today show Thursday afternoon. “It’s a subjective value.”
Generally, the commissioner said “common sense” should rule the day.
“In Hong Kong, a businessman held a buffet in support of a political candidate,” Mr. Baines said, giving another example. He charged the people who attended $5 a head but they received an open bar and food in excess of $100. Now, was that corruptly offered in order to influence voting? Yes it was.
‘If that occurred here, that would be exactly the same. If someone goes into a licenced premises and puts $500 behind the bar and shouts out ‘drink as much as you want on me, remember me on voting day’ that’s treating.”
Statements last week by Elections Office officials about ‘food-for-votes’ issues in the upcoming elections threw the local political scene into a minor uproar, as the provision of food and drink is quite common at political events in the Cayman Islands.
The confusion over the issue led at least one George Town candidate to cancel catering for a public meeting held last week, only to realise that another political group had its event catered that same night with no apparent legal repercussions.
‘Treating’ under the Elections Law (2009 Revision) is defined as an offence for “every person who corruptly….provides or pays, wholly or in part, the expenses of giving or providing any food, drink, entertainment or provision to or for any persons for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person, or any other person, to vote or refrain from voting at such election….and every elector who corruptly accepts or takes any such food, drink, entertainment or provision”.