No party affiliations will lead two of Bodden Town’s People’s Progressive Movement candidates to allow themselves to be “thrown under the bus”, the would-be legislators declared this week.
Asked at a Chamber of Commerce District Candidates Forum what they would do if they personally opposed a PPM government party line or if they felt adhering to that party line would be detrimental to Bodden Town, candidates Wayne Panton and Alva Suckoo said they would resign if they felt strongly enough about an issue rather than stick with the party.
“If you feel that you are being thrown under the bus, then you have an option – you can resign, you can step aside, step down, if you feel that strongly about it,” Mr. Panton said.
His bus reference echoed comments by government minister Dwayne Seymour, who said at a Cabinet media briefing last week that former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush had thrown him and his colleagues under the bus by not consulting them over a proposal to open a dump in Bodden Town.
Mr. Suckoo agreed, saying he did not join the Progressives to become a “yes man or Kool-Aid drinker” and that he had been attracted to the party because it was not run as a dictatorship. “We discuss things, we argue, sometimes I think the leader would wish we did not argue so much,” he said, earning a laugh from PPM party leader Alden McLaughlin who was in the audience.
“Being a party member does not mean that I have to swallow what the party line is,” said Mr. Suckoo, but he added that there are times when compromise is necessary.
The candidates answered more than 20 questions from Chamber of Commerce members and the public at a Chamber forum at the Bodden Town Civic Centre on Tuesday night.
Not surprisingly, as they are running mates and representing the same party, the two men were in agreement on almost every question that was raised.
Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce Wil Pineau explained that the reason Tuesday night’s forum featured only two PPM candidates and none from the other parties or the independents was because candidates were each asked to pick a date which suited their schedules and Mr. Suckoo and Mr. Panton had chosen that date. “We have a rule that only two candidates from any political party could appear on one platform and in this case two of them appeared,” he said.
Mr. Pineau added that while some forum will doubtless turn into debates as political rivals meet on the same platform, “at the end of the day, it’s a forum for hearing how candidates respond to the Chamber’s questions”.
The remaining 11 Bodden Town candidates will answer questions at two similar upcoming forums on Thursday, 11 April, and on Wednesday, 1 May. Those evenings will have a mix of independent, PPM, United Democratic Party and People’s National Alliance candidates.
Both Mr. Suckoo and Mr. Panton agreed that the economy was the most pressing issue facing Bodden Town and the Cayman Islands and both said they would push for the re-establishment of the Go East campaign, which aims to bring more tourists and more business into the eastern districts of Grand Cayman.
On a topic close to home for both candidates, they were asked if they supported the proposal to create a waste management facility in Midland Acres in Bodden Town. Both said they opposed opening a dump in Bodden Town. “If it were a proper waste management facility, I would have less reservations about saying I support it,” said Mr. Suckoo, “but what is being proposed is a disaster waiting to happen.”
He added that from what he could see of the proposals, two cells at the site will be created that will become landfills, each with two-year life spans. “It’s a four-year fix,” he said, adding that there was also no provision for waste to energy or for a recycling programme.
Mr. Panton said that waste management was a national issue that needed to be resolved, but said 80 per cent of the garbage on the island was produced in the western districts and did not need to be transported to Bodden Town. “We must review all the studies that have been done when the new government is in place,” he said.
Asked if they believed government should subsidise statutory authorities and government businesses, like Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm, to the tune of millions of dollars, both men said Cayman’s national airline should continue to receive government support, but that the Turtle Farm should no longer be subsidised.
The pair also agreed that the introduction of a National Conservation Law was necessary to protect Cayman’s natural environment.
One question submitted through the Chamber of Commerce website queried if the two men supported a recent legislative amendment restricting certain jobs to Caymanians. Both pointed out that existing immigration laws already stipulate that if a Caymanian is qualified to do a job, then he or she should get that position over a work-permit holder and that those law should be more strongly enforced.
“I’m probably going to be a little bit controversial here,” said Mr. Panton in response to the question. “I know there are a lot of Caymanians who feel this particular law is necessary … but from my perspective, I don’t feel that it is appropriate to take the position that Caymanians should be relegated to particular jobs … They will forever suffer the stigma of being told that the reason you have this job is because you are a Caymanian.”
He added that he felt any Caymanian could get the necessary education to compete for jobs in Cayman where there are more than 20,000 jobs held by work permit holders and 3,000 unemployed Caymanians.
Mr. Suckoo said he had seen the “ill-effects of affirmative action” in the United States and that enforcing the existing laws in Cayman in regard to hiring Caymanians would address concerns over Caymanians’ priority in gaining employment.
The forum was moderated by Chamber CEO Wil Pineau, with Chamber president Chris Duggan and past presidents Stuart Bostock and Morgan DaCosta reading the submitted questions, which are not seen by the candidates before the forum.
The next Chamber forum in Bodden Town will be held on Thursday, 11 April, and will feature independents Vincent Frederick and Arnold Berry, the UDP’s Chris Saunders, incumbent Bodden Town lawmaker Mark Scotland from the People’s National Alliance and the PPM’s Osbourne Bodden. The third and last forum will be on Wednesday, 1 May, with independents Gregg Anderson, Errington Webster and Charles Clifford, UDP’s Theresa Pitcairn, incumbent Dwayne Seymour with the PNA, and PPM’s Anthony Eden.
Questions for these candidates or any others in upcoming forums throughout the districts can be e-mailed to [email protected] Questions can also be put to the candidates by members of the audience at the forums.