It is shaping up to be the leading political ideological debate of this year’s elections: Should voters continue to support the party system or should they elect independents who may have differing views but will unite to form a new Government after the elections?
Party loyalists believe if you elect candidates from the same political group then you know what they stand for and the electorate can hold them accountable. Independents maintain that candidates with differing views can unite and set national and district priorities to lead the Islands. CHAMBER magazine decided to interview the key figures in this debate.
Chamber Interviews Theresa “Tessa” Bodden, Chair, United Democratic Party
Tessa serves as an elder in the South Sound United Church, a member of
Hospice Care, National Trust and the Caring for Life Foundation. She has
served in the past on the Boards of the National Drug Council, Marine
Conservation Board, Inner Wheel Club and Cayman Preparatory School. She
was educated at Cayman Preparatory School, Bishops High School (Jamaica)
and Reading University in the United Kingdom. She is the first of six
children of Lady Rita and the late Sir Vassel Johnson. She is the mother
of three children and grandmother of four.
CHAMBER: What do you consider to be the benefits of the party system to Cayman’s political process?
Tessa: Several studies have shown that without competitive parties, government tends to cater to the interests of the elite, long-term policy goals are unlikely to be met and demagoguery and short sightedness become more prevalent. A party system ensures there is an intermediary who can look after the interests of both the electorate and their elected officials. With so-called independents there are no “checks and balances” that protect the people.
CHAMBER: Political parties usually have distinct ideological differences. What would you identify as the main differences with the Progressives and/or other political groups?
Tessa: The UDP is an inclusive, democratic party that focuses on improving the lives of all Caymanians. We are committed to social justice, equality, and opportunity for all. We also believe in action and hard work. We will deliver on a 100 day action plan – getting people back to work, encouraging Foreign Direct Investment, removing obstacles to better education in schools, building affordable homes, and creating new opportunities for all Caymanians. The family is the most fundamental part of society, and its financial security is of the utmost importance. The UDP will work with all members of community to help achieve access to social and Christian programmes to help achieve this balance for every Caymanian.
CHAMBER: What is the current membership of the UDP and its governance structure?
Tessa: The UDP has a very substantial general membership. We are the only party to have introduced a Code of Ethics, which reinforces our commitment to good governance, openness and accountability. The Code is extensive in its remit and every UDP candidate pledges to abide by the Code, its aims and objectives. The UDP party is made up of several complementary bodies, all working cohesively to ensure a unity of purpose that all Caymanians can believe in. For further information please visit our website at www.udp.ky
CHAMBER: What is the party’s vision for the future of the Cayman Islands?
Tessa: Cayman is being shaped by global changes, through dramatic advances in ideas, technology and science at a pace we have never before experienced. The UDP’s approach to our changing world will continue to be an active and creative one. While a UDP Government will seek to embrace the beneficial changes of a knowledge based society, it is central to our values that we ensure all Caymanians have equal access to its opportunities and benefits. What makes a UDP government distinctive is our credence in the critical role of government:
UDP understands that strong and active government leadership, allied to an effective and efficient public sector operating in partnership with a flourishing private sector, best manages change to provide security and opportunity for all Caymanians; and
UDP recognises that government is not an impediment, but rather a crucial force in building and realising the full potential of all Caymanians, the economy and our whole society.
CHAMBER: There are many independent candidates running in this year’s election who have stated publicly that they are dissatisfied with the party system. Does your party believe that a group of independents can come together to develop a national vision and agenda to lead the Islands? Why or why not?
Tessa: The UDP does not believe that a group of independents can come together to develop a national vision to lead our Islands. It has been frequently shown that governments comprising of too many independent members are simply unaccountable to their people. This is because the government is usually formed by mass coalitions, which consist of groups of lone individuals with no party to guide and govern them. As a consequence, the decision-making process is never straightforward, i.e. crowds of independents propose different initiatives and then come up with a policy or other decision as a result of negotiation and bargaining over weeks, months or even years! Backroom deals and the lack of accountability go against the aims of any democracy.
Cayman needs cohesion, not lone rangers.