All but nine of the general election candidates seeking office on 22 May attended public question and answer forums hosted by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce during the past month.
The 47 election hopefuls who did attend were invited to one forum apiece.
The nine candidates who did not attend the forums included North Side incumbent Ezzard Miller, People’s Progressive Movement candidate Dalkeith Bothwell and Bodden Town incumbent Anthony Eden.
Six candidates from the United Democratic Party, including former Premier McKeeva Bush, former Cabinet Minister Mike Adam, and candidates Renard Moxam, Jonathan Piercy, Theresa Pitcairn and Chris Saunders did not attend the forums.
That means half of the United Democratic Party’s election slate of 12 candidates did not attend the chamber-hosted question and answer sessions.
Chamber President Chris Duggan said last week that he was “disappointed” with the non-attendance of some of the candidates, mainly the UDP representatives.
“This is a public service done by the chamber, it’s not for the chamber,” Mr. Duggan said. “I thought not attending the forum was a snub to the public.”
He said the forums had cost the chamber and its sponsors for the event about $30,000 to put on, and that they were one of the few chances the general public had to ask questions in a public forum to would-be elected leaders.
Of those who didn’t attend the chamber forums, the PPM’s Anthony Eden was ill during a Wednesday, 1 May forum in Bodden Town. The UDP’s Theresa Pitcairn missed that same forum after someone broke into her campaign manager’s business office earlier in the day.
The break-in was one of several that occurred at rental car agencies near Owen Roberts International Airport last week.
Mr. Bothwell also missed a West Bay forum because of illness, PPM party officials said.
Mr. Miller had promised prior to the start of the candidate forums that he “would not acknowledge” his opponent in the district of North Side, former electricity regulator and talk show host Joey Ebanks. Mr. Ebanks has been charged with theft and fraud-related offences, as well as drug-related offences.
“He’s looking for a fight and a sideshow and he is not going to get it from me,” Mr. Miller said. “I don’t plan to acknowledge him as a candidate in any public forum.”
Mr. Ebanks responded to Mr. Miller’s statement by indicating that he believed the North Side incumbent had a “vendetta” against him.
“He has done nothing for the community of North Side. Why should I sit back and allow him to run unopposed?” Mr. Ebanks asked.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Adam also indicated at the outset that they would not be attending the chamber question and answer forums.
Asked to comment on his non-attendance, Mr. Bush said: “I said and I told them from the last election I would not be participating again. I’ve been fed up with them for a long time.
“The chamber is biased and get[s] involved with far too many things that do not pertain to business.”
“If I win, there will be a big clash with me and them because under UDP policy I intend once and for all to put in place and straighten out the matter of a minimum wage in these islands.”
Mr. Saunders said he had been scheduled to attend one of the debates, but had a family emergency when the alarm at his house went off that night. “It is election season, you know, can’t be too careful,” Mr. Saunders said.
Mr. Moxam could not be reached for comment by press time.