The public response to the courtroom dilemma of Tara Rivers indicates mixed sentiment as voters divide almost evenly in support of her election, flawed or not, and the official challenge to that victory.
Nearly 400 people voted, 397 precisely, dividing into 123, 30.9 per cent, in favour of letting Ms Rivers retain her LA seat, citing a flawed law that impedes the nation’s vital business while potentially derailing the public service of a competent, internationally experienced and articulate attorney.
Almost the same number, 119 people, exactly 30 per cent, thought that the law, whether flawed, reasonable or otherwise, needed to be acknowledged, applied and enforced, whatever the outcome.
“The law is the law. If people don’t like it, then they should petition the legislators to change it,” one commentator wrote, invoking a traditional defence of legislation that, if incomplete, inadequate or even anachronistic, nonetheless remains current.
One respondent, invoking a similar defence, went on to caution against setting precedent – and reminding the public that attorney Rivers is professionally responsible for upholding the law.
“She should have complied fully, especially since she ran on idea of bringing honesty and transparency back to government.
“No one should be above a current law. Change the law if necessary, but don’t encourage this type of behaviour from someone charged with upholding the law as an officer of the law, an attorney.”
The counter sentiment involves the sense that legal changes require a sustained effort of political will — often unusual, easily derailed and generally a protracted process.
The urgency of the issues facing the Cayman Islands and the LA justify setting aside an ill-advised law, unnecessarily restrictive and possibly counter-productive.
“The law, like many others, is parochial and restrictive in its definition of who is Caymanian, especially with such a small nation,” offered one voter. “How can it [Cayman] grow and compete with such backward laws? This is what happens when legislators are too xenophobic. They restrict even their brightest to serve.”
This, the correspondent says, threatens to “discourage others, as it is amazing how many ‘Caymanians’ have dual and even triple nationality.”
The issue, of course, resides with constitutional clauses, chiefly 61 and 62, prescribing electoral eligibility, requiring among other things a seven-year residency prior to nomination. Certain exceptions apply, but, in the Rivers challenge, the situation is unclear.
In fact, the court, on 18 June, asked Ms Rivers to deliver by 2 July, an affidavit detailing dates and places of past study, work, and residence – as well as records of any passports she may carry.
The document is the first step – to be followed by a 17 July court hearing – in efforts to determine what exceptions may apply to her experience in gaining law degrees in Canada and the UK, working for Allen & Overy in both Toronto and London, and subsequent employment in New York City.
Ms Rivers returned to Cayman in 2009, joining local firm Conyers Dill & Pearman. On 27 March this year, she signed nomination papers for 22 May national elections, in which she finished second in West Bay.
The sentiment articulates the third-place option, with 81 votes and 20.4 per cent, in the five-option survey: the idea that, should the legal challenge prove successful, it is likely to backfire on the UDP, creating a backlash among disenchanted voters.
While the fourth choice avoids taking sides in the dispute, the 63 respondents, 15.9 per cent of the total, who embraced it believed the legal drama, at the least, would remind politicians that they cannot ignore a law because they find it “inconvenient”.
Only 11 votes, 2.8 per cent of the nearly 400 votes, chose “other”, indicating high passion and low tolerance for the courtroom challenge to Ms Rivers.
Next Week’s Poll Question:
Bicyclists appear to conduct themselves with little regard to traffic laws, including riding on the correct side of the road:
They should be fined, cleaning up the problem in short order
A sustained public education campaign should be launched
Bicyclists should be licenced and their equipment inspected.
Public roads should feature bike paths, and traffic laws enforced