It is with a keen interest that I have been following the latest discussions on the above, since the premier’s unfortunate statement on Monday last.
When I was invited in early 2012 to join the small group who had started the discussions of initiating a “citizen’s referendum” under our new Constitution, for such a noble cause, I was excited and jumped in with both feet.
As the discussions progressed and the group increased in numbers, I was asked to chair, which I graciously accepted. This was one of the most dynamic group of Caymanians I had ever had the pleasure of working with; they were committed, had passion and wanted so much to succeed. Some of those people are now serving in our government.
As the momentum built and the public responded in overwhelming numbers by signing the petition, we soon exceeded the numbers required by the Constitution. Then the unthinkable happened; instead of our government accepting the wishes of the people, it hijacked the initiative and called a government referendum which they then used the public’s money to campaign against. This has to go down in the history books as the most bizarre and dumb decision ever taken by any government.
During the months of meetings and public campaigns, we were never honored with the presence of the then-leader of the opposition, now premier, despite sending invitations.
I recall the evening before the referendum day we booked double time on the Rooster talk show and it was during the final few minutes of the show that the leader of the PPM walked into the studio to lend his support; some of us had been there for over two hours by then.
On the day of the referendum, because the OMOV group did not have a permanent office, we agreed to share refreshments and space at the PPM office on Crewe Road. As the voting progressed, we got feedback that the turnout was lower than we had expected and we all huddled around lunchtime to try and determine how we could contact folks and encourage them to go out and vote. During those discussions, I recall personally asking the now-premier how many people he had called today; he responded “none,” despite having a BlackBerry permanently in his hand. It was at that point that I got the confirmation to my suspicions – he did not truly support this initiative; instead he had simply been caught up in the big momentum we the people had created. I simply walked out of the office and went for a rest in my hammock and left the rest in the hands of the man above; I was comfortable we had given it our all and I could sleep well that night regardless of the results. I did.
There are several recent events in Cayman politics, e.g., Motion 390 in 1990 and the 2012 referendum, when the government at the time refused to listen to the people and found out that the people divorced them long before the next election, but were simply waiting on Election Day to sign the paperwork. We may have held our general election in 2013, but I am convinced, as one who has been paying attention for a long time, that the election was decided in the referendum in 2012.
The UDP government had a nine-seat majority out of 15 seats (60 percent) in 2012; today they have a minority of three out of 18 seats (17 percent). I rest my case.
The Caymanian people need to understand and demand the following: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
Mr. Premier, please take this bit of advice for what it’s worth; I believe if you deny the people their democratic rights on this issue, history will repeat itself.
I would rather lose in a cause that will some day win, than win in a cause that will some day lose.
My respects to the members of the OMOV committee and others who worked so hard on this issue.