Framed in this fashion, the conversation about redistricting and voter equality in Cayman is, in a word, too “divisive.”
Our country’s outsize role in the international sphere — in terms of finance and tourism — should remain at the forefront of the minds of our leaders, who, in order to build upon the “Cayman miracle” of the past half-century, must increasingly orient themselves toward the outside world, as opposed to within their individual historical districts.
Our representatives in the Legislative Assembly should be discussing plans that promote the well-being of Cayman as a whole, not pushing (or suppressing) proposals to the benefit of one district at the expense of others (i.e., “No Dump in Bodden Town”). In the longer run, the best public policies for Cayman cannot be tailored to West Bay or George Town, Bodden Town or East End, North Side or the Sister Islands — the best policies for Cayman are for the people of Cayman, who are one body, indivisible by geographical lines, natural or man-made, seen or unseen.
We are an insular country, bounded by the seas, not by irreconcilable distinctions of culture, history or race. The ideal political system for Cayman should reflect the intimacy and cohesiveness of our population. That implies fewer, larger voting districts — not more numerous, smaller ones, where campaigns could be dominated by parochial appeals, nuances between neighborhoods, or the relative distributions of specific last names; and where election results could be determined by a few well-placed investments from a few well-funded political kingmakers.
The road upon which the Cayman Islands Boundary Commission has embarked, at the direction of the Progressives government, leads in the wrong direction. Rather than breaking up Cayman into 18 (or maybe 19?) tiny districts, the commission should be tasked — if anything — with exploring the merger of the existing six districts, and reducing the number of legislators, many of whom (due to the nature of our parliamentary democracy) serve nary a practical function.
We’re not just talking about East End and North Side, though electoral arithmetic demands they be the first candidates for amalgamation. While some may bandy about the specter of “revolution,” we are speaking seriously about an “evolution” of mind-set and perception.
During a Boundary Commission meeting last week, Bodden Town resident Mary Lawrence (a former Speaker of the House) opposed the idea of allocating an additional legislative seat to the George Town area, saying, “I’m not prepared to give George Town anything. The population is moving out to this area. People are moving out of George Town and West Bay. So, if anyone is going to get another member, it should be us.”
Not only is the basis for Ms. Lawrence’s protestation factually untrue (indeed, all three of Cayman’s large districts are growing), but her “us versus them,” “district against district” mentality is precisely what our country needs to evolve away from.
When discussing redistricting, a guiding concept is the preservation of “communities of interest” — groups of people with similar characteristics and goals who would benefit from having unified political representation.
When it relates to the common future of the 58,000 people who live here, Cayman does not have 19 distinct “communities of interest,” nor 18, nor nine. Cayman should not be assessed as a composition of six separate districts, or as an archipelago of three individual islands.
We are one people, living in one country. In the purest sense of the term, the Cayman Islands has only one “community of interest” — that is, of course, the Cayman Islands.