MLA Connolly: Stop political handouts

After two years on the inside of Cayman Islands politics, George Town MLA Winston Connolly said last week that the current practice of elected members giving cash handouts to their supporters must be stopped.  

“What I … have found in my two years in politics is that, on top of social services, the norm is to go to your politician for a ‘top up,’ so you don’t have to go through the proper channels and that, in my view, is wrong,” Mr. Connolly said. “These are not loans. It’s the monthly norm that politicians give, a lot of times to the same people over and over, from their own salary so that they can pay utilities, buy food, pay mortgages and school fees, etc.  

“My own view is that it serves to absolve those politicians that do hand out money from having to cure the issue for another month. It’s shut-up money. 

“When did it change that proud, able-bodied Caymanians would rather not work – even for entry level pay – but go to politicians for cash and rely on social services instead?”  

Mr. Connolly said the issue was particularly crucial in smaller electoral districts. The government plans to move to single-member voting districts ahead of the 2017 elections, which will bring about smaller constituencies in which parliament members will be elected. 

“Politicians in a small district have it much easier when helping those who come to them, financially, than politicians in a larger district,” Mr. Connolly said. “Eight thousand, eight hundred dollars divided into 600 [voters] goes a longer way than $8,800 divided into 7,500 voters.” 

With respect to politicians handing out cash to supporters, Mr. Connolly said no one in the Legislative Assembly can truthfully deny that it occurs.  

“I see it around me every day,” he said. “When I refuse to do it, I get cursed and told that [the voters] will just go to another politician who will [give them money] and that I will not get voted in again. So be it! 

“I make no apologies to anyone by saying that I will not … give my salary away because that’s the current expectation of the people for their politicians. I have always given as much as I could afford to give and have done so for all my life including when I was in school. As a politician, I have chosen to give … to existing charities which operate indiscriminately and without thought of party affiliation or loyalty.”  

One of the chief concerns about politicians giving such cash handouts – even if it is from their own paychecks – is that these donations are largely unregulated and can be given to anyone for any reason. They are typically given in exchange for political support, Mr. Connolly said.  

“If we are going to continue this system, in addition to social services and the discretionary funds that ministers have to give, at least make it transparent and prepare a register of handouts,” the George Town MLA suggested. “Do spot checks to keep politicians honest by sending ‘mystery shoppers’ to see if handouts are being registered.  

“We will then see if the money is going to a majority of the constituents, or just to political supporters.”  

In attempts to propose changes, Mr. Connolly said newer elected members have often found efforts blocked over the years by more senior politicians.  

“I have seen a system where politicians’ egos and history get in the way of real change and real solutions,” he said. “Where politicians treat their districts as their own fiefdoms and state what can and won’t happen there without the mandate of their people and won’t allow anything brought by outside politicians or the government to come in – even if it benefits the people who voted for them. 

“[Such politicians] would rather have their people out of work and starving to preserve their right to be the person to bring the changes, the jobs. Where is the sense in that? Politicians who would hand out cash rather than find jobs for people, who spite each other while the whole country suffers, should no longer be politicians because they have failed their people.”  

Mr. Connolly said he intends to broach two issues with the Progressives-led administration caucus in the coming months to attempt to resolve some of his concerns. The first is his proposal that term limits be adopted for all serving members of the Legislative Assembly. The second proposal would seek to outlaw “handouts by politicians.”  

Seeking to clarify earlier media speculation, Mr. Connolly said he did not intend to bring these issues to the floor of the Legislative Assembly by way of private members’ motions without discussing them within the government caucus first. However, he said he reserved the right as an independent member of the Legislative Assembly to do so, if his concerns were not addressed.  

Mr. Connolly


  1. Mr Connolly I believe the boat has left you. Politicians giving money to people in their constituencies have been going on from the time there was a house of Assembly. Sorry that nothing you say or discuss is going to stop that, besides there is a belief that if you pan in the correct stream you will find gold. Giving favors and Bligh’s are even more valuable than money; it is just that the small fish only get a few hand out dollars to, as you say, buy food and pay rent but you need to dig deeper in your own backyard assembly the Rich Big Shot voters are the ones who really get something. While it would be talked about that the little man on the street is given a few dollars help out his family, no one says a thing about the political thievery that go on when certain persons right in your backdoor can purchase property for 500,000. with the knowledge before hand that Government will be buying it, then when the time is right, turn around sell it back to government for 1,500.000. Million. Tell me what do you call that?. That is political handout. Or politically, some areas are maintained with expensive roads and street lights, while others are left to potholes in darkness and flood. Now a days most people are quite aware that politicians only work for a few months of the year, yet they rake in money rounding off to 100,000. a year. If 95% of the politicians were not entering politics for the money alone, then why would they, after getting a seat do not keep their promises and districts be suffering for attention? It is not their pay check they would be spending, however; not to be short changed, for four years they do absolutely nothing to make their districts more comfortable. I would suggest that all of those politicians who think it is going to be a free ride; Think again….. Catch the boat before it leaves, and no one gets a free ride.

  2. Yes Mr Connolly I think you brought a very interesting topic to the public attention . This kind of behavior leads to other destructive behaviors of the people and the politician . I think that when you take this to the LA , also add along with it that no one politician can make deals with government property or assets behind closed doors, it must be completed by the LA .

  3. Mr. Conolly

    Its called ”buying votes”, simply put.

    You are a brave soul for addressing this issue through a public media forum;its about time someone did.

    It makes a complete farce of having an Anti-Corruption Commission and other Govt. watchdog authorities when, essentially, the politicians are free to carry out what would end civil servants up in jail but…

    As Twyla has said, it’s been going on for a long time and is by now, institutionalised in Cayman’s political and social systems.

    Where Cayman is lucky, for now, is that this is a peaceful country with a small population and enough societal wealth to spread around to keep most people happy, or at least satisfied.

    Look at Jamaica as a perfect example of the political and economically driven violence that this type of corruption carries with it when there are too many mouths to feed and not enough bread to go around.

    Your views might not be popular and might cost you votes in your re-election campaign but…

    History will record you as a brave man with integrity for addressing this issue now.

    That must count for something in your favour.

  4. Mr Conolly
    You are 100% right that this should stop.
    Sadly the chance of it actually being stopped is low.

    An interesting question is how much MLAS are paid and how much of their salary they can afford to give away.

    It seems logical that a very small constituency will perhaps require a smaller proportion of that salary to be spent in handouts. Another good argument for equal sized one man one vote constituencies.