'Pay as you vote': Begging Cayman's leaders for change

 “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?”
— George Town MLA Winston Connolly

For at least as long as there has been a ready supply of easy money in the Cayman Islands, elected representatives have been doling it out to their constituents. Call it what you will: a demonstration of goodwill, political patronage, blatant vote-buying … We like freshman lawmaker Winston Connolly’s description: “It’s shut-up money.”

In their entirety, Mr. Connolly’s remarks, recently published in the Compass, comprise a collection of similar unvarnished and undiluted truths (our favorite kind) that are well worth exploring and expounding upon.

Here are two key paragraphs: “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.”

“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.”

In this space, we shall confine our observations to three themes.

First, what do Mr. Connolly’s statements say about their speaker? Well, if Diogenes is still looking for an honest man, tell him to stop. We have found him.

How long this particular man will remain in office — after challenging openly Cayman’s long-established practice of politicians paying (or “paying off”) the electorate — will be up to the voters to decide. The conventional, if not cynical, wisdom would be that Mr. Connolly is not long for this Legislative Assembly. We, however, would challenge that assertion.

Personally, we prefer our leaders to be vertebrates, and we consider candor to be a desirable characteristic, rather than a disqualification.

We’re sure many Caymanian voters will agree. In any case, these kinds of things tend to be sorted out by elections.

Second, what does the practice of “vote-buying” say about Cayman as a democracy? As a Compass reader commented on our website, as long as our elected lawmakers are allowed to pay constituents in exchange for their support (tacit or spoken), all of our government’s watchdog authorities, anti-corruption bodies and “standards in public life” amount to nothing but farce.

As Mr. Connolly noted, the ease with which a politician is able to “buy” his office has a direct, inverse correlation to the size of the district. In other words, the fewer voters there are in a district, the less money needs to be spent to secure a majority (or, the more money a politician can afford to pay each voter in order to woo him to his camp).

That argument — which has been made by others, including Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush — should be kept in mind as the Progressives continue to move toward implementing a “one man, one vote” system predicated on the division of Grand Cayman into 16 single-member electoral districts.

Last, and most fundamentally, what does the whole situation say about Cayman as a society? Apart from the adulteration of the body politic, the fact that many people have come to rely on regular “gifts” from lawmakers exemplifies, and exacerbates, the dependence-oriented ethos that grips significant segments of our country’s population.

As our political cartoonist illustrates today on this page, a handout is a handout. There is little difference — practically and philosophically speaking — between begging on the street and soliciting from an elected representative, except one is out in the open and comes with no strings attached.


  1. Don’t believe all you hear; Majority of people that vote are very street smart, and if you do not take the opportunity to sit and chat with the little man on the street you will never find out the truth. I do not believe that all hand out money is for vote buying; Many politicians know the true need of some of their people, and I guess their conscious mind know that they can afford a few dollars to them here and there. Most times the little man on the street do not ask for it; it is just given to them. Ask them… If I had to sell my vote it would not be for a few bucks. Trust me on that, I would prefer give it freely or not to vote. Politicians by-pass and give other politicians’ children the opportunity to study abroad, when they can afford it. Some people get trucks, property, boat and car; Bligh’s and deals, where big money is involved. That I would call vote buying; not buying someone a six pack, lunch money or a tank of gas.
    To be honest of what I know, people have become even smarter now a days, and my advice to all those who think that good looks will get them a seat in the LA to earn four years of the peoples money; they better think again. Borrow the guide book and Learn the rules of those who never lose an election.

  2. I have a lot of respect for politicians that are not afraid to tell it like it is and say what needs to be heard in lieu of only what they think people want to hear. Cayman needs leaders like this along with those that are willing to make the hard decisions for the betterment of the whole nation even in the face of harsh criticism from die hard agitators.

    I will say that Mr Connolly has gained some points with me today.

    Signs of integrity is what will draw my support not just talk and frivolous promises.

  3. Be fair Editor, Caymanians are not beggars. If some Caymanians are on social services they are being supported through a regiment of policies governed by our elected. If politicians decide to redistribute their wealth to their constituencies, it is their business. Just as it the business of the individual that would give theirs to their generic charity.

    Mr Connolly could do better than to have a disparaging view of people who truly need community support.

  4. Kudos to Winston for 1. confirming publically that politicians give hand outs to their constituents, 2. having the guts to speak out against the practice (probably to the detriment of his own political career, and 3. attempting to do something to halt such practices. I agree with some commenters here that there is true need. No question, without a shadow of a doubt there are Caymanians that desperately need help. But I don’t agree that giving them hand outs is the best, long-term solution to address their needs. Give a man a fish, he eats for today. TEACH HIM TO FISH, and he will eat for the rest of his life. The "leaders" of this nation have forgotten that. They perpetuate the "lazy Caymanian" myth. Politicians: Stop giving people handouts and start doing what you were hired to do; develop new opportunities for your fellow Caymanians AND give them the tools they need to take advantage of them (i.e., BETTER EDUCATION!).

  5. The Compass said:

    "…That argument — which has been made by others, including Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush — should be kept in mind as the Progressives continue to move toward implementing a “one man, one vote” system predicated on the division of Grand Cayman into 16 single-member electoral districts…"

    Keep in mind that under OMOV, the same money would only buy one vote, not 4 votes, or 6 votes it buys now.

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