The government will soon introduce legislation to address complaints about high gas prices, Premier Alden McLaughlin told demonstrators outside the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
Around 30 demonstrators marched from the former government administration building, the Glass House, to the Legislative Assembly to present a petition demanding that government take action to lower gas prices. Event organizer George R. Ebanks said about 14,000 people had signed the petition by Wednesday morning.
Shamika Bartley said she helped get signatures for the petition and joined the march because she is frustrated that gas prices seem so much higher in the Cayman Islands than elsewhere. She said she spends more than $100 a week on gas.
“I’m out here because Cayman really needs a change,” Ms. Bartley said. “I’m a mother of five and it’s really difficult having to pay these high gas prices and know that we still have to feed our kids at the end of the day.” Ms. Bartley and other demonstrators said they were surprised that more people did not show up for the march.
“We’re paying too much for fuel and it affects us all,” Kenneth Ebanks said. “More people should have been out here, but those who are here stand for the majority.”
According to George Ebanks, wet weather kept many people from coming out to the demonstration, but he was happy to have the opportunity to present people’s grievances and support the government’s plans to address the issue.
Premier McLaughlin told the demonstrators outside the Legislative Assembly, “We know you are concerned, we are happy for your support, and the government shares your concerns about fuel prices in Cayman.”
He told them that as early as Thursday morning the government would be introducing legislation to make amendments to the Dangerous Substances Law that would force companies to disclose to the government what they pay for fuel so that government can know what profits the companies are making on the sale of fuel.
“Based on the findings from that, we will consider what other steps we have to take,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “As we’ve said before, if it does require us to introduce price controls with respect to fuel, that’s not something that we’re going to shrink from.”
He said the next step would be the introduction of a Public Utilities Commission so that government would have a means of dealing with the price setting, should that be required.
Minister for Infrastructure Kurt Tibbetts, who also spoke to demonstrators, said the commission would be operational “by the first quarter of next year.”
Questions about whether there would be any relief at the gas pump in the short term were not directly answered, but Mr. Ebanks discerned from what Mr. Tibbetts said “it might take some time” to see change. However, he was optimistic.
“Once we get the cost prices, I think that will be enough to embarrass the importers into acting in a very reasonable way,” Mr. Ebanks said.
Despite a lower turnout than he had hoped for, Mr. Ebanks thought the demonstration went well and said the government’s proposals were a good first step toward lowering gas prices.
“We’re trying to awaken the minds of the Caymanian people to show them that people’s power does exist and this is an idea that could develop into a template … and we can use it to address other social ills which plague us as a society,” Mr. Ebanks said. “There’s strength in numbers, and this idea was to really get people to realize that if we come together and stand up against injustice, we can have a positive effect together.”