Two Cayman Islands politicians, one of whom is a strong supporter of one man, one vote, single-member constituencies and another who is perhaps its greatest detractor, gave their views on the subject during a Legislative Assembly debate Friday afternoon.
We have sought to set out the respective pro and con “cases” of Alva Suckoo and McKeeva Bush in the lawmakers’ own words, drawing from extracts of their debate.
Regarding concerns that single-member voting districts will cause further division in the Cayman Islands: “I fail to see how that will happen. We’re not erecting fences. We’re not going to give people special color T-shirts to wear.
“There are divisions now … we have pockets of Caymanians that for years now have not received the representation they have deserved. As a representative in Bodden Town, I can choose to ignore those areas … simply because I know I can pick up votes elsewhere.”
Mr. Suckoo said single-member districts, with a much smaller number of voters, will eliminate that possibility.
Regarding concerns that the change will encourage foreigners who want to gain political power in the Cayman Islands: “There are a number of us [referring to members of the Legislative Assembly] who have similar backgrounds. Can any one of us be accused of not being loyal representatives of the Cayman Islands?
“We’ve recklessly invited individuals here and granted them status en masse, without ensuring those persons were properly integrated into our culture. Every single Caymanian is the descendant, at some point in time, of a foreigner.”
Regarding concerns about how the voting change will affect the economic and social future of the country: “I’m not too concerned about the upcoming election.
“We haven’t gone through major periods of violence and unrest. We have poverty, but we have not experienced it in ways that neighboring countries [have].
“Poor people are not criminals. If we want to avoid the garrisons, let us continue on educating, uplifting and empowering our people.
“[Problems with crime and poverty] have nothing to do with single-member constituencies. It has to do with poor representation.”
“This is a time for reflection, consideration and pause,” Mr. Bush said.
The opposition leader said redistricting of the electoral boundaries does not necessarily result in strong political representatives because, among other reasons, the boundaries need to be constantly withdrawn to maintain a population balance.
“It mightn’t show its face immediately, but you watch it down the years. [Do] any of those countries that moved to … single-member districts, ‘one man, one vote’ … look at them and ask yourself … are they better off than the Cayman Islands?”
Referring to the representatives of East End and North Side districts, which currently each return only one elected member to the assembly: “They have murders and robberies in their district[s], more than there should be, and they can’t even get a police station out there.
“We are going down the same path that others have tried and failed. It will lead to the erosion of our way of life. Do not divide our islands up into little pieces.”
Regarding the quality of representatives: “It’s difficult to get elected in the open [multi-member] voting, but very easy to get elected in the smaller districts. Maybe if [the candidates] are smart enough … to cut votes [run multiple opposition candidates to disadvantage larger political parties] … then the garrisons are being planted in the smaller districts.”
Regarding social and cultural divisions: “One man, one vote single-member constituencies will fully divide our islands. It will lead to less accountability, not more accountability. It will increase government bureaucracy and government expenses.
Regarding political concerns: “The referendum [in July 2012] which asked whether we the people supported one man, one vote failed. The voting population size of the Cayman Islands is not large enough.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen now, but it will lead to the weakening of checks and balances that are there to protect our political system. Gerrymandering will become the order of the day.”