MLA says no support for motion
Independent legislator Winston Connolly has voiced his disappointment at the failure of his colleagues to support his calls for an end to the practice of politicians giving handouts to constituents.
Saying he had been attacked as naïve, inexperienced and uncharitable for highlighting concerns, including the increased potential for vote buying in small single-member districts, Mr. Connolly insisted he would not back down.
The George Town legislator said it was the job of politicians to ensure there was a well-run and properly funded benefits system to support the least fortunate, not to dig into their own pockets to give cash handouts to constituents.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, he said he was unable to get sufficient support for proposals to outlaw handouts and introduce term limits for politicians.
“I would like it recorded that I brought them to this House and fought to put them in place as checks and balances to a system that could get out of control,” he said.
Mr. Connolly defended his own record of supporting charity and insisted it was an important principle that legislators showed their support for the needy through laws and policies rather than personal handouts.
“We have to concentrate our efforts on creating the best safety net we can, so those who truly need it can come forward and be assessed and assisted. If everyone can circumvent the system or if the system is slow or doesn’t work, then fix it. Don’t say the system is lousy so here is $50. Fix it.”
Mr. Connolly said any politicians that wanted to offer help beyond the $50 million in public funds allocated for welfare programs, should do so by supporting charities, which he said were best placed to assess need without bias.
He suggested that when politicians decided who got handouts and who did not, charity could be perceived as corruption.
“That could easily turn from one ‘c’ word to another,” he said.
Mr. Connolly said the “system of patronage” was so entrenched in the Cayman Islands that he had been labeled insensitive and uncaring for attempting to change it.
He said he had a strong track record of supporting and helping charitable causes but insisted his role as a politician was to focus on improving the system rather than giving personal handouts.
“Our role is to help the pensioners that can’t afford their monthly bills by making the pension system better.
“It is getting people skills and education so they can demand higher wages to fully participate in this economy.
“It is making good deals and decisions so people aren’t crippled by monthly expenses. It is embracing change on things like renewable energy to bring down the cost of living. It is to ensure the immigration laws are enforced and there is equality of opportunity. It is moving the dump from the capital and making it something other than a political football.
“It is about taking risks and unpopular decisions even if it costs us our seats. It is not to pay for mortgages and give money without obligations. If we were not in politics, would many of those giving daily still do so? Would they encourage people to come to their homes and offices and give handouts?
“Then why is that the expectation when you get into politics or are campaigning for politics?”
Mr. Connolly has also called for members of the Legislative Assembly to be restricted to three consecutive terms in office, before taking a break of at least one term.
In response to suggestions that the move would mean replacing experienced politicians with “green” new representatives, Mr. Connolly suggested that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
“There is good experience and bad experience,” he said, citing the “huge mistakes” of “experienced politicians” in running up enormous national debts as the reason he got into politics in the first place.
He added, “Experience sometimes allows you just to be smart enough to keep your job, not do your job.”