In a Saturday night event that was partly a campaign launch and partly a fond farewell to a former Progressives party leader, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin took aim at two political opponents – one of whom is a long-time adversary and another who is not running in the general election campaign.
Meanwhile, Progressives party founder Kurt Tibbetts, who is retiring from politics after his current term in office ends this spring, made it clear to the hundreds gathered in George Town’s Family Life Centre that he would be actively campaigning to support the party’s 15 candidates in the next two months even though he was not on the ballot.
“Every seat in this election can be had, it is going to take some work,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “Now that I am put out to pasture, the blessing that you have is that you get two [candidates] for me [referring to the additional seat placed in George Town district under the new single-member constituency voting system]. You look at our slate of candidates, look at the skill sets they bring to the table. Then you look at the rest … there is no comparison.”
“In the world we live in today, Trump or no Trump, Cayman of today needs a steady ship.”
While Mr. Tibbetts introduced the Progressives candidates to the party faithful, giving them reasons they should support each, Premier McLaughlin took the role he has played so often in Cayman politics – that of the antagonist.
“[Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush] continues to claim that our success as a government is really his doing,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Maybe he’s right. If success is possible through his absence from the government, then you are well advised to keep him far away from [it].”
Mr. McLaughlin dismissed a group of independent candidates forming in Grand Cayman’s eastern districts as another attempt at a political party trying to disguise itself as something else. “So far, they have not been able to say what must be changed or what exactly it is they will do,” he said. “There can be no going back … no going back to the days of personality politics and a government focused on self-aggrandizement and political survival.”
The premier questioned the motives of a second group of independent candidates being supported by Chrissie Tomlinson Hospital founder Dr. Steve Tomlinson. “Who pays the piper calls the tune,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “What is the good doctor expecting in return for his support, I wonder? Could he somehow become an unelected premier in all but name if his group should win the government? And what is the relationship between Dr. Tomlinson and the Leader of the Opposition? Is a vote for Dr. Tomlinson’s candidates, in fact, a vote for Mr. Bush and his Cayman Democratic Party? We shall see, but I do not believe the voters will be fooled.”
The Saturday event also featured dms founder Don Seymour as the keynote speaker, and a brief address by Norman Bodden lauding Mr. Tibbetts’s leadership at the helm of the Progressives from 2002 to 2010, when he was replaced by Mr. McLaughlin.
Mr. McLaughlin reviewed briefly some of the Progressives party’s goals for the next term if its candidates should win a majority of the 19 available seats, or form a coalition to achieve that majority. Those goals included the completion of the new John Gray High School in George Town, sustaining the public sector’s financial improvements and making healthcare more affordable for Cayman residents.
The premier also hinted that the Progressives wanted to make additional changes to the work permit approval process for non-Caymanian employees. These changes would involve “increased monitoring of the work permit approval process” to “require more transparency” in that process.
“Willing and able Caymanians must have greater opportunity for available jobs,” he said.
The premier also spoke of a change in general governance of the Cayman Islands should the Progressives win the election, with more emphasis on local governance within each of Cayman’s six political districts. Mr. McLaughlin said the Progressives would support the establishment of properly funded district councils in George Town, West Bay, Bodden Town, North Side, East End and Cayman Brac/Little Cayman.
“Our system as presently structured does not facilitate consistent flow of information from the people to their elected representatives,” Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that local district councils appointed by elected officials could ease that situation. “Each council [would get] an annual budget to fix the small things … that are often overlooked by central government.”
The Progressives party will contest more seats than any other political grouping in the May 24 general election, with seven candidates in George Town district, four in Bodden Town, two in Cayman Brac/Little Cayman, one in North Side and one in West Bay.
“[This is] a battle we dare not lose,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “There is too much at stake.”