George Town South independent candidate Alric Lindsay has been cleared to stand in the general election after Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled his absences from the island over the past seven years were not sufficient to disqualify him from holding office.
Mr. Lindsay, a lawyer, accountant and director of various investment funds, had made numerous trips to the Dominican Republic, Belize and Honduras to hone his Spanish language skills, the court heard.
His candidacy was challenged by the Supervisor of Elections on the basis that he had been out of the country for longer than 400 days in the seven-year period before the election.
Lawyers for Mr. Lindsay argued that his trips were simply an extensive “travel history” connected to his desire to learn Spanish and expand his business reach into Latin America.
Anthony Akiwumi, acting for Mr. Lindsay, said his client had maintained a business and a legal practice in the Cayman Islands and had been resident in the territory at all times, despite spending significant periods in other countries.
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said there was not sufficient evidence to justify the supervisor’s decision to challenge his candidacy. He cleared Mr. Lindsay to stand and ordered the elections’ office to cover his legal costs.
Immediately after the decision, Mr. Lindsay said he was relieved and ready to begin campaigning. He called for changes to the Constitution and Elections Law to ensure eligible Caymanians are not disenfranchised.
“In my view, today’s victory is not about a court judgment. It is about being Caymanian. Knowing that I have always stood for what is right and for what is true – in particular, what benefits my family, strangers in need and people who have proven to be friends. This is Caymankind. This is what being Caymanian has always been about.
“I now encourage all Caymanians who have issues with being hired for jobs, promotion, better pay to now stand up for what is right and ensure that they stick with the fight until a victory is achieved for Caymanians on the one hand and the country as a whole.”
He said he hoped to be a candidate that would stand not just for the Fairbanks area, where he grew up, and the South Sound area, where he played squash as a boy, but for the country as a whole.
Chief Justice Smellie, outlining the reasons for his decision, said it was not sufficient to show that the candidate had been out of the island for more than 400 days. Mr. Lindsay had been away from Cayman for 797 days in the relevant period.
“There needs to be real concern about the effect of those absences on his connection and commitment to the islands,” he said.
He said the candidate’s travel history showed a pattern of traveling from the Cayman Islands, but always returning home.
He said the evidence was far from demonstrating a pattern of prolonged absence that brought his commitment to the country into doubt.
“There was not sufficient evidence to justify the engagement of the process of this court,” he said.
Chief Justice Smellie said the clause, which applies only to candidates born outside the Cayman Islands, had to be read in its context, suggesting the intent was to prevent people with divided loyalties from running for office, not to hamper the ambitions of Caymanians who traveled extensively.
Mr. Akiwumi had argued that his client’s trips overseas were analogous with a corporate lawyer or businessman who traveled frequently overseas for work purposes.
He said it would be unfair to punish people who were resident in the Cayman Islands and whose work took them overseas for long periods.
“It is established that he was clearly resident here, his home was here, his business was here, he was emotionally connected and committed to the islands.”
Mr. Akiwumi also argued that the 400-day absence referred to in the Constitution was meant to apply to continuous absences, not an assortment of trips added together.
The chief justice, in his verbal ruling – a summary of his yet-to-be-published written judgment – did not cover this point.
He said that the circumstances of this case did not meet the threshold for invoking the 400-day clause as a possible reason for disqualification. He said the clause was designed for circumstances where there were reasonable grounds to doubt someone’s connection or commitment to the island.
A second challenge leveled against Mr. Lindsay, who was legally adopted as a baby, that he was born outside the islands and did not have a parent or grandparent from the Cayman Islands, was dropped by the Elections Supervisor after it was shown to be untrue.
Two other candidates were excluded from standing in the election after similar challenges.
Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman candidate Nickolas DaCosta was not allowed to stand because he has U.S. citizenship, obtained by descent, and another candidate, who the chief justice ruled can only be referred to as “Candidate X” was blocked from running because of a past criminal conviction for dishonesty.