Tourism and the future of development in the Cayman Islands became a major focus of discussion on Tuesday night, when five candidates took the stage at the Camana Bay Arts & Recreation Center in the second national debate leading up to the May 24 elections.

Three of the four candidates vying for a seat in Bodden Town East – Dwayne Seymour, Robert Bodden and Osbourne Bodden – attended, as did Maxine Bodden Robinson, who is one of four candidates in Bodden Town West.

Alva Suckoo, one of four candidates in Newlands, also attended.

The debate was viewed by a scant number in person, but nearly 2,700 people on Facebook Live.

The first topic was the Go East initiative and how the respective candidates would spur development in their respective districts.

Robert Bodden, a member of the Cayman Democratic Party, said the most important thing to revive Bodden Town is having a coherent plan for zoning. “Currently, we’re doing a lot of hodgepodge development without a plan,” he said of the current lack of re-zoning. “It’s not cohesive. People are still driving to George Town to find work and benefit from the tourism that is already on Seven Mile Beach. We have to diversify our tourism product.”

Osbourne Bodden, Minister of Community Affairs, Youth and Sports, said his district has a lot of potential for ecotourism if the money can be found to take advantage of it.

“I think we have a lot to offer,” said Mr. Bodden, a member of the Progressives. “Bodden Town East is the historic capital and we have a lot there that is not being exploited and used to its full extent. I think there’s a need for start-up capital. A lot of people would benefit if they had access to funding. But we need to look at Bodden Town East and realize there’s so much potential.”

Cruise berthing facility

The next hot topic was a potential berthing facility that would allow cruise ships visiting Cayman to dock instead of requiring passengers to be ferried ashore by tenders. Dwayne Seymour spoke up against the planned facility, while Osbourne Bodden and Mr. Suckoo supported it.

Mr. Seymour, an independent, said he is not convinced that the new facility is needed at this time, and that ultimately the environment of Seven Mile Beach is most important to the tourism product.

“What they are telling us is the experience of the tourists coming here is not as enjoyable, and more people need to get off the ship,” he said. “They’re not getting off the ship because they have to come by tender. When I check it out, other Caribbean islands like Cayman, the same amount of people are still staying on ship and they have piers. For that reason, I’m not convinced as yet.”

Mr. Suckoo, an independent, made a case for building the facility but doing it responsibly. He said he is in favor of using a deepwater berth and using pylons as opposed to dredging near the shore, but most importantly, he said, the citizens of Cayman need to decide what they want for their future.

“We need to decide if we want the mega-ships or if we want to stick with the smaller class ships. Do we want to focus on mass cruise tourism or do we want to focus on stay-over?” he said. “I know we can balance that. We can have a blend, but we need to answer that question and be working on a plan. We don’t want to be the next Cancun or the next Jamaica. We want to retain our originality and we need to define our tourism product that capitalizes [on] what the Cayman Islands should be.”

Employment

Robert Bodden and Mr. Suckoo both referenced the recent change in the pension law, saying they thought the reports of a potential mass exodus of foreign workers were exaggerated. But even if they were true, said Mr. Suckoo, this would be a perfect time to focus on filling those jobs with Cayman citizens.

“We have tourism businesses telling us there’s going to be a mass exodus of people from these islands,” he said. “Why haven’t they embraced and prepared and trained Caymanians to take those jobs?

“Why is it now that they’re going to go out and raise the alarm that they’re going to lose 2,500 employees? There should’ve been 2,500 Caymanians prepared to take those jobs.”

Trade schools

Another debate topic was trade schools and whether Caymanian citizens would benefit from having an alternate path to education and different types of careers. Maxine Bodden Robinson said it is not clear whether there are enough people interested in a trade school education.

“We actually need to think about what a trade school is and whether it’s needed,” she said. “It’s a sexy buzzword. Everybody is on about having a trade school because not everybody is academically inclined. I absolutely agree. Not everybody can be lawyers, doctors and whatever else. There are lots of people that like to work with their hands and whatever it might be, but we need to start at the very beginning when our children are entering that school system to see what their abilities are.”

Robert Bodden agreed. “Everybody’s a genius. But if you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, you will continue to think he’s stupid,” he said. “Each one cannot be a rocket scientist, accountant or a doctor. When you say trade schools or technical schools, that includes the arts, it includes music, it includes drama.

“We have to diversify our education system. The mere fact that we have two pillars of our economy, which is all service, a failure to diversify our educational system is a disservice to the people in this country and to the educational system as a whole.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The debate was very interesting, as I found time to attend. However I am at a lost where to begin commenting. Anyway I will begin with the Go East Imitative, this project raised its head about ten years ago. I was a member of that committee, and saw nothing but meetings, meetings, and more meetings for three years, and foot dragging right up until two weeks before election eight years ago.
    What can the leaders, who were PPM say why nothing got off the ground in Bodden Town. They dogged every year until two weeks before election and began dredging out the shore line off Coe wood beach with implemented plans to build projects to compliment the Bodden Town district. Government exchanged hands and all we got was what Mark Scotland John John Dwayne Seymour and Ms Juliana O’Connor helped us out with getting a boat launch ramp and a few huts for fishermen and crafters. Mr Osborne Bodden objected to anyone using the huts and knocked them down, and if he could have dug up the Boat Launch Ramp he would do just that. The personal interest of competition with PPM members stifled tourism in this district, just because some of them does not want anyone else to live. No one in this town is suppose to sell and eat fried fish except the already rich business man. We will not get anything unless the Government is changed, and we do not get politicians who are going to run competition with the people for a fist full of dollars.

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  2. The PPM Government put those plans in action two weeks before the election, and without planning approval. They got voted out in Bodden Town for doing that. Imagine Having four years and wait until two weeks before next election to start a project. People are not fools and the same thing is happening now again.,
    When the UDP government got in, well we though that they would have finished the propose project. In three and one half years they did not. So when the UDP government split up because of unforeseen circumstances and another government took over under the premiership of Ms. Juliana O’Connor, John John Seymour and Mark Scotland, for the final six months in the four years, they Built a boat ramp and koshia huts for the residents to use, Government changed hands again to PPM and under Minister Osborne watch again it was decided that no one would sell or buy anything out there on the Coe Wood beach, because it would take away from his business. We never got to used the buildings that were boarded up for four years and they were ordered to be knocked down just a few months ago by Minister Osborne Bodden,

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  3. Twyla I need not to say no more , but I would ad that. these politicians that have too many contracts with Government should not be voted for this election , because if they are re-elected all they are going to do is protect their own intrest , not yours or the Islands . But I am very disappointed in the PPM party and Mr Bodden for taking such unauthorized actions setting such a dangerous precident for the Islands ,

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  4. We have been waiting so long . When will we get proper development for the Eastern Districts? It is well overdue. New blood is needed all the past members have done nothing . People need to vote for independents and stop the party politics. We need individuals who have no party affiliations . If a member is voted in, he/she should be able to come together with othe voted in representatives to run the Cayman Islands for the benefit of Caymanians. I agree with Twyla and Ron. Wake up people vote.

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