Panton supports referendum ‘if they get the numbers’

Former environment minister also defends conservation law

Former Environment Minister Wayne Panton says he supports the democratic right of campaigners to seek a referendum on the controversial cruise port plan.

Mr. Panton first made the comments on Rooster 101.9 FM’s morning CrossTalk show, saying he understood the concerns around the dock plan and supported the constitutional right of campaigners to try to trigger a referendum.

In a later interview with the Cayman Compass, Mr. Panton stopped short of indicating personal backing for a referendum, saying, “I am not going down that slope at this point.”

He said he had been intending to convey support for the mechanism within the constitution that allows the people to trigger a national vote on issues of importance if they can raise support from over 25 percent of the electorate. The campaign group Cruise Port Referendum Cayman has been collecting signatures since August in an effort to reach the required threshold.

“It is a democratic process. If they can get sufficient numbers of people to trigger it, then I support the right of the electorate to exercise that power,” Mr. Panton told the Compass.

He said he does not believe that a referendum would necessarily be a bad thing for government.

“It may very well strengthen government’s position that they have [a] mandate to go ahead,” he added.

“It is not something the government is necessarily in control of. They have to look at the potential benefits it may bring in terms of clarifying the perception of the voters. It may take a bit of time and cost a bit of money, but it is a part of the of the democratic process and I think there are potential benefits to government. They shouldn’t see it as a lose-lose situation.”

He said he was not specifically advocating for a referendum on this issue. “I am not saying one way or another in relation to that, but I do understand the motivation.

“I support the provisions of the constitution and the right for the people of the country to seek to trigger a referendum on issues like that.”

Mr. Panton, the former environment and financial services minister, ran with the Progressives at the last election, losing his seat to Independent Al Suckoo in Newlands. He is still a member of the PPM and has also spoken out in support of the efforts the government is making to comply with international regulations in the financial services industry.

Mr. Panton differs from some of his former colleagues in his views on the National Conservation Law, however. Despite some criticism of that legislation, including from members of the current government, he still believes that it is a landmark piece of legislation of which the government should be proud.

He said it was a myth that the legislation had slowed down development, citing statistics from the planning department that show record numbers of development approvals over the last few years.

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