NEW: McLean calls for port negotiations to halt

Campaigners meet governor over referendum petition

Governor Martyn Roper, fourth from left, met with leaders of the cruise port referendum effort on Friday.

Opposition leader Arden McLean has joined calls for the cruise port project to be put on hold until a petition calling for a referendum on the development has been verified.

McLean said government’s decision to press on with negotiations was a “sucker punch” for democracy. And he warned that signing a contract, with the threat of a referendum looming, could expose government to the risk of financial penalties if the public ultimately rejects cruise berthing.

The campaign group pushing for a national vote on the issue claims to have signatures from 25 percent of the electorate – the required threshold to trigger a people-initiated referendum. Representatives met with Governor Martyn Roper on Friday, and plan to submit their petition to the Elections Office next week.

The governor, in a brief statement following the meeting, said his office would play an important role in the verification process.

“It is an important achievement to collect over 5,300 signatures,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I underlined I will work closely with Elections Office who report to me. I attach highest importance to good governance, due process, rule of law and upholding our Constitution.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday that government would proceed with the final steps in the procurement process on the port and has taken legal advice that it should not be concerned by the petition until and unless it is submitted to Cabinet with every signature verified by the Elections Office.

McLean said Friday that the opposition legislators have written to the premier calling for negotiations to stop now.

“I have added the voice of the Opposition to calls for the Government to immediately halt undertaking any further contractual obligations in relation to the Cruise Berthing Facility Project. It is the only responsible course of action to take,” he said.

He said both he and the premier had pushed for and supported the provision for people-initiated referendums to be triggered through a petition signed by 25 percent of the electorate.

“It is therefore deeply disappointing that instead of welcoming the participatory involvement of the electorate, the Government is further entrenching its position to press on. For the Government to so wilfully disregard the hard-work and dedication of our fellow Caymanians, is a sucker-punch to the most basic principles of democracy and the spirit of good governance.”

He added that the Cayman Islands had already been forced to pay financial penalties over cruise project deals that were later terminated.

“The Government’s continued actions also potentially exposes the public purse to financial penalties. We have already been down that road with the GLF fiasco and don’t need a repeat. The Caymanian people have already paid the price and seen first-hand what happens when decisions are rushed without the proper governance structure in place.”