Governor unconcerned over claims of port petition ‘interference’

Governor Martyn Roper

Governor Martyn Roper said he has “full confidence’ in the Elections Office despite concerns that it is allowing people to “unverify” their signatures for the petition calling for a referendum on the port.

Campaigners for a referendum had called on Roper to intervene following a government social media advert saying people who had changed their mind about supporting the referendum could call the Elections Office and withdraw their support – even after they had filled out forms verifying that they had signed the petition.

Johann Moxam, one of the campaigners, questioned this claim and suggested the government was interfering in the verification process by encouraging people to withdraw their support. He wrote to the governor asking him to step in.

The Elections Office confirmed Wednesday that it is indeed allowing people to “unverify” their signatures, though so far only two people have done so.

Governor Roper issued a statement Thursday expressing full support for Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell and his team, insisting the details of the verification process were a matter for him.

He said Howell had issued a statement clarifying the position on withdrawing names and he supported that decision.

“Wes and his team continue to do a great job and are making excellent progress. They continue to have my full confidence in the decisions they’re taking on the verification process,” he said.

“We should allow them to complete the process. I am pleased with the efficiency and professionalism of the verification process up to now. I have not seen anything that gives rise to concerns about good governance, fairness or political interference. It’s important that we don’t lose sight that this process is being handled efficiently and quickly and is testament to the strength and vibrancy of our democracy.”

Just over 80% of the signatures had been verified at last count.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Cruise Port Referendum Cayman said it was disappointed at the recent developments, but confident it would succeed in forcing a referendum on the issue.

“Despite the changes now being introduced during the verification process, CPR remains undeterred in its objective to exercise the democratic rights afforded to citizens under section 70 of the Constitution,” it said in a statement.

“We are concerned about the process of interference in our democratic right by the acting government. However, we remain confident that the Cayman people will have a fair chance to express their opinion under the confidentiality of the polls when this historic first time people’s initiated referendum takes place.”