Cruise port referendum: Campaigners deliver petition to Cabinet

The Cruise Port Referendum Cayman group delivered its port petition to the government on Wednesday.

CPR executives Mario Rankin, Johann Moxam and Shirley Roulstone met with Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose Wednesday morning at the Government Administration Building where they handed over 727 original signature pages, which includes 5,862 signatures, 5,305 of which have been verified by the Elections Office.

These are the original names gathered by the grassroots group during its campaign, which started last year, to trigger a referendum into the proposed $200 million cruise ship and cargo dock project.

Government officials said the Elections Office needs to deliver the officially verified petition to Cabinet before the next step in the process to launch the referendum can be taken.
The verified petition documents remain with the Elections Office.

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell told the Compass he is in the process of completing his final report for delivery to Cabinet.

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“In the absence of a referendum law or bill, where there is no proper procedure, we were advised by our legal team that we would have to present the petition, once verified by the Elections Office, to the Cabinet secretary so it will be in an official capacity,” Rankin said.

The group said it is now looking forward to the issuance of the Referendum Bill by Cabinet, which will “outline the referendum date, question, and other important procedural matters such as campaign finance limits, observers, agents and the referendum day public holiday”.

Rankin said CPR Cayman has received formal acknowledgement of the receipt of the petition.

He stressed the importance of the referendum.

Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell in his office on Wednesday, as he and his staff prepare for the upcoming referendum. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“It is for the Caymanian people to have a seat at the table so that they can vote on something that is of national importance,” he said.

The group suggested, in a statement, that it anticipates a January 2020 referendum date, based on constitutional requirements outlined by the Elections Office.

“If the Referendum Bill were to be issued on 23 September 2019, the earliest date the referendum could be held is 23 December 2019, therefore effectively January 2020,” the statement said.

Before handing over the petition, the three executives met with the Elections Office supervisor at his Smith Road Centre office.

Howell said the meeting was essentially for the CPR Cayman group to retrieve the petition signatures “with the plan of presenting those formally to the Cabinet secretary in relation to satisfying the section of the Constitution that covers that”.

He declined to discuss possible dates for the referendum since that rests squarely in the remit of Cabinet.

Elections Office in referendum mode

Howell said his team is preparing for the referendum in much the same way they would be getting ready for a general election, and the Elections Office staff had been in training for the last two weeks in preparation for the impending poll.

“We are planning to be ready for whatever date the government decides to hold the referendum on,” he said.

While there is no formal guideline for a time frame for holding the referendum, Howell said, the Elections Law provides some guidance with the provision of not less than six weeks’ notice for a by-election or snap election and not less than two months for an election.

He said his office is working with the six-week time frame.

He said the Elections Office is now focussed on preparing its staff for referendum day, including returning officers who will be dealing with postal ballots and mobile voting, and those required to do the polling and counting on the day of the referendum.

Howell said the budget for the exercise is still to be determined, but since it is similar to an election, he anticipates it could cost in the region of $900,000, which was the cost of the 2017 general election.

He said the Elections Office will require a staff of 300 to execute the vote effectively in all 19 constituencies.

Howell added that he and Governor Martyn Roper had discussed inviting independent international observers to oversee the referendum vote.

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