Letters penned by Premier Alden McLaughlin in 2012 raising concerns about the one man, one vote referendum process and the conduct of the then government made its way into the port debate this week.

In the letters, tabled in the Legislative Assembly by Opposition Leader Arden McLean in his contribution Monday, McLaughlin had complained to then Governor Duncan Taylor about the manner in which then Premier McKeeva Bush was engaging in the referendum process.
McLean called out the premier on what he labelled “hypocrisy”.

He said the actions of McLaughlin’s government to garner support from the electorate to vote yes for the proposed $200 million cruise berthing and cargo project were the same as those McLaughlin had complained about Bush doing in the run-up to the 2012 poll.

In the 2012 letters, McLaughlin expressed concern over public funds being used for the campaign and over the date of the referendum. Opponents to the current government’s port project have raised similar concerns in this present debate.

On Wednesday, the premier addressed those letters as he delivered his closing speech on the Referendum Bill in the Legislative Assembly.

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He categorised it as an attempt by McLean to score political points by reminding the country that he and Bush, now House Speaker, have had their share of political differences in the past.

“What you and I know, Mr. Speaker, and the country knows well, is that despite our political differences over many years, we have always been able to find ways to work together for the benefit of the country. Otherwise, I would not be premier, and you would not be speaker,” McLaughlin said.

He told lawmakers he understood very well the challenges of being part of the Opposition, having spent his early years on those benches. However, back then, he said, the Opposition had a plan.

He said if the current Opposition wanted to replace him and his government, then they had to do far more than criticise.

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  1. That is very much an over simplification of the parallels between Mr McLaughlin’s complaints in 2012 and the concerns of the CPR now, which Alden has gone so far as to say that by them raising these concerns “CPR is not really interested in holding a referendum, presumably because they think they will lose, but are simply intent on derailing the cruise and cargo port project by any means possible, including frustrating it by delay.”
    This is outrageous and underhanded. Why are their concerns invalid when the very same concerns were of the utmost importance to him during the last referendum?
    If you take a look at the concerns of the CPR and put them side by side with those raised by Alden, how can he say that their concerns are not legitimate?
    CPR has asked for a legal opinion on the following points:
    The lawfulness of the proposed procedure for the referendum, in relation to:
    (a) the referendum question
    (b) the date of the referendum (it being so close to Christmas)
    (c) campaign financing
    (d) The significance of a vote against the port by the majority of voters, but which constituted less than 50% of the electorate
    (e) bars and alcohol
    In 2012, Alden McLaughlin made the following statements regarding the “one man, one vote referendum”:
    “There is a problem with the question that is being proposed; there is a problem with the bar … the percentage of votes necessary; there is a problem with the date being right in the middle of the summer holidays”
    “There is a major problem with the government campaigning against its own referendum question and using public funds to do so,” he said.
    “This is [a] flagrant abuse of the office of the premier and the blatant misuse of public funds to pursue the agenda of the [United Democratic Party]”
    “The reality is that if the Premier had not manipulated the referendum process by creating an artificially high bar of 50% + 1 of registered voters instead of 50% +1 of votes cast, the referendum would have succeeded. It would have succeeded despite the fact that the Government employed the full machinery of the Office of the Premier and utilized public funds in an expensive advertising campaign to persuade the electorate to vote No. The statement made by the Premier on Thursday evening dismissing the wishes of 65% of voters in the referendum demonstrates the absolute disregard and utter contempt which the UDP administration has for the views of the voting public and how out of touch the government is with the issues that affect and concern Caymanians. ”
    Alden’s response to Mr Mclean is irrelevant. It does not matter that he and McKeeva are now on the same side. What matters is that he is trying to convince the public that the concerns of the CPR are unimportant when in fact he himself in 2012 believed the very same issues were extremely important.