Civil servants have been warned that they cannot be involved in campaigning for one side or the other in the run-up to the referendum on the port project.
The ban extends as far as ‘liking’ posts from either side on social media, according to a memo sent by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson to all civil servants.
The memo, seen by the Cayman Compass, reminds all government staff they have a legal duty to remain “neutral”.
Manderson’s memo does point out that civil servants have a right to participate in the poll. Governor Martyn Roper has previously said he hopes civil servants will turn out to vote.
The deputy governor’s memo encourages government workers to report incidences of political pressure from either side.
“Should you feel that you are being unduly pressured to vote, not to vote, or to vote a certain way, I encourage you to report your concerns to the Supervisor of Elections and my office so that appropriate action can be taken.”
The two-page memo indicates that civil servants may be asked to speak at public meetings but should restrict their contributions to “factual information and technical advice”.
Manderson goes on to highlight sections of the Public Servants Code of Conduct indicating civil servants duty to be politically neutral, while providing information to government in a professional and impartial manner.
“Civil servants should not be, or perceived to be, advocating for or against the project,” it adds.
Johann Moxam, of the CPR Cayman campaign group, said he was concerned about the tone of the letter, which he suggested could influence civil servants not to vote.
“It would be in the best interests of all parties especially the Deputy Governor and all civil servants if her would also issue a clear message in a separate email which will serve to encourage them to participate in the democratic process and exercise their right to vote on Referendum Day, 19. Dec, 2019, without any fear of intimidation or reprisals especially considering recent comments from the Premier and political directorate.”
Manderson said his memo had already reminded public servants that “participation in a referendum” is a “proper exercise” of their constitutional rights and he would continue to remind them of that.
He added, “I have spoken to many civil servants over the past few weeks and have received zero complaints or concerns in relation to participation in the referendum. I am aware of Public Servants exercising their democratic rights in previous referendums. Therefore, I have no concerns.”
Manderson said issuing the memo was in keeping with a long-standing tradition of informing public servants of their rights and responsibilities during a General Election. He said many of the same principles applied during the referendum.
What does the memo say?
Public servants cannot:
• Be involved in referendum campaign meetings other than to provide factual information.
• Write letters or give interviews in the media advocating for or against the project.
• Canvass or collect funds in support of referendum related campaigns.
• Place bumper stickers supporting either side on their government or personal vehicle.
• ‘Like’ or otherwise advocate for or against the project on social media.
• Authorise referendum related signage on their properties.
What does the Code of Conduct say?
A public servant, as a member of the public, has a right to be politically informed but must ensure that his participation in political matters or public debate or discussions does not conflict with his obligation as a public servant to be politically neutral.