December port vote in doubt as legal action looms

A leading member of the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman group is seeking to bring legal action in an effort to ensure the vote is conducted in a “fair and lawful” manner, the organisation has confirmed.

Shirley Roulstone has filed an application for a “protective costs order” which would shield her from potentially massive legal costs if the eventual Judicial Review is unsuccessful. Such orders are sometimes made by the courts for public interest cases.

If that costs application is successful, Roulstone will proceed with the legal action, CPR indicated in a press statement.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has also submitted a separate application for leave to apply for Judicial Review over government’s decision to proceed with a referendum before an updated environmental impact assessment is complete.

Hearings in both cases are anticipated next week, though it is not clear if either will be in open court.

Referring to the cases in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Premier Alden McLaughlin said there was now “considerable uncertainty” over whether the referendum would go ahead on 19 Dec.

CPR Cayman has not initiated proceedings because it is not an incorporated entity, the group indicated. However, it said it was proud to support Roulstone’s efforts, which are based on the concerns the group outlined in a ‘letter before action’ to the government earlier this month.

The same concerns were outlined by lawyers acting for CPR in the run-up to the debate over the Referendum Bill.

They include:

  • Claims that the question is not neutral and that the cargo aspect of the project should not have been included
  • Concern that the timing of the referendum excludes 220 newly registered voters
  • Concern that there are no campaign finance rules or restrictions
  • Concern that allowances have been made for sale of alcohol on Referendum Day

CPR added, “Of most significant concern to CPR Cayman is that the date that the Government has scheduled for the referendum is so close to Christmas that voter participation is likely to be significantly less than it would be if the referendum were held in the first quarter of 2020.

“Many people will be travelling or too busy to vote on 19 December 2019, which is one of the busiest days of the year for many people, particularly those working in the tourism industry.”

The group has suggested the busy time of year could also impact postal ballots.

The statement adds, “CPR Cayman remains dedicated to ensuring that the referendum on the proposed cruise berthing facility takes place.

Ms. Roulstone is pursuing the judicial review in an effort to ensure that the referendum, when it occurs, is conducted fairly.

“We are concerned that the current proposal for the conduct of the referendum is not fair, lawful or in keeping with the intention behind our constitution.

As this is the first people-initiated referendum in the Cayman Islands, it will set the precedent for future people-initiated referendums, so it is particularly important that we hold the Government to the highest standards of democracy.”

Speaking on the issue Tuesday, the premier said, “This action is most regrettable. There is now grave uncertainty as to whether or not the referendum will actually proceed and the state of uncertainty and division in the country will only continue and heighten.”

Despite the legal moves, Johann Moxam of CPR said the group’s primary focus was on the campaign.

“As previously stated, all legal options would be explored,” he said. “However, CPR remain focussed on the referendum campaign. We are operating on the basis that Referendum Day is 19. Dec unless the government decide otherwise and inform the public.”

1 COMMENT

  1. The cruise pier. It is a shame that the democratic process is meeting with every bogus obstacle created by people who just won’t let the process proceed. Signatures were obtained, environmental studies have been done, but not to the satisfaction of those who refuse the outcome. It is time that the people vote nay or yay for this project. Enough stalling.