Government has amended the question it plans to use for the referendum on its proposed $200 million cruise berthing and cargo project.
However, Cruise Port Referendum Cayman representatives, the grassroots group behind the petition that triggered the vote, said the new wording still falls short of addressing concerns that have been raised in the judicial review filed by CPR member Shirley Roulstone.
The changes to the wording of the question were made in the regulations that accompany the Referendum Law that was passed in the Legislative Assembly to pave the way for the vote on the project.
The decision to amend the question was made by Cabinet and was in line with recommendations made by Roulstone’s attorneys, according to a statement from the Office of the Premier issued Wednesday.
“Submissions made by Ms. Roulstone’s legal counsel recommended that the word ‘proceed’ would be acceptable in place of ‘move forward’ and the words ‘enlarged and refurbished’ would be acceptable in place of ‘enhanced’. In its final meeting last year on 17 December, Cabinet took the view that whilst there was nothing wrong with the original wording, it would nonetheless be pragmatic to tweak the wording in order to help save time and costs in the case,” the statement read.
“The decision was taken to resolve the concerns raised by Shirley Roulstone on the neutrality of the question,” an Office of the Premier official said.
The original question approved by legislators was: “Should the Cayman Islands continue to move forward with building the cruise berthing and enhanced cargo port facility?”
The amended version reads: “Should the Cayman Islands continue to proceed with building the cruise berthing and enlarged and refurbished cargo port facility?”
The change was gazetted 18 Dec.
CPR’s Johann Moxam said the group was not consulted about the change.
“Again, it still fails to address the spirit of the petition that people signed, which focused only on the cruise project,” he said Wednesday in response to queries from the Cayman Compass.
Although the changes were published in the Government Gazette, there was no formal public statement from the government that any amendment to the question was made.
However, Moxam expressed displeasure with the way in which the change was made.
“The government’s recent actions considering the pending legal matters and approach to the CBF [cruise berthing facility] campaign from the very beginning, has again demonstrated its contempt for the people. They continue to ignore CPR and members of the public that are united and worked to successfully secure the signatures that triggered Cayman’s historic people’s initiated referendum,” he said.
Roulstone was granted leave for judicial review of the referendum last month. The court has also delayed the referendum which had been set for 19 Dec. 2019.
The wording of the question was one of several concerns Roulstone raised in her legal action over the port vote.
Her legal action also questioned the timing of the referendum since it excluded 220 newly registered voters, the fact that there were no campaign finance rules or restrictions set, and allowances were made for the sale of alcohol on Referendum Day.
This week, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie granted Roulstone a protective costs order shielding her from having to pay government’s costs if her legal challenge fails in court.
The trial has been scheduled for 22-24 Jan.