Attorney: Amended port vote question more neutral

Government’s amended port referendum question is a welcome change for the team behind the legal action challenging the vote on the $200 million project.

However, attorney Kate McClymont said the new wording still does not address the issue of separation of cruise berthing from cargo port.

“The new wording of the question is more neutral than it was before, which is one of the things sought by our client in the judicial review challenge. Critically, though, the new wording still conflates two discrete issues, being the cargo port and the cruise berthing port,” she said in a statement to the Cayman Compass over the weekend.

The issue is one of the main points of contention raised by Cruise Port Referendum member Shirley Roulstone in her judicial review case contesting the government’s handling of the referendum. McClymont is representing Roulstone in that case.

The original referendum question approved in the Legislative Assembly stated, “Should the Cayman Islands continue to move forward with building the cruise berthing and enhanced cargo port facility?”

The amended version says, “Should the Cayman Islands continue to proceed with building the cruise berthing and enlarged and refurbished cargo port facility?” The amendment was made in the referendum regulations and was a Cabinet decision, according to an Office of the Premier statement last week.

McClymont said a number of key issues remain in relation to the amended referendum question.

“This concession addresses part of Ms. Roulstone’s claim, just as the stay of the referendum has; however, there are still live issues to be addressed by the court, including whether there should be campaign financing restrictions in the referendum legislation to address the inequality of resources available to either side of this debate, for campaigning purposes,” she said.

The attorney also maintained that cruise berthing and cargo are different aspects of the project and should not be intertwined.

“These two issues can and should be considered separately as different considerations apply. In addition, the petition that triggered the people-initiated referendum related only to the proposed cruise berthing facility, not the cargo port,” she said.

CPR member Shirley Roulstone was granted leave for judicial review of the referendum last month.

The court delayed the referendum, which had been set for 19 Dec. 2019.

The judicial review trial is scheduled for 22-24 Jan.

Apart from the referendum question itself, Roulstone’s judicial review queries the timing of the poll since it excluded 220 newly registered voters, the lack of campaign financing rules or restrictions, and the allowances that were made for the sale of alcohol on Referendum Day.

Last week, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie granted Roulstone a protective costs order which shields her from having to pay government’s legal costs should her court action fail.

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