Cruise referendum appeal set to go ahead via video-link

An architect's impression of how the new port could look.

The court battle over plans for a referendum on a planned cruise port in Cayman is set to go ahead via video-link on 6 May.

The two-day hearing is expected to involve leading counsel for both parties making their arguments, via video-link from their homes in the UK, to a panel of Court of Appeal judges, who will also appear via video-link from the UK.

The hearing was scheduled before restrictions on gatherings and other measures to suppress the spread of the coronavirus were put in place. The date of the hearing was published recently on the Judicial Administration website.

Kate McClymont, a lawyer representing Shirley Roulstone of the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman group, said she had been advised that the appeal would go ahead as planned, with measures in place to ensure social distancing.

“The current intention is for one attorney for each party and one member of judicial administration to attend in person at the court house in Cayman,” she said.

It is possible that this could change depending on what measures are in place at the time of the case, she added.

The Court of Appeal has published its hearing schedule on the judicial website, listing the Cabinet of the Cayman Islands and the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands as the appellants, and Shirley Elizabeth Roulstone and the National Trust for the Cayman Islands as the respondents in the case. The schedule indicates plans for a two-day hearing starting 6 May.

Roulstone, a leading member of CPR Cayman, won a judgment earlier this year preventing the referendum from taking place under the framework the Cayman Islands government had set out in its bespoke referendum law for the cruise port vote.

Her lawyers highlighted concerns that the law included no restrictions on campaign financing or using public funds to sway the vote, among other issues. They argued that the wording of the Constitution indicates there must be an overarching law setting out the rules and regulations for referendums to ensure an equal chance of success for both sides.

Grand Court Justice Timothy Owen agreed with some of those points and struck down the law in February. Government filed its appeal in March and argued, among other things, that Owen had breached the ‘separation of powers’ between the judiciary and the legislature when he had moved to strike down the law.

Asked about the appeal at a press conference Wednesday, Premier Alden McLaughlin said he had not been made aware of the schedule and would need to take advice from Attorney General Samuel Bulgin before answering.

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  1. It all seems somewhat academic now.

    Does anyone think the cruise lines are going to still be in a position to fund this project? Or that anyone will want to get on a cruise ship any time soon? Or that government has the slightest chance of winning the vote if and when it happens?

  2. Apart from the fact that the cruise lines are crippled by the shutdown and likely unable to finance the proposed cruise port, they will have an uphill battle convincing people to cruise once more, and so the whole cruise industry will be forced to change the way they operate. The mega cruise ships may be a thing of the past. But, it is far more sensible for Cayman to prioritize stay over tourists rather than cruise passengers. Academic research has shown that the gains for the local economy from cruise passengers wandering around for a few hours is minuscule compared to the gains from stay over tourists. And the cost of waste disposal and other pollution from cruise ship passengers may exceed the gains. Environmental costs must be internalized in total costs. Cayman would be much better off if it focuses on small ship cruises, and take advantage of a niche market for a more upscale experience than the mass outpouring of tourists on our tiny island, who spend little and leave much that is undesirable. This is even more so given that scientists predict that climate change will unleash more unknown viruses, including from those locked in ice for centuries. This experience calls for a serious rethink of our development strategy. While we are more fortunate than The Bahamas, for instance, where 52% of the workforce are employed directly and indirectly in the tourism industry, and where they now face massive unemployment for an extended period, we still rely heavily on a very vulnerable sector that can come to a standstill in one fell swoop by an exogenous factors, be it travel advisories, a terrorist attack where tourists originate, or, a lethal virus.