West Bay South candidates Raul Nicholson-Coe and André Ebanks squared up on Wednesday’s eighth Cayman Crosstalk district debate.
Nicholson-Coe and Ebanks are both independent candidates and are the only two contenders vying for the seat, after incumbent Tara Rivers decided not to run in the 14 April general elections.
When asked about the most important issue facing West Bay South voters, they said employment and cost of living.
“We have to move away from the reasoning that the Caymanian is over-qualified,” said Ebanks, a former attorney. “My job for example, moving from Walkers [law firm] to government, to be a policy adviser. Well someone could have looked at me and said, “well your salary is three times that, you’re ten years qualified as an attorney, why would you want to work for government as a policy advisor?”
“That’s my choice if I want to give back to my country, and my qualifications exceed the job application,” said Ebanks who added that efforts need to be focused on the people who became unemployed because of COVID-19.
Nicholson-Coe also agreed that unemployment was a major issue.
“We have to take a ‘Cayman First’ approach for jobs for Caymanians; we cannot sit back and allow Caymanians who have the ability to work to be sitting on the side-lines depending on the [Needs Assessment Unit],” said Nicholson-Coe. “The NAU is a cost that we have to think about, because it is not sustainable.”
He added: “There are people who I have met in the district who say, ‘My choice on a monthly basis is to [decide] if I am going to turn off the lights for two days or if I am going to have water for two days, or I am going to eat’ and that is clearly not sustainable”.
They were then asked whether they would form a government with West Bay West incumbent McKeeva Bush.
“I think it is incumbent on all who are elected to work with each other,” said Ebanks. “It is unlikely – in my position as an independent, unaffiliated candidate – that I will be in the position of forming a government. The more likely outcome is that those political groupings, a portion of them that were successful, will be looking to gravitate towards the independents to form a government.”
He added: “At that point in time, I will be looking to see what is the most effective coalition for the country, that aligns with my principles to get things done”.
Nicholson-Coe said he would consider legislation from a government that Mr. Bush was a part of, if that bill enhanced the lives of Caymanians and the poor.
“It would be unconscionable of me, if Mr Bush brought a bill to the house that actually helped the poor, the people that are disenfranchised, in need of assistance, for me not to support it,” said Nicholson-Coe.
He went on to explain: “I’m not saying that I would be supportive of the government, but I will be supportive of things that actually enhance the lives of Caymanians”.
Of the 50 candidates that were nominated on 1 March, 11 were women. When asked about their stance on gender issues, specific to females, both candidates agreed that – while there has been progress in Cayman toward equal rights and opportunities for women – there was room for growth.
Nicholson-Coe, who is the father of an 18-year-old daughter, said he thinks the barriers to female voices “needs to be broken down”.
“When I was at Digicel, my senior management team, most of the time, was two-thirds female, because their perspective on different things is totally different,” said Nicholson-Coe. “They don’t have the ego, they don’t have the testosterone, and they look at solving problems in a much different way.
“So, I have always encouraged females within in my organisations to be managers.”
Ebanks, who previously served on Cayman’s gender equality tribunal, said he believes more effort needs to be focused on eradicating subtle gender discrimination.
“We need to start having policies and encouraging gender mainstreaming, so that we are viewing everything as a country, and even private enterprise, through the lens of gender equality,” said Ebanks.
Throughout the debate, both candidates shared similar views across other topics such as their opposition to legalising, healthcare reform, sustainable development, and how to successfully reopen the boarders in a safe way.
Where they differed is why they each thought they were the more deserving candidate to represent West Bay South.
Nicholson-Coe pointed to his experience as the previous head of a major local telecoms company and his more recent success of employing Caymanians in the vocational trades industry through his own private company. Ebanks, for his part, pointed to his dual experience of the private and public sector having gone form being a qualified attorney to a deputy chief officer and then Cayman’s representative to the UK and Europe.
EDITOR’S NOTE:This story has been amended to clarify that Mr. Nicholson-Coe did not indicate he is open to being part of a government alongside McKeeva Bush.