Nine residents have been appointed to serve as domestic election observers in the 2021 General Election, Governor Martyn Roper announced Monday.
The local observer team was appointed in the wake of COVID-19-related travel restrictions which made it difficult to have a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA-UK) International Election Observer Mission on the ground for the 14 April polls.
However, the CPA-UK Mission will be conducting a virtual mission, remotely engaging with stakeholders in the Cayman Islands, according to the government press release on the appointments, which added, “This subsequently puts greater significance on having a team of domestic election observers on the ground to provide the public with additional reassurance in the absence of the international election observers.”
A total of 47 applications were received following the Governor’s Office call on 9 March for expressions of interest.
“It is extremely encouraging to receive such a great response from members of the public wanting to actively support the democratic process in the Cayman Islands. I am confident that the appointed observers will provide the independent oversight that is so vital to ensuring our elections remain free and fair,” Roper said.
The domestic observer mission consists of nine members – five selected by the governor, two by the premier and two by the leader of the opposition.
“The mix of related experience and expertise amongst the team gives me every confidence that they will be able to perform their roles successfully and make a valuable contribution to our democracy,” Roper said of the appointees.
A selection committee was chaired by Deputy Governor Franz Manderson. It reviewed the applications and put forward recommendations for the most suitable applicants.
“Among the applications were a number of public servants. After some deliberation, the committee felt that, in keeping with past practices, public servants should be excluded from consideration to protect the political neutrality of the public service,” the release said.
Domestic election observer team
- Dr. Sidney Ebanks
- Mark W. Hilton
- Margott Lares-Alfonzo
- Hadleigh Roberts
- Colford Scott
- Ian Whan Tong
- Olivaire Watler
- Andrea Ruth Williams
- Trecate Yong
Based on the committee’s recommendations, and the nominations from the premier and the leader of the opposition, the governor appointed the election observers.
Terms of reference outlining the relative roles and responsibilities of the Cayman Islands government and the observers were signed at a meeting on Monday, 29 March.
“Included in the Terms of Reference is a commitment by the Governor, on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government, to respect the observers’ independence as non-partisan observers and not direct or interfere with their work. This is in keeping with international best practice on local observation missions,” the release said.
While appointed by the governor, the domestic election observers will be working with “full independence from the Cayman Islands government”, the release added.
“My sincere thanks go to all those who applied as well as those who gave their time to be part of the selection committee and offer their insights and recommendations,” Manderson in the statement. “The selection committee took their role very seriously and exercised due care and diligence in arriving at their recommendations by placing the integrity of our elections as of the utmost importance.”
The committee, the statement said, considered applicants’ expertise and work experience, whether they had any experience working in an election, whether they appeared to be politically neutral and any other knowledge or expertise that they may have which would be beneficial in the observer role.
In addition to the deputy governor, the selection committee comprised James M. Ryan, former chief secretary; Sophia Harris, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission; Rosie Whittaker-Myles, former chairman of the Standards in Public Life Commission; and Jennifer Ahearn, strategic operations officer in the Office of the Deputy Governor.