(CNS Elections): As Alric Lindsay headed back out on the campaign trail Thursday, following the court’s ruling in his favour on what appeared to be a bad faith challenge to his eligibility, the George Town South candidate told CNS that Caymanians should not be afraid to fight for their rights. Following a nervous two weeks going through the process for his right to stand for election, the Spanish-speaking financial expert said the victory was all about being Caymanian.
“I now encourage all Caymanians who have issues with being hired for jobs, promotion or better pay to stand up for what is right and ensure that they stick with the fight until a victory is achieved for Caymanians on the one hand and the country as a whole on the other hand,” he said. “This case is a reminder that, as Caymanians, it is perfectly OK to stand up for our rights, wherever we may find them prudent to be exercised.”
He said it wasn’t just about the Constitution or politics but in daily society, where Caymanians have the right to progress, healthcare and other benefits, all of which are derived from a simple right to live the Caymanian dream.
“In the end, this is the real point – living the Caymanian dream, not selling it like real estate and losing culture, benefits and progress in the process. It also means not selling ourselves short and not selling our valuable votes. Our votes can’t be sold,” he said.
But he accepted that there is a another specific issue arising out of his case, which is the need to change the Elections Law and, depending on the view of the people, the Constitution as well.
“I believe that the provisions relating to a Caymanian spending more than 400 days outside the Cayman Islands over a seven-year period must be examined and, if thought fit by the legislature and the people, revised,” he said, as he pointed to some of the potential pitfalls this section of the constitution creates.
This particular residency requirement was also raised by the overseas elections officials who monitored the 2013 election. In their report after the last national poll the monitors said the “required durations of residence in the Cayman Islands before the nomination appear to be unreasonably limiting the right to stand for elective office”.
There is currently no exception under this part of the Constitution or the Elections Law for a Caymanian who travels for business for one or two weeks per month over a seven-year period. Under the current instruments, such a Caymanian is likely to exceed the 400 day absence restriction under the Constitution and will not be eligible as a candidate for elections, Lindsay said.
As a qualified CPA and lawyer who has worked in the offshore sector for more than a decade, he said that many Caymanians working for big law firms are overseas for several years obtaining international experience and they could also fall foul of this residency issue.
A wealthy Caymanian retiree who may be spending half the year at home and half overseas could also be prevented from running, given the issues surrounding this section of the constitution, he said.
“I ask the people of the Cayman Islands and the next legislature, which I hope to be a part of as a representative of George Town South and the Cayman Islands, to consider possible amendments to the Constitution and the Elections Law to meet the needs of Caymanian business persons and retirees in modern times and to enhance the constitutional rights of Caymanians in relevant, growing areas,” he said.
He also pointed out that his case has highlighted the need for a more detailed description to the role of the Elections Supervisor. “There are currently no detailed rules and, as such, the process is subject to flaws,” Lindsay said.
Despite finding that the Elections Office was wrong to bring this case against Lindsay, the chief justice said he was sympathetic to the Supervisor of Elections and the questions being raised over qualification in the challenges to the three candidates. He has asked all of the lawyers involved in the challenges and the government to see how the work the two sides have done over the last few weeks interpreting the Elections Law and the Constitution can help to create practice directions and guides for future challenges.
Recent amendments to the Elections Law now allow the supervisor to call on the court for a decision on the eligibility of candidate before, rather than after, the national poll.
The main reason for the changes was to avoid post-election challenges and the inequities that emerged in the 2013 General Elections, where some candidates were prevented from running by the Elections Office based on advice from the attorney general while other candidates with similar question marks over their candidacy were allowed to run, including Tara Rivers. That resulted in a costly and very disruptive case in the aftermath of the election, which government was seeking to avoid this time around when it changed the law.
Speaking this week to CNS, Wesley Howell, the current supervisor of elections, explained that under the new law he alone cannot disqualify a candidate without their agreement. He said that when challenges are made, the office seeks information from the candidates and investigates the allegations of illegibility with other government agencies. But if it is still not clear that the candidate is or isn’t qualified, the Elections Office has no choice but to seek a ruling from the court.
In this case, Lindsay was cleared by the courts to get back on the election hustings and he said he was confident he could take the GTS seat. He said he hoped the voters would consider him as a representative of every Caymanian, however that status was obtained, including the people in George Town South, where he grew up.