Cayman will ‘rue day’ of SMCs, says Mac

| 29/04/2015 | 15 Comments
Cayman News Service

West Bay MLAs McKeeva Bush and Captain Eugene Ebanks

(CNS): The opposition leader showed no signs of accepting the government’s move to introduce single member constituencies (SMCs) and one man, one vote (OMOV) during the Electoral Boundary Commission’s West Bay meeting Tuesday. The commissioners were in the district to listen to public views on where and how the boundaries for the new political landscape of 18 seats should be drawn but McKeeva Bush and many attendees ignored that question and pressed their opposition to the introduction of SMCs.

Bush said that Caymanians would “rue the day” when the voting system was changed from one that had been in place for 185 years.

He said the die was cast and he understood the commissioners were there to talk about the demarcation of boundaries and not whether or not SMCs would be introduced but he was still opposed to their introduction and wanted it known.

“It cannot do this country any good … other than to divide us worse than what we are,” he added. He queried how a single representative in a constituency on his own could equate to better representation for the people or more accountability from MLAs than the current multi-member system.

West Bay was the only district in the controversial July 2012 referendum where the majority of voters opposed the introduction of OMOV in SMCs and many were still insisting they did not want that system.

Bush also defended the circumstance surrounding the referendum conditions as he insisted it was a people-initiated and not a government referendum. However, that remains hotly contested as the petition was never completed and it had called for a November referendum and not the snap summer poll that Bush decided on, cutting off new voter registrations and taking place at a time when many people were away.

There were several West Bayers at the meeting who supported the change and who were interested in the creation of what will likely be the four new constituencies in the district, but many others wanted to talk about the system and not the boundaries.

The starting point for the commission is the current polling divisions but there is some disparity in those four areas and the commissioners will need to tweak the boundaries to ensure the numbers are as equal as possible. Currently, the division of West Bay Central (WBC) has only 838 registered voters, while West Bay East (WBE) has more than 1200 voters. This means the commission will need to find a suitable new boundary between those potential constituencies that will reduce the number in WBW and transfer them to WBC.

Despite the best efforts of the commissioners to steer people towards the matter at hand, which was where the most appropriate place would be to draw the lines, only a handful of people in the audience seemed to fully understand the commission’s remit or how SMCs work.

One commenter asked the commission about who would run for office in the new constituencies and whether they or the government would decide, illustrating that there is still a long way to go before everyone understands the concept of the new political system that the government has committed to introducing before the 2017 General Election.

The commissioners, Steve McField, Adriannie Webb and the chair Lisa Handley, pointed out that the introduction of OMOV in SMCs was a political position taken by the current administration and not something the commissioners were able to address.

Based on both the results of the 2012 referendum and the fact that the change to the voting system was in the PPM’s manifesto, the government established the boundary commission to draw up the 18 new constituencies. They have been asked to consider the number of voters in the constituencies, the historical and natural boundaries of districts, the potential growth and the wishes of the voters.

Nevertheless, people were still insisting the commissioners should recommend other election systems. McField pointed out that there was no point “rowing or rucking” with him and the other commissioners as their job was to make recommendations for the boundaries and if the people did not want this system they needed to complain to the politicians

The meeting, which lasted until well after 10:30pm, was the best attended so far, with well over fifty members of the public as well as the four MLAs and other former candidates. However, soliciting opinion on the question of where boundaries should be in West Bay, whether the number of MLAs could be increased or whether the speaker should come from inside or outside the House proved difficult for the commission, with only a few people offering clear and measured views.

The boundaries that were discussed also saw opinion divided. The question of East End and North Side as well as the Sister Islands was raised and described as “the atrocity in this whole new system” by the opposition leader.

Those four constituencies will  have considerably less than the average number of voters, which will be just over 1,000 per constituency in the other 14, given the national register of electors is currently standing at just over 18,000 voters.

Two members have been mandated in the Constitution for the Sister Islands, which Bush said should not have been done but that the PPM, who led the 2009 constitutional talks, did it to satisfy Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell. He said East End and North Side were not protected and they should be merged.

Bush said people were “pounding their chest about equality in the face of these inequalities” of voter numbers.

North Side and East End will have around 600 voters in each district and the two Sister Islands seats will average around 500, though at present the polling division line gives Cayman Brac East just 373 voters and Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman 643, suggesting that the commissioners cannot use the polling division as the constituency dividing line.

Describing the situation in North Side and East End as “an anomaly” that the commissioners must address, Bush asked them to say what they were going to do about it.

“I want to know how you are going to address that dilemma. It is a serious imbalance that cannot be put up with,” Bush said, as he pressed for an answer. “You can’t leave it that way.”

McField said he appreciated the frustrations over the smaller constituencies but he said the commission had not even finished the public meetings yet and no decisions on recommendations had been made. A political and constitutional expert, McField said it would be premature to say what will happen to East End and North Side.

The commissioners explained voter headcount was not the only criteria regarding the shape of constituencies and that geographical size, historical and natural boundaries, future growth and the wishes of the voters in the constituencies would all be considered.

The commissioners move to Bodden Town this evening, which presents some of the most challenging border decisions. The current George Town polling division of Prospect has over 1,700 registered voters and sits next to the largest of the three polling divisions in Bodden Town — Savannah Newlands, which has almost 2,000 registered voters and is expected to grow more before the 2017 national poll.

The Bodden Town area will need to be divided into four seats from the current three polling divisions but it may also see parts of Prospect drawn into a constituency within the district boundaries of Bodden Town. As a result, the boundary recommendations may fall outside the historical or natural district boundaries and the commissioners will be keen to hear from voters on that issue.

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Category: Elections, Politics

Comments (15)

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  1. Sammi blue says:

    This is particularly for Jonas. And all the others out there who thinks like he does. I think it is time to drag people like you into the 21st century. Yes it is sad that some people are losing their houses,that some people might not have enough to eat and all the other examples you gave might be true, but that is no reason for the government to fold their hands and not take care of policies and procedures like OMOV, single member constituencies and minimum wage etc. for the betterment of the entire Cayman Islands. Cayman is lagging behind in implementing these democratic markers.. I remember growing up , there were 12 of us children in the family, many nights we went to sleep wishing that we had had more to eat, but you know what we persevered and I swore that I would not pass that legacy down to my children. We worked hard, We spent our money frugally and took care of our children and other people’s children as well. We prioritize, we ate a lot of porridge, beans breadfruit cassava fish (my husband loved to fish in the nights) because the money had to stretch until the next pay day. We knew that we had to pay the utilities and the mortgage then school fees ( yes my kids went to private schools) first then after that came the food and then if there was anything else left we would rent a movie and popped some corn and turned our living room into a movie theatre. Things do not have to be as hard as some of you claim, there is always more that you can do. Cut out all of the eating out, do your own hair and nails, go fishing in the nights after your main jobs, send the kids to bag at the supermarkets a few evenings after school, run an errand for a neighbor or rake leaves for another neighbor. Make some kool- ade pop cycles and sell them to the neighbors, there are many many ways each of you can help yourself, I know because my children and I did them. Today they are all very productive members of the cayman society and passing these wonderful things down to their children. We have no intention to be poor again- not if hard work and planning can help us. All of you out ther can do the same.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Says Mac… Cant help wondering whats in it for mac.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am still rueing the days of McKeeva being in charge of this country.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why is it that this system of democracy works everywhere else in the world but in Cayman people are so insistent that it won’t work for “US”, seriously

  5. Poppin Bottles says:

    Bottles will pop once Mad Mac is finally put out to pasture.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ah didums, doesn’t like it because he might lose, and constantly ignored the wishes of the majority, including on OMOV. Why do these people let him speak?

  7. OverGoverned says:

    Hmmnmm, maybe Cayman needs a senate to address regional inequalities. 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    Nation wide elections. Forget districts, that’s old stuff. we have internet now.
    Candidates represent ALL people. Voters vote for the best guy for the country and not their tiny district.
    Nation wide : Grow up Cayman.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We the voters should have to approve a fixed sum as the budget to pay our representatives. If they want to share that fixed sum between 17, 18, or 19 people then let them vote on it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    At some point one or another of the constituencies will change in the population of voters.

    What will not change is that there are some folks living in East End or North Side that were born, raised and still in the same community, if not house, that rarely, if ever venture beyond their respective boundaries. Two very distinct cultural communities require separate representatives.

    The same could possibly said about the sister islands however their needs are very similar. What a great opportunity to reduce the number of seats there to one, and therefore making 9 the number for a majority instead of increasing the MLA count to 19.

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      Only in Cayman would anyone seriously suggest that the interests of 2 groups of several hundred electors living within 10 miles of each other were so different that they not only needed separate representation in parliament but that should be at the cost to the public of over CI$150K a pop, 75% more than the pay of a UK parliamentarian representing at least 54000 separate electors.

    • Jonas says:

      All of this belly aching about a system of voting and people cant pay their mortgages, are in many cases do not have water, electricity is cut off, house about to be foreclosed, ate , being robbed and we spend time worrying about voting in whatever form. Will voting for 1 person make the economics of a community or the country change, will it provide for less robberies, will it increase the value of property; will it improve the quality of life for all?. Let us stop being monkey see monkey do, and do what is of intrinsic value “For all the People”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    SMCs is good for West Bay voters. It gives them the opportunity to get up to 4 refrigerators every election.

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