Political party v. independents

| 28/05/2019 | 29 Comments

Cayman News ServiceGilbert Connolly writes: Two years after Cayman’s general elections, local politicians are now debating the merits and demerits of party politics v. independent representative. Premier Alden McLaughlin of the Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM) is leading the debate in favour of a government based on party politics, while members of the opposition are arguing in favour of forming a government based on independent representatives.

You will recall that during the political campaign leading up to the 2017 elections the public was bombarded with political speeches and adverts that claimed the independent elected politicians would provide the best form of government for the Cayman Islands and would essentially solve all of the country’s political problems.

This strategy appears to have worked as a majority of independent representatives were elected to the Legislative Assembly. It is said that politics is a numbers game. If this is true, the independents had the numbers to form the government. Despite the explanations given, it is still a mystery to most Caymanians why this did not happen.

No one should forget the fiasco that followed the 2017 elections, when the elected independents met several times to form a government and failed to do so. The result was the formation of a coalition government by the PPM and the Cayman Democratic Party (CDP), and a couple of independents thrown in to boost the numbers. The independents had to settle for second prize, forming the opposition. This is not what the independent candidates and their financial backers promised the Caymanian people in the 2017 campaign.

Independent Representatives

Independent candidates claim that they have greater freedom to speak their minds as they are not restricted by the official position of a political party. However, the fact that independents have the freedom to speak their minds exposes some of the disadvantages of relying on such a loose alliance to form a government.

In the Cayman context, when a group of say 10 independents get together to attempt to form a government, they must deal with 10 different agendas/manifestos, and in some cases, the agenda of their financial backers. Independents lack the organisation and structure which comes with a party.

This is largely responsible for the chaos that ensued when independents tried to decide on the structure and priorities for forming a government. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage in this scenario is that each independent’s ego comes into play and no one is willing to compromise their position. It seems that politicians’ egos are larger than most other people.

Another disadvantage is that voters will have no certainty before the elections as to who will be the premier of the independent group after election. This results in infighting for the leadership. In simple words, every independent want to be chief no one want to be just Indian.

In the history of our Legislative Assembly (LA), there was a brief period when the independent representative served a useful role in forming the government. However, it is only nostalgic thinking to believe that the independent representative can play the same role today. In my humble opinion, the biggest lesson that should be learnt from the 2017 elections is that independent elected politicians are not the best way to form a government for the Cayman Islands in today’s world.

Historically, we have seen that independents that are not a member of the government or affiliated with the government are punished by the government, which tends to neglect the local needs of the independent’s constituency/district.

In our Legislative Assembly, the opposition plays an important role in providing oversight and a system of checks and balances on the function and performance of government.  However, we have seen that the recent resignation of the leader of the opposition has left the opposition in apparent disarray in appointing a new leader. Would this have happened if the opposition was formed by a party?

This lack of organisation and absence of a smooth transfer of leadership is what has given rise to the current debate on the suitability of independents forming government or performing the role of opposition. How would the independents cope with collective responsibility that is required to form the Cabinet of the government?

The independents clearly demonstrated that they were not capable of forming a government, and by their own action, indicted themselves from gaining the people’s trust to do so. I am hopeful that the independents can see the bigger picture and can put their egos aside and work to create the best political system for the Caymanian people. The members of the opposition are decent and capable people who must find a better way to serve the Caymanian people.

Party Politics

Although political parties have their benefits in promoting good for the citizens of the nation, I by no means want to imply or suggest that a government formed on a party system will result in a perfect government. A prime example of an imperfect and failed government formed on the party system is the PPM. I once heard a West Bay lady on a radio talk show say that PPM stood for “Poor People Mistake”. I absolutely agree with her.

It is my opinion that the PPM lacks the vision, planning capability and moral fortitude to effectively address the issues that are affecting Caymanians who are suffering in poverty, unemployment, hunger, and who live pay check to pay check. Premier Alden McLaughlin has had six years to fix the problem of unemployment for Caymanians but has failed to do so.

His most recent attempt has been the creation of the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) department. However, recent published statistics show that work permits for foreign workers have increased from 25,000 to over 27,000.

For example, there are over 800 lawyers practicing in Cayman, and only a very small percentage of those are Caymanians. I personally know a young Caymanian lawyer who qualified overseas, but after being called to the bar in Cayman was refused a job by an expat law firm. This happened after the WORC was officially launched.

Therefore, one must ask the question, how effective is the WORC in helping Caymanians get jobs. It is common knowledge that many young Caymanians return home after studying overseas and cannot get jobs. The PPM government is busy passing laws like the International Tax Cooperation (Economic Substance) Law 2018, which is so onerous it will result in driving small Caymanian law firms out of business while promoting large expat law firms.

The PPM government is busy working for the privileged 5% of the nation, including expat lawyers and big businesses, but has forgotten the thousands of Caymanians who are suffering.

As a side issue, I still don’t understand why the Caymanian Bar Association merged with the Law Society to become the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Association. How will this merger with expat lawyers help Caymanian lawyers?

The most important distinction that must be made regarding the PPM government is that it is not the party system that has failed the Caymanian people. It is the politicians in the PPM party that have failed the Caymanian people. Their mission seems to be the suppression of opportunities for Caymanians rather than creating opportunities to lift them out of poverty.

The members of the PPM need to stop focusing on getting their names written in the history books and think of the needs of Caymanians. McLaughlin’s claim to fame and the history books is that he will be the first premier to serve two consecutive terms as premier. However, the historians will have an abundance of footnotes to remind them of how the premier failed the Caymanian people. Much more can be said on the failure of the PPM government; however, there will be other opportunities.


Charles de Gaulle once said, “I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” I agree.

We need leaders who are thinking of Cayman’s current and future needs and who understand that we need to engage in nation building and the need to build political institutions that can fulfill the political development that will inevitably come to these islands.

The Cayman Islands need to build political parties to best govern on behalf of the people. Will an independent representative style of government prepare Caymanians for internal self-government or independence?

I don’t think so. We need politicians who have the vision and commitment to do the right thing for the Caymanian people. While independent candidates should have a seat at the table, if that is the wish of the people, their role should be minimised.

In conclusion, let me ask the independent representatives of our Legislative Assembly to name one or more current or former British colony that has implemented a government based solely on the independent representative system, as advocated by independents in Cayman. If the independent representative system of forming a government is such a good idea, why have other democratic governments around the world not chosen to implement such a system?

Finally, Caymanians need to become involved in the creation of political parties and the selection of suitable candidates to represent their interests. We need candidates that are honourable, intelligent, inspiring and passionate about helping Caymanians. Far too many MLAs sit in the LA year after year and make little or no contribution, yet they are paid a salary. Are they there just for the salary?

It is likely that voters will be faced with the dilemma of choosing between two evils in the upcoming 2021 elections – political parties and independent representative. The independent representative system must be the evil rejected.

Gilbert Connolly is a retired Cayman Islands senior civil servant.

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Category: Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    independents hare small town, small minded, backward looking folk who have no business in trying to run a country in the 21st century. end of story.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Together, we can make the song that our children [Papua New Guinea] truly deserve.” said Marape, aged 48. He said his victory represented power shifting to a new generation.


    Fiery new Papua New Guinea PM questions vast Exxon, Total gas deal

  3. Anonymous says:

    Have a voting system called “Single Transferrable Vote”

    See the links below for easy to understand videos on it.



    • Jah Dread says:

      Missa Conolly, all a those words could have been made much simpler sah by saying; if another political party is not in place by next election, then ona will have to ride on the Progressives train for 4 more years. Full stop.! Verbosity does not engeda change Master action does.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is a timely reminder that we will have a tough election within the next 24 months. Cayman society and economy could actually decline after May 2021 depending on the make up of our Government. I am not optimistic that the nucleus of the current opposition are capable of managing the Cayman Islands Government . We need to be mindful of electing new capable members of the Legislative Assembly.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you had me up to the xenophobic rant. Have you seen how low unemployment is? I guess it’s not minimising unemployment you care about but minimising foreigners.

    How would getting rid of 2,000 paying customers help local businesses and their employees?

    Luckily whatever the shortcomings of the current government they have some idea of basic economics, unlike you.

  6. Anon1 says:

    Since Independants cause egoic battles for power in the LA.

    And Parties override the will of the people for their interest.

    Why not give the people the POWER TO RECALL MLAs for no confidence or inadequate performance?

    Like a petition needed to trigger a Referendum, every electoral district should be able to trigger a No Confidence against their MLA. And as a result, the MLA us replaced for the district candidate that received the second most votes during the General Election.

    Currently, I don’t see the people having any say during the long 4 years. They have to put up with them until the Election, which I don’t think is right.

    So to me the answer is not whether we have Parties or Independants, but whether we have the POWER TO RECALL.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hard to tell what any of them actually stand for, both individuals and parties.

  8. Anonymous says:

    1) Even with a clear party majority voted in you don’t know who the Premier will be, especially as there are no ‘safe’ seats in Cayman (I would argue). (A) The putative pre-election premier-in-waiting may not be elected. (B) The Party in Power may choose to nominate someone else as Premier due to intra-party politics. (C) If there is no single-party majority, i.,e., a coalition government, which is quite possible outside a two-party system, then you don’t know whose going to get the top spot, or any spot. You’ve simply replaced individuals wrangling with parties wrangling. See Cayman Islands 2017 Premier/Speaker split, for example. (Or England under the Labour / Lib-Dems, or Italy currently. Shoot Israel is looking at elections for the second time in a year, despite one party being clearly the largest in their legislature, because the other parties won’t play nice with the putative premier.)

    2) “Historically, we have seen that independents that are not a member of the government or affiliated with the government are punished by the government, which tends to neglect the local needs of the independent’s constituency/district.” – Are you really suggesting that the winning Party would treat the other Party’s districts any better? Why? Don’t just say dumb stuff and expect us to believe it. – It could be argued that whether my party lost the district to an independent or another party the governing party should want to do at least as much there if not more than in their occupied seats – and really bang on about how the current elected representative is getting nothing done, i.e., punish them in your parlance – in the hope of picking up the seat in the next election.

    3) “we have seen that the recent resignation of the leader of the opposition has left the opposition in apparent disarray in appointing a new leader. Would this have happened if the opposition was formed by a party?” – Yes. Of course it would. Only an idiot would suggest otherwise. Exhibit A: The Tory party leadership struggle in the UK right now. You think it took our independents a while to sort themselves out?

    I stopped reading after this point because clearly the entire Op-Ed is thoughtless party dogmatism masquerading as reason.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We need to consider ourselves lucky that Hon. Alden McLaughlin managed to become Premier after the elections. Just take a good hard look at the other 18 that he is surrounded by and tell me who else was capable of taking the job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Based on your assessment what do you think will happen after the next election. It is expected that one of those 18 surrounding the current Premier will be the next Premier, or are you assuming that the majority of the 18 (assuming they get re-elected) will elect some shining knight in bright armor newly elected person that you have more confidence in.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I 100% agree with your comments on independent candidates ability to form a government and deal with the complex issues of a modern society that commands a budget of billions of dollars annually. How can we as Caymanians really expect that a group of independent candidates that do not have a collective plan heading into elections can effectively manage such a complex society. There was a time and place for that type of politics maybe 30 years ago but if Cayman is to be successful, independents are not the solutions to todays political arena.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Those that can remember all the way back to 24 months ago, will recall clearly that there was an Independent coalition being formed out of the post-election party losses. In the resulting disarray, the desperate backstabbing power-hungry eels of PPM and CDP reneged on their agreed arrangements in favor of this redactive Unity Frankenstein Regime which included the appointment of a complicit rubber-stamping Speaker (under still undisclosed terms). The overriding common ground is their shared appetite for pocket-lining and soft dollar deal-making on large infrastructure projects. You don’t need to over-think our current scenario, or wonder why all of these large capex “deals” are being pushed, with lots of zeros, coming in >40% over-budget (if finished at all); or wonder why enacting our SIPL Law won’t happen on their watch. It disappoints me to point out that if corruption were an acceptable party ethos, most of the LA would be signing up, since nobody in the opposition feels they can call a spade a spade.

  12. enough with the B.S. says:

    Alden and the rest of the gang spent two full days in the legislature bashing gays. That tells you everything you need to know about these people…

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is easy to blame Alden for everything but you need to look at who he is trying to work with. He is only one man. So who is really to blame

    • Anonymous says:

      The people…for continually voting Alden, McKeeva and the rest in for the past God knows how many years. It’s like the memory of the average Caymanian gets wiped every 4 years

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s shorter than 4 years…party faithful are already trying to spin the party losses less than 24 mos ago!

    • Anonymous says:

      Poor leadership XXXX arrogance and merging with McKeeva Bush has destroyed the PPM.

      Alden’s actions have set his political legacy as failure. A wasted talent who could not bring himself to be humble. A man disconnected from the people while drowning his sorrows at Country & Western.

      He will be remembered for the $110m Clifton Hunter school, the unfinished schools, selling out Caymanians to Dart and becoming just like his chief tormentor (now a man he owes everything to for his job of Premier) McKeeva minus the love of slot machines.

    • Anonymous says:

      A fish rots at the head!

    • Anonymous says:

      Read about Lee Kuan Yew to see what one man can do.

      He proved that a small nation could do what even bigger nations could not think of. He was a determined leader, who wanted nothing except to realise the greatest dreams of his people. His power was people. Singapore, a very small city State, welcomed people from every nook and corner of the world and taught them to be disciplined and dedicated to the work assigned to them.

      Reading about life and legacy of Lee Kuan Yew must be included in a high school curriculum.

      • Anonymous says:

        Singapore is one of the most sterile places on earth. Not in the good way.

        • Say it like it is. says:

          5.52pm You obviously have not been to Singapore, it is hardly sterile. Despite it’s very high population density it even outperforms Dade County in it’s incredible landscaping efforts. It’s economy is the envy of the world, not a bad performance for a small island that was once a swamp just like Grand Cayman. All this attributable to leaders like Lee Kuan Yew and his successors.
          Unfortunately many Caymanians are ill informed and xenophobic which hinders our progress. Mr Connolly should bear in mind if it was not for expatriates, as in Singapore, life for the average Caymanian would not have progressed as far as it has.

    • Anonymous says:

      So what one man can do you ask.

      Dwight D. Eisenhower: “By leadership we mean the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it, not because your position of power can compel him to do it.”

      • Anonymous says:

        I find so much in this viewpoint to be nothing more than mumbo- jumbo but I will comment on the paragraph before the last and say that none of the members of the opposition sit down and fail to debate all motions brought by themselves or the government. In fact they always bring well informed, sensible debate on any subject that arises. It is some of the government members, three in particular, who are guilty of not debating,. They speak so seldom that some of us forget that they are still there.They hardly ever have any comment except aye. I think you need to check the facts and do a re- write.

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously you have never been in the army.

    • anonymous says:

      10:57 pm: true, he is only one among the lot, but we expect leadership from him.

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