Verification of petition raises fear of retribution

| 31/05/2019 | 83 Comments
Cayman News Service

Wesley Howell at the cruise port meeting, 30 May

(CNS): Public sector workers who signed the petition calling for a people-initiated referendum on the government’s proposed cruise berthing facility have raised concerns that during the verification process they will be intimidated into withdrawing their support. Concerns were raised at a public meeting Thursday that once government sees the names of the more than 5,300 people who signed, some could face retribution for opposing government policy and triggering Cayman’s first ever people’s national vote.

However, Wesley Howell, the supervisor of elections, confirmed to CNS that once the Elections Office receives the petition, no one but his staff will see it until the 5,289 voters needed to trigger the referendum have been verified.

Howell confirmed that no one from the elected arm of government or their staff will be involved in the verification process, which could take several weeks; no names or numbers will be revealed to anyone except the Elections Office staff who will be doing the work to check that the signatures on the petition are genuine and signed by qualified voters on the electoral register.

He explained that once he gets the original petition books, he will begin a leave of absence from his primary role as the chief officer in the premier’s ministry in order to perform his job as elections supervisor, which falls under the governor’s office.

Howell explained that it is the governor’s office that will seek the supplementary appropriations necessary to cover the costs of verification and he has already asked them to make that request. Then, if a national poll is triggered, the funding for that referendum will also be appropriated by the governor.

At a lively public meeting where around 100 people came out to hear about the next steps in the eight-month campaign to trigger a national vote on the port, Howell explained the process and tried to reassure people that the deputy governor had said that, in accordance with civil service policy, government workers not involved in the relevant policy areas could sign the petition without concern.

Roy Tatum, the premier’s political adviser, who said he was at the meeting in his own capacity and not on behalf of government, also sought to assure the audience that the government was not looking to pressure anyone into withdrawing their signature.

“There is no need for people to worry, I have not seen anything like that happen,” Tatum told the audience, despite claims that it was already happening.

Linda Clark, a leading member of the campaign and local environmental activist, pointed out that Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie had been banned from attending the meeting that evening to talk about the environmental impact assessment and the Baird report.

Her absence had caused concern because not only was it evidence of the government’s efforts to thwart what the campaigners were doing but it meant that people were not able to get answers to technical questions about what will be a critical part of the decision process once the referendum campaign is underway.

Johann Moxam, another campaign organiser, said that there was “likely to be significant politricks” happening in regards to the petition. He warned that the campaign was going to be a hard battle with many road blocks likely to be thrown in the way, such as government denying that the issue of the port is a matter of national importance and the manipulation of the question.

But Moxam urged voters to stick by their support of the petition and if they were intimidated to report and expose that harassment and tell the media as well.

He stressed that the petition was not anti-port or anti-government but pro-democracy, giving people a chance to tell their government whether or not they wanted it to press on with the port project. Given that this will be the biggest, most complex and costly, as well as the most environmentally destructive public project in Cayman’s history, it was an issue that had to be decided by all Caymanians, he added.

The next steps now include the campaigners securing legal support and having the entire petition copied and notarised before they hand over the original books containing around 5,500 names to the Elections Office.

That is set to happen on Friday, 7 June, after the campaigners have met with the governor, when the verification process will begin. That will include the Elections Office calling voters and going door to door. But to help expedite the process, voters who have signed are urged to go to the Elections Office once the petition is in to self-verify.

The independent verification process of the petition signatures that the Elections Office will conduct is in accordance with the constitutional requirements under Section 90 and Section 70 (1) (b). The aim is to check that the provided referendum signatures correspond with the current electoral register and to validate each signature.

Once the office confirms that, the process moves to the political arm of government and the Cabinet, which will consider constitutional provisions and if the government is satisfied that those requirements are met, a bill will be drafted to support the referendum, officials said in a release from the Elections Office Thursday.

Once a bill is drafted, it will go to the Legislative Assembly for passage and then will be gazetted. The governor will then appoint the returning officers and issue the referendum writ. The referendum voting and counting process will follow a similar process to that of a general election, including postal and mobile voting, and a polling day in all 19 electoral districts from 7am to 6pm.

Howell confirmed that there has been a recent increase in new voters coming in to register. This will be reflected in the next election list, which will come out in July. The names of those who register now will not appear on the list until October.

Although no date has been set, activists are urging people who want to take part in the referendum to go to the Elections Office and register as soon as possible to make sure they are on the electoral roll before the referendum is called.

Check back to CNS next week for more on the what to expect as government prepares to do battle with the campaign and what activists plan to do to keep the referendum on the right track.  

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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (83)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully CPR doesn’t have to break the bank or spend money they don’t have just to submit the petition. !!
    Copies and notarized etc should be free in such a case..

  2. Anonymous says:

    As I read through this and many other articles and opinions, I have the true sense that so many Caymanians have “no confidence” in your government of elected officials. As a deeply invested expat for over 13 years now, I would suggest that you shouldn’t have much confidence in them. My real concern is that those of you who can, don’t seem to vote them out. In many cases, the current officials run un-opposed by any credible challenger. I have often listened to “live” Legislative sessions and I am appalled by so many of their presentations that sound to be without much or any factual merit and really appear to be vocal presentations for their own self-gratification. I don’t plan on leaving Cayman anytime soon but the Cayman government should understand that your performance is well below par against the rest of the world’s economically advanced and civilized democracies, even those that appear in the “media” to be in turmoil, including the UK.

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    • Anonymous says:

      To 1.46 Please tell us who you want us to support since you don’t want us to support the present Govt made up of Caymanians. Please tell us exactly who you want to see in Government.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    “..when the verification process will begin. That will include the Elections Office calling voters and going door to door”
    Wow. I did not realize this was how they were going to have to verify the signatures. Seems like that would take forever!

    • Anonymous says:

      It will take as long as it needs to ensure the deal is signed before the process is complete. Awfully convenient that the Chief Officer of the Premier’s own ministry is the guy responsible for the process, and the Premier’s political advisor and travel buddy is on hand to “assure” the public that he hasn’t seen any evidence of people being pressured – if my name was on the petition I would be absolutely confident that the Premier, a man known to be very opposed to the petition, wouldn’t be using his contacts or influence on the verification process.

  4. Anonymous says:

    any such reprisal should be deemed criminal and prosecuted under the anti corruption law! plain and simple. this is 2019 not 1819 and its high time Caymanians stopped rolling over with this almost disgusting level of submissiveness. We have lost too much too quickly and unless you wish to be under bucky masters whip in the near future you must speak up!

    Tha Truth

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Every single person who is a scuba diver should be against this port. Every single person who is associated with the dive industry should be against the port.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Is that slice of hog sty Bay that also handles cargo shipments the only coral in these islands?

      The sister Islands have marine environments to drool for.

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    • Anonymous says:

      By the time this process has been completed the port will be built.

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      • Anonymous says:

        …unless someone applies for an injunction against the government taking any further action.

        • Anonymous says:

          Roy Tatum say he was their at the meeting on his own but reassured people there would be no government retribution ummm. Was he speaking on behalf of the premier at that time.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Civil servants are not afraid. its CPR who should be afraid that persons will remove their signature because they signed simply to get more info. Which has now been provided.

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      • Wow, where is all that ‘INFO”? who owns the companies bidding? why are non evasive non-concrete options being considered? the ships will come and a massive pier is not wanted and will destroy our tourism package and the threats of losing jobs is as old and crooked as the men who spout those spun tales

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes I agree but most scuba divers are expats and sadly can’t vote.

    • Dave B says:

      Sadly, that’s mostly expats who are not able to vote.

  6. Enough is finally enough in Cayman! says:

    General elections face less scrutiny than the path we are taking now as citizens

    But it shows the truth:

    The powers that be would rather us not display our democratic way, they will attempt to de-legitimize the process at every step (as they have been doing the entire time

    The Government has no regard for the will of the people or the rights enshrined to us in the constitution nor do they respect basic principles of good governance and transparency, they are in power to serve themselves and their donors

    This port serves those already affluent enough to ignore the damage that will be done to the environment permanently, merchant families seeking to buttress a failing business model, along with construction industry stakeholders and persons who think their businesses will be positively effected by shoveling more people into the George Town area

    The original public consultation and commenting period that was held, that showed a 3-1 general public against the project is still valid, (even among those voting for the project the vast majority self identified as having ties to Kirk Freeport making their opinions self serving at best and extremely biased)

    The reality is this government is willing to bet it all on this project despite their track record with major projects and the track record of one of the supposed final bidders

    If this project was to go south we would only have ourselves to blame, we had every opportunity and were aware of all of the dangers from the beginning

    I have no doubts when the referendum is held the public will resoundingly vote down this disastrous and needless project and finally put this mess to bed until such a time arrives, we need to fight tooth and nail to make sure these charlatans in power obey the will of the people the way we should have done in 2017 when they formed this sham government that no one wanted

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    • Ron Ebanks says:

      Enough is finally Enough in Cayman ,
      Well said and to the point , and who disagree with your comment must be something like a Kirkbot.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Fantastic post. We are on the road to communism if we allow this shambles of a ‘government’ to run roughshod over the will of the electorate. Surely even those who are in favour of the dock must see that the government is trying to stifle legitimate debate? No? Wake up!!!!

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      • Anonymous says:

        What I see is a group of people who prefer tenders and having good views from waterfront restaurants of ships at anchor and don’t care whose livelihood they destroy to keep it that way.

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    • Jay Oswell says:

      Yow if you really mean well don’t be afraid to put your name on your eloquent discourse. Placing your name will ensure that you are caring and not afraid of these politrkcians

  7. Anonymous says:

    CPR should have asked Gina to explain to voters BEFORE they signed not after.The point is that after hearing from Gina they may disagree with the need for a referendum but it’s too late now.

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    • Anonymous says:

      your logic baffles me. Do you know what referendum is?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Your not understanding my logic does not baffle me. Think about it a little and it might come to you or get someone to explain to you .

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      • Anonymous says:

        Get it?

        The same rules that allow a ‘people initiated referendum’ ALSO require verification of the signatures that trigger such a referendum.

        Suck it up or shut it up and just let the verification process begin and finish quickly, for goodness sake!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    If civil servants were really scared of retribution then they wouldn’t have signed in the first place. Everyone knew that signatures would have to be verified. That’s why I don’t believe Civil Servants are the ones raising this issue of retribution. Also since it wiil be civil srvants( as elections office workers) who will be carrying out the verification process .. are we saying civil servants are bad mouthing civil servants? No. More likely this issue is being raised by certain individuals to discredit the present administration.

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    • Anonymous says:

      They don’t need to be discredited by anyone – they’ve already done that to themselves. #shamgovernment #politricks #notmygovernment

  9. Anonymous says:

    Are we talking about North Korea here? Unless Kim Jong-un is in charge here why people are so afraid? It is you, the people, have power, it is your country! That bunch of morons with self-inflated egos and sense of power can be booted out in no time.

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    • Anonymous says:

      And if you are a civil servant you can lose your job or promotion in”in no time” as well. And certainly before another election – assuming that a post election dirty deal doesn’t end up with the same guys back in power. A referendum with the anonymity of the ballot box is the one way to get people to express an honest opinion without fear of retribution.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    What are elections officials planning to do to protect our personal data in regards to GDPR and upcoming Data Protection Law? Surely publishing all the electors names, occupations and addresses online isn’t the most secure system…at least one political party has somehow downloaded an electronic electoral list and cross-referenced with cell phone database, and was using it to hustle voters to their rallies.

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  11. who's the boss? says:

    The reaction from government, so far, has been complete arrogance. As if to say, how dare you question us?! Well, the people have dared. Cheers to every single person who signed the petition. Let it never be forgotten that govenment exists to serve the people — NOT the other way around.

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    • Ron Ebanks says:

      Who’s the Boss not you.
      And Government are not here to disrespect and do against the will of the people too.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well said. I hope that many more people are encouraged to sign the position, even though it has surpassed the 25%. I would love to see Aldarts face the moment he is told 51% have signed.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Who cares. That petition dont meab jack. They will build the port. Christ they looking bidders now

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Nothing surprises me with this government. Not even McKeeva has a say anymore.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    When will CPR realize that the petition is a complete waste of time. Stop this nonsense and build the Port.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    There will be retribution. These can be a vindictive bunch. We simply need to be willing to withstand it. The point is that everyone needs to stand up for what they believe and teach our government that we the people are actually in charge.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    This whole process was a fraud, just a political stunt by the referendum group

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  17. Anonymous says:

    LOL please!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Have they even turned in the signatures yet? There can be no retribution. If a petition is never triggered.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Dumbass you dont trigger a petition, you turn in a petition

      Imagine thinking you’re smart with this comment and making an absolute fool of yourself

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  19. Anonymous says:

    There is no real fear about political retribution, the real fear by the save Cayman and referendum people is that those that didn’t want to sign but we’re pressured into it will now say take my name off

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Build the pair I say because everyone voted for someone in the past who wanted to build the pair!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    You go against the boss and their dictates then you will face the consequences. CHEC did not get to there position in the world today by playing strait.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Maybe time to rename Cayman the Socialist Republic of Cayman. And snuggle up to China

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    • Anonymous says:

      9:29 One thing I remember from working in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s is that the most oppressive dictatorships always called themselves a ‘Democratic Republic’ or a ‘People’s Republic’ because it sounded better. At the end of the day it made no difference because it was always a well-connected select elite who ran everything. How does ‘The People’s Republic of the Cayman Islands’ sound?

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  23. Anonymous says:

    “government workers not involved in the relevant policy areas could sign the petition without concern”

    This concerns me. CIG could define “relevant policy areas” in a million different ways.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Simple, if a signatory works for government or any of the pro-government companies than that person will simply be let go or worse, because this is what happens in a repressive society and with communist China getting a big stake in the island, it is the only way it will go. Just look who benefits most in countries like Cuba, North Korea, etc., even the leaders of those countries seem to always dress in one color or type of clothes.

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      • Anonymous says:

        6.03am Do you realize how much damage you do to the Cayman Is with wild statements like “with communist China getting a big stake in the island”.At the very least you owe it to Caymanians to prove that statement is absoluely true or is it just a wild guess on your part.

  24. Ron Ebanks says:

    Yes all those who have signed the petition should not back down from showing their support for the Referendum and should always record any conversation they would have with any Official person dealing with this issue, and don’t be intimidated. ..

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    • Ron Ebanks says:

      CNS When the petition for the Referendum was completed and made the Election Headquarters aware of the completion , Didn’t Mr Aden McLaughlin say that he met with Mr Howell the head of the Election Headquarters????
      Why did Aden meet with Mr Howell ???
      Maybe to suggest how he want this done ???.
      Shouldn’t both of them recuse themselves from having anything to do with this Referendum.

      This actions by both men is really inappropriate for two Government Officials.
      I hope you people are talking notice of this behavior by Govt Officials.

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    • Ron Ebanks says:

      To verify that Mr Alden McLaughlin did say that he met with Mr Howell about this petition for the Referendum.

      See article “Doe director blocked from people’s vote meeting “”
      20/5/2019 ..

  25. Anonymous says:

    Well done! So proud of this young CPR group, great energy, great job, amazing meeting, what an achievement.

    They even had a little survey to fill in that asked:

    “Do you think some government employees fear consequences and are reluctant to participate with petitions/referendums? Y/N”

    Problems exist I guess. Lets hope Hon. Franz Manderson can sort this out before the verification process begins! Maybe he can do his own anonymous internal survey, staff could ask for that right?

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Stop having fear my people ,you sign the petition, stand by it ,they can do you no harm.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly, 8:32 pm: civil servants have a right to freedom of expression. Too many cower out of unfounded fear.

      You are a major voting block and you need to retain your rights. It is an expression of character.

      And I cannot believe that government leaders would be so petty. And if they are, they simply need to grow up.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I gave you a thumbs up, but the fear is not unfounded. I have a family to support. Just me. Extended family comes next in line. It’s a real and sometimes palpable fear. Imagine hearing your boss rant about the Petition. It was me one, I’d act differently, but it ain’t just me one. This situation is more common than anyone realises.

        I didn’t sign it. I hope to be able to vote against the cruise berthing.

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Banned!!!!! Ms. Gina was BANNED from attending the meeting? I thought she just couldn’t go in her work capacity? But no? Banned. Really? Banned! I am shocked.

    C’mon Cayman! Show us some moxie! Fight these complete Dicktators. This is fascist regime. Do some homework. Look at history. You’re on your way to being a communist country quickly.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    Scratch my name off now! Fraud petition.

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    • Anonymous says:

      you kirkbots are something else. i’m sure they will have no problem scratching the name “anonymous’ from their list.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I often downvote anyone who uses the term “Kirkbots”, because I know a few Kirkconnells, and all of those I know are good, salt-of-the-Earth people; not e-vile warlords. Yes, they have money. I wouldn’t trade lives with any of them. I would hate like hell to have their problems.

        Still, your comment had a little flair, because it was clear that the post you’re referring to is a troll post; I’m just not sure everyone got that.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Fraud and fake commenter ∆ aka Troll.

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    • Anonymous says:

      How exactly is the petition fraudulent?

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    • Muppet Hunter says:

      Dear Muppet

      If you are serious perhaps you should use your real name instead of ranting as anonymous on CNS or are you a troll?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Get out of here, you lying troll!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Sure thing. What is your name Alden?

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