Governor commits to ensure fair referendum

| 07/06/2019 | 52 Comments
Cayman News Service

(L-R) Mario Rankin, Katrina Jurn, Shirley Roulstone, Governor Martyn Roper, Linda Clark, Melanie Harris, Johann Moxam and Mark Lewis (click to enlarge)

(CNS): Governor Martyn Roper has reassured the organisers behind the campaign for a people-initiated referendum on the cruise berthing proposal that the process will be fair, according to one of the people present. Mario Rankin told CNS that when he and several others from CPR Cayman met with the governor Friday, he had said that he took his responsibility for good governance seriously and would ensure that the question posed will reflect the essence of the petition. The group met with Roper ahead of submitting the petition, which has been signed by more than 5,500 voters, to the Elections Office next week to seek both guidance and reassurance over the first vote of its kind.

While campaigners are very confident that they have more than enough signatures from qualified electors to surpass the required 25% threshold to trigger a referendum, they wanted to meet both Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell and the governor before formally presenting the petition, not least because of public concerns over the verification process and possible repercussions for supporters of the petition.

Rankin said that he asked the governor directly if he would ensure that the government would word the question in such a way that it would not be biased.

“I felt it was important to the process that we ask him directly about the question and how it would be worded and he would ensure it would be worded based on the purpose of the position, which he confirmed.”

The group said that all parties involved in this historic vote have acknowledged that they are navigating uncharted waters together, as this will be the first people-initiated referendum in the Cayman Islands, and possibly the first in any British Overseas Territory.

“This will also be the first time that a petition is verified by the Elections Office. In 2011 the Constitutional Commission recommended the development of a Referendum Law, however, no such law has been passed to date, and the Elections Law also does not speak at all to referendums,” the CPR group said in a release about the meeting.

The campaigners confirmed that the petition is currently being prepared to be delivered to the Elections Office next week to begin the official verification process.

Speaking after the meeting, Johann Moxam, another organiser, said that despite the expected obstacles that the petition and referendum are likely to face from government, the group will not quit and will see this initiative through to the end.

Moxam warned, “There will be consequences for elected officials who fight their people and the spirit of real democracy. We are in discussions with our attorneys and assessing our options.”

He said the momentum continues to build with every announcement by Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell about the proposed cruise facility, following the announcement in the LA Wednesday by the premier that the final bids were in for the project and his failure to acknowledge the success of the referendum campaign.

“We understand this was never going to be easy,” Moxam told CNS. “The premier now refuses to confirm if this a matter of ‘national importance’. And yet the government has used public funds and senior civil servants and public officials in a marketing campaign to convince the public that the proposed project is of vital importance.”

He said the premier and deputy premier were on record stating how important the project is for a variety of reasons, “so there is no issue from our perspective they have stated repeatedly the importance of the project”.

Over the last eight months government has spent several hundred thousand dollars in marketing costs to oppose the petition process, on top of around $8 million on reports and professional services in an effort to justify it.

Meanwhile, Arden McLean, in his new role as opposition leader, issued a press release Friday stating that he had written to the premier urging him to stop the project process.

“I have added the voice of the opposition to calls for the government to immediately halt undertaking any further contractual obligations,” he wrote. “It is the only responsible course of action to take and Wednesday’s announcement that ‘a historic milestone has been reached in the procurement process’ adds urgency to the case.”

He said that, given the premier’s support for this constitutional provision, it was disappointing that instead of welcoming the participation of the electorate, the government was further entrenching its position to press on with the port. He said it was a “a sucker-punch to democracy for government to disregard the hard-work and dedication of the campaigners”.

McLean warned, “The government’s continued actions also potentially exposes the public purse to financial penalties. We have already been down that road with the GLF fiasco and don’t need a repeat. The Caymanian people have already paid the price and seen first-hand what happens when decisions are rushed without the proper governance structure in place.”

He also raised concerns that government had used the resignation of Ezzard Miller from the Public Accounts Committee to take that seat away from the opposition benches and put on another government member.

The Legislative Assembly was expected to vote on the new make-up of the committee Friday, which would see Chris Saunders appointed as chairman, but adding PPM member David Wight. This gives government four members on PAC and the opposition only one to scrutinize government finances.

McLean said that would undermine the objective scrutiny of all government capital projects, including the port, which, along with the failure to bring into effect the Procurement Law and the Standards in Public Life, was a worrying pattern.

See press release and cruise port documents in the CNS Library

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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (52)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If you want a fair referendum, shouldn’t the starting point be in ensuring Mr Howell – the Chief Officer for the Cabinet, whose stated position is that a referendum is not in the national interest – deosnt go anywhere near the signature verification process, and moreover ensure that if the Elections Office are going to check the validity of those signing the petition, they check the validity of all the names on the list of electors as well? Given its a ration, changing the denominator but refusing to check the numerator might be considered a tad biased. Its not as if Cayman has the greatest reputation for ensuring that the voting list is up to date or accurate.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’d be happy to see ‘Governor commits to standing up straight with his arms in a proper position’.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anyone bugged the meeting?

    • Anonymous says:

      Arms crossed, in a “no way Jose” manner? Or hands on his crotch like the other guys in the pic, to shield him from the kick he is going to get if he interferes in the process? Sure our governor has learnt from his predecessor what happens when you start to question how things run in Cayman.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There I was, expecting that he instead commit to an unfair referendum.

  4. Anonymous says:

    that is why cayman should never go independent….england keeps politicians from dragging us into disaster oblivion!😣

  5. Anonymous says:

    The governor has no power, there will be no referendum. The premier has already given you a clue how it will be bypassed, by not referring to the project as one of national importance, a necessary qualification for a referendum. The government are simply not interested in what people think about the port.

    • Anonymous says:

      You trouble makers need to put a sock in your mouths! Our Honorable Premier knows how to make our country great again. I welcome CHEC and all the benefits they will bring to our country plus a ll the great jobs we will have. Thank you Unity Team!

    • Anonymous says:

      That determination if they dare to make it can be challenged in court where the Cabinet will lose. If they try that move they will be taken to court and the court will bar the signing of any contracts pending the holding of the referendum which qualifies as a matter of national importance on several different grounds. Cabinet doesn’t just get to say it isn’t of national importance and that’s the last word. Much like Trump they’ll have their own words and actions about how important they think this is and what they think it represents thrown back at them. All we need is the petition presented and verified and the game begins.

  6. I ❤️ Kirkbots says:

    Kirkbots and the hired guns in the Far East and Russia are desperate to win the 👍🏻👎🏻 battle on CNS to help their cause. ROFLOL

  7. Anonymous says:

    Do not kid yourselves, this government will go all in on defeating this referendum and in building this unnecessary pier. Their credibility is at stake and they will stop at nothing to get their way.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Can we have a referendum on same sex marriage!

    • Anonymous says:

      Right after having one on slavery? When will people understand that core human rights protections cannot be determined on the basis of popularity? Our constitution ensrined certain rights. If you do not like it, blame Alden. He wrote it.

      • Anonymous says:

        But Alden was right then and wrong now!

        • Anonymous says:

          You give him too much credit. He did not understand what he was doing. Complicated stuff though, so no blame for that. Any blame is due to the fact that his now legendary arrogance prevented him from listening to those who did understand the parts he did not.

          • Anonymous says:

            We actually have Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell KCMG QC to blame for some of the innocent-sounding clauses in the Constitution that are now fundamentally changing our legal landscape once judges get their hands on them. They didn’t need to be in there but we hired him so we assumed he wasn’t putting Trojan horses in there, but as the past decade has shown, that’s what we got. We then for some insane reason hired him to defend his own work on the Constitution with the gay marriage case as if that would have given him more weight with the court rather than less. He should have been a witness of fact to the negotiations or a friend of the court, not government’s lead counsel (and let me be clear, the case was lost correctly and always will be, I’m just commenting on Jowell).

      • Anonymous says:

        Gay marriage is not a human right

  9. Anonymous says:

    An incredible step for Cayman and citizens I applaud you all for standing proud. Those that have signed and are still to sign the petition shall be enshrined in Cayman history.

    If the government of the day decides to fight it’s people to the right of a Referendum as implied- I doubt the media headline for that will be as proud or as historical as this one!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a very democratic bunch…that helps me to make up my mind on which way i will vote e.g. against the autocratic regime…not willing to hear what govt has to say now.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Great. Any chance of doing something to ensure good governance?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why did the anti-port-ers delay submitting the petition signatures to the Elections Office after publicly announcing that they had internally verified the signatures? Instead they appear to have given higher priority to photo ops and would be grand announcements. Who’s playing games now?

  13. Anonymous says:

    You can’t be a third world country and be a Democratic one at the same time. And the Caymanian people can’t seem to choose. The leadership has chosen for them.

    • Anonymous says:

      You ain’t lived in a “third world country” as yet if you call the Cayman Islands by that title.

      Lot of growing up and experiences you have yet to encounter my dear friend

  14. Ron Ebanks says:

    I believe also the best thing to do with this Cruise ship pier project is scrap it and put it on Cruise ship and send it to Cuba or Jamaica. .
    These politicians aren’t seeing all of IFs and BUTTs that will come after the project is started.
    Alden and Moses need to listen and pay attention to the Children who are asking for their future and the environment to be protected .
    I don’t see a good outcome IF this pier project continues , just look
    at the millions of dollars that has already been wasted that could’ve been put to better use .

  15. Anonymous says:

    why such a negative attitude to a development which is common on most Caribbean countries? in terms of environment and conservation why is not the same attitude shown to the developer on West Bay road who has cleared acres of land for building concrete structures and continues to do so without any negative tones from “concerned persons” ?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Amen. Please give my jesus his room. Praise god my almighty again.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Wow. It’s rare for me to agree with Arden but he hit the nail hard on the head with this.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Keep collecting signatures. Don’t stop just because you reached the threshold.

  19. Anonymous says:

    As a supporter of the port redevelopment, I signed the petition. I signed because I believe there is more support than nonsupport for this to go through, and I want it to be unequivocally approved and never used as a political football ever again!

  20. Anonymous says:

    “……….he took his responsibility for good governance seriously and would ensure that the question posed will reflect the essence of the petition.”

    This is really good news, because Governor Roper is acknowledging that the Referendum vote will take place, once the signatures have been vetted.

    Do I dare hope ? YES! I do!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh give it a rest already.

  22. Anonymous says:


  23. Anonymous says:

    LOL Alden, Moses and the Kirkbots about to lose they $hit

  24. Anonymous says:

    History in the making. Well done CPR!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Big Guns like Mark Lewis getting involved means CPR are prepared to fight in the courts and challenge the government on their nonsense.
    This CPR group is full of real Caymanian heroes thank you thank you thank you cpr.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians went against mr. Jim when he upgraded the Airport and B. Bush when he built/ upgraded the cargo dock and stopped the master ground transportation road, now we all know that was a big mistake, also a big mistake when the Hospital in the new area was stopped, so be careful that stopping the Dock won’t be a mistake too, just saying.

    • Anonymous says:

      Would love to be careful, if the Government would release any information on it for us to take into account – BEFORE they sign a contract.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bush stopped the Master Ground Transportation Plan and by the way we’re still in the process of actually carrying much of it out

  27. Anonymous says:

    Can we have a referendum on light pole repairs, unlicensed vendors and child support payments as well please?

  28. Anonymous says:

    Mickey Mouse wears the wristwatch so presumably his signature counts?

  29. SMH says:

    CPR is fighting for the people and showing real leadership. The government MLA’s are doing the exact opposite. SMH

  30. Anonymous says:

    To be clear, the Unity regime has represented their belief (without credible support) that building the cruise berthing is of vital importance to retaining all future cruise tourism, and have also equated a “No vote” to being unpatriotic, and against all (the few) locally-owned or locally-employing businesses (claiming to be) fully reliant on cruise tourism. All publicly available data to the contrary.

  31. Anonymous says:

    We must support CPR they are fighting for our rights. Alden McLaughlin and his cronies continue to ignore the thousands of voices demanding a form of accountability thru the petition

  32. ppm Distress Signal says:

    Alden and the ppm have again miscalculated the mood and views of the people they swore to protect. Arrogance will choke them all because Caymanians now realize they must stand together to fight the tyranny.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CPR!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Should the elected politicians even get access to the petition itself? Why should a power gingery rabble get to know the individual names of who signed – espescially where there is a fear of recrimination. Should it not be sufficient for the names to be vetted and for the politicians to be told that x number have been verified.

    • Anonymous says:

      I remember when a local MEP company tried to force some 300+ employees to sign new employment contracts with less pay (for the 3rd time) or they would be terminated. They all BANDED together and all REFUSED. The company couldnt actually lose 300+ staff in one shot without going out of business.

      To ALL the civil servants who feared retribution for signing, how obvious would it have been to see 3000+ civil servants being unfairly dismissed, demoted etc?? Govt could not have hidden retribution on such a large scale and it would have exposed the corruption and threats they use to control the same CS that is their guaranteed voter base.

      We ALL need to apply the same solidarity because we can only be threatened and bullied when we are individuals, minorities or too scared to speak up. And that applies to every citizen on these islands, not just civil servants.

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