Date and question set for port referendum

| 03/10/2019 | 168 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): Government has published its draft referendum bill setting a December date for the poll asking Cayman’s voters, “Should the Cayman Islands continue to move forward with building the cruise berthing and enhanced cargo port facility?”, requiring a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. The date, 19 December, is not only very close to Christmas, presenting a battle for voter turnout, but will also disenfranchise all those who registered to vote over the last three months expecting a New Year vote.

Government gazetted the bill Thursday, paving the way for the people-initiated referendum on the cruise project. The constitutional provision for a public poll was triggered after campaigners reached the required number of signatures on a petition and the Elections Office verified the names.

In a statement, the premier’s office confirmed that Thursday, 19 December, will be a public holiday and, in an unusual move, said that licensed bars and other establishments will remain open to minimise disruption during the holiday season.

The office stated that there is no guidance in the Constitution about how Cabinet should set the wording for a people’s referendum. There is no precedent for such a vote here as this referendum is a historic achievement by the campaigners. But the premier’s office said it had relied on common sense and natural justice principles that the question is clear and simple, to the point of the issue, unambiguous and neutral and not misleading.

In addition to following these criteria, Cabinet had also been guided by the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy and its code of good practice on referendums. The office said that Cabinet had also sought to ensure that the referendum question reflected the intention of the petitioners, the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman, before going on to criticise their petition, suggesting that it did not assist in determining a question that met the criteria. Cabinet had used the campaign website text where the “underpinning rationale for the CPR petition” was clear, the statement said.

The premier’s office said the petitioners had focused solely on cruise berthing but an enhanced cargo port had always been part of government’s plan. In 2015 the premier had indicated that enhancing the cargo port could also become part of the project, officials noted as they justified including that in the question.

The attorney general was consulted in the development of the question and external legal advice was also sought.

The date choice was based on the time it takes to get to a point where the Issuing of Writs can be made to the Supervisor of Elections, as government had to draw up the referendum bill, gazette that 21 days before it can be debated in the Legislative Assembly and then await the assent and gazettal of the actual law. At that point, the Writs will be issued. The Elections Office also needs time to carry out their work, including providing for postal and mobile voting.

According to the statement, the Elections Office has confirmed that, given the staff training and other preparations it has already done, it can meet that date.

However, campaigners and voters may consider the poll date too soon and too close Christmas. The CPR had wanted a January date, which would have increased the franchise and not interfered with people’s Christmas holiday plans. Having the vote just days before Christmas will inevitably dampen turnout, which will favour the outcome that the government wants. It already has a numbers advantage, as a ‘no’ vote will require not just a majority of those who go to the polls but 50% plus one of all registered voters to win the day.

Given that the new electors register, which will be in effect on the date of the referendum, has 21,216 qualified voters, it will require 10,609 people to vote ‘no’ to stop the port project.

Nevertheless, campaigners are now set to do their best in the limited time available to get Cayman voters to the polls, regardless of the season and government’s confidence that it will win the day.

In the statement officials said, “Government looks forward to settling this issue and determining whether the country supports continuing to move forward with building the cruise berthing and enhanced cargo port facility.”

See the full statement, timeline and bill in the CNS Library

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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (168)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Alden, thanks for setting the date in December.

    I say thank you, not because I am in favor of the port, but because now the people will finally see that you are a XXXXX who has no regard for the country, its citizens or a free and fair process.

    As has been said many times before, the fact that there has even been a verified referendum is proof enough that you have lost the electorate and should step down.

    The youth will remember your treachery and your legacy will be tarnished forever.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another way to think about it… Businesses that employ expats don’t need to be closed. Like the jewelry stores, makeup and cologne, trinkets, t-shirts etc.
    All of the shops in town that cater to the cruise ships can remain open.
    Besides, there are 4 ships in on 19 December carrying a total of 11,547 passengers. And you think they will be closed??
    I’ll be watching! LOL

  3. Anonymous says:

    Another Public Holiday! Just before Christmas! Height of season for businesses! For voting which might take 1 hour! Those who can’t vote must be thrilled! Another paid day off! Really???

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well that is such a cowardly act to set it for such a dumb time of year..Was he really afraid that over two hundred new voters cant vote now because they wont be cleared till January. Whats the rush? Shops will loose business for such a holiday.. being spiteful WILL COME AND HAUNT YOUR BUTT mark my word I guess the pay off gift must be big and he done know he lost next general election 2021 nobody could even pay me to vote..

  5. Anonymous says:

    No matter what the question is, how it’s phrased, what day, date or year the CPR group was going to say everything is against them. If the petition had been handed in sooner and not taken a whole year, this could have been done much sooner.

    As soon as the signatures were (very efficiently) verified, the question and laws were started to be drafted and readied. It has to be debated in the house, and from my knowledge it was scheduled as soon as possible with the next sitting. A timeline was shown with all of the steps needed, there is now reason to postpone a process, it needs to be handled as quickly as possible for all parties.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This was taken from “traffic congestion”…There is nothing that government can do with traffic problems. It is YOU, people who are little selfish for using cars as one person. Get a scooter or use bus more or sharing rides. We need to disbanded mafia busses and arrange new department to allow more reliable bus service with real live app to see when next bus arrive and cover more in cayman islands not staying on main roads. Start go to work as flexiable hours. My wife already start and she beat traffic jam easily.

    This person has 17 likes and 30 dislikes….this statement makes sense to me…the point that I am making is….are we sure of opposing the progress with the dock or are we protesting just to protest?

  7. Just sayin says:

    Christmas ???! When most people are traveling off the island ???! Oh mannn. They could pick a better date 🙂


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