Lone activist takes on Referendum Law fight

| 28/11/2019 | 71 Comments
Cayman News Service
Shirley Roulstone addresses the CPR meeting (Photo by Courtney Platt)

(CNS): Shirley Roulstone, one of the volunteers who has been at the forefront of the Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) campaign, is preparing to take on the Cayman Islands Government to create an even playing field for the ballot by putting her name to a legal case. Roulstone is taking up the fight over the Referendum Law because CPR is not an incorporated entity. A huge supporter of the people-initiated referendum, she said the fight is not about stopping the vote but making it fair.

While government has criticised the leaders of CPR for the legal case against it, suggesting that they are trying to postpone the process until they have the votes, the activists have made it clear that they turned to the courts because of CIG’s attempts to suppress voter turnout and to skew the question in favour of government policy.

CPR wrote to government last month asking for changes to the law, based on legal opinions, and making it clear they would take the fight to court, but their concerns were not addressed. To date, no amendments to the Referendum Law have been made and Premier Alden McLaughlin has said publicly that he is not willing change the date or the question or address any of CPR’s concerns.

Roulstone therefore filed an application on 21 November seeking leave of the court to apply for judicial review, but asking first for a protective costs order, given that the action is about a wider public interest question and she needs to protect herself from the significant legal fees that could rack up if the action failed.

Explaining why CPR, which is pressing on with the campaign regardless, feels it is necessary to challenge the government, a spokesperson for the group said that, given the historic nature of this vote, we need to get it right.

“We are concerned that the current proposal for the conduct of the referendum is not fair, lawful or in keeping with the intention behind our constitution,” the CPR stated. “As this is the first people-initiated referendum in the Cayman Islands, it will set the precedent for future people-initiated referendums, so it is particularly important that we hold the government to the highest standards of democracy.”

There are widespread public concerns that aspects of the Referendum Law are unfair and undemocratic, particularly the date, which is just six days before Christmas, the disenfranchisement of more than 200 voters who registered in the summer expecting to make the electoral roll in time for the vote, and the bias in the question.

In addition, they cite the failure of government to address campaign financing issues and not implementing the usual ban on the sale of liquor while the polling stations are open.

CPR said one of the most significant concerns is the date. Having the vote on 19 December so close to Christmas and one of the busiest days of the year, voter participation will be significantly less than it would be if the referendum was held in the first quarter of 2020.

There are also concerns that the time period since setting the ball in motion for the national poll has not left enough time for the registration of all potential mobile voters: those who will be working on Referendum Day, the disabled and the elderly.

In addition, postal ballots will be impacted by the Christmas mail, which means they may not all be received in time to be counted. Given that over 50% of registered voters must vote ‘no’ in order to achieve a binding decision to prevent government building the proposed cruise berthing facility, CPR said everyone eligible to vote must have the chance to do so.

“CPR Cayman remains dedicated to ensuring that the referendum on the proposed cruise berthing facility takes place,” CPR said. “The legal action being taken by Ms Roulstone is not intended to undermine the referendum. To the contrary, she has taken that step in an effort to ensure that when the referendum does take place, it is conducted fairly and people are not unreasonably deprived of their right to participate in this important democratic event.”

The activists believe that, as it currently stands, the “process and procedure for the referendum …is unfair, unlawful, frustrates the intention behind our constitution and falls far short of the high standards of international best practice that we should be able to expect from our government.”


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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (71)

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  1. Right ya so says:

    Big up Shirley!

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Another attempt to shill the people. Vote YES on December 19th.

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  3. Dorcas says:

    The Caymanian people have a backbone. They will stand up for what is right. The government thinks the people are dumb and they wish to be little dictators. Guess what? They are wrong. Everyone can contribute by picking up their neighbors (car pool) and getting everyone they can to the polls.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Why change the date? Let’s be honest. The Law is the Law. it says that the register should be updated quarterly. Eligible voters were always told that you should register to vote as soon as you become eligible. What would have happen if we needed to have a bye election; they also would not have been eligible to vote. We wouldn’t postpone an election because persons did not care to register. It is too late to do anything about the campaign financing issue. Most of the money has already been spent by both parties and delaying the vote would not make any difference with what has already been spent. The government declared Referendum day a public holiday so it is no excuse for voters not to come out and vote. Having to put an “X” by either Yes or No would be a quick process. It is not like you have 10 questions or candidates to choose from. Some persons are just not interested, just like when it is Election Day, they are not interested in voting. I understand that the postal ballots were being sent by courier. If so, the Christmas mail would not affect the delivery greatly. Regards to bars being open, I understand the Government position. If they want to get drunk they will do so by buying up the liquor before or buying illegally from persons that sell. Let’s get on with it. We have gone too far to delay this any further. Vote!!!! Just do it!!!

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    • Its fine if you have no respect for democratic principles... but some of us do says:

      Elections happen at scheduled points people know well in advance of when an election is happening comparing a general election to this referendum is intellectually dishonest at best

      In direct contrast to General elections for months the Premier specifically was saying that they would never reach the required signatures and that the vote wouldn’t happen along with urging people not to sign the petition and mounting what we now know was an almost 250,000 dollar ad campaign trying to get people not to sign

      Also saying things like if the referendum was triggered the bidders would pull out:
      https://www.caymancompass.com/2018/09/25/government-referendum-would-kill-cruise-port/

      Even when CPR said they had the signatures the Premier was dismissive:
      https://www.caymancompass.com/2019/06/05/premier-makes-no-guarantees-over-port-referendum/

      Seeing as Cayman has not had snap or bye-election elections in recent memory, we know in advance when our elections are being held, we have more than enough time to register to vote, and it has never been an issue for those reasons
      But in terms of this referendum, with the government downplaying the petition, people were skeptical the threshold would be met and thus did not register. They then never had the opportunity to register because the government after realizing that hundreds of Caymanians had registered to vote, set the date in December after initially indicating they were leaning for a January poll
      ( This CNS article goes into detail citing the vote was unlikely to occur this year, and even December would be a tight squeeze, so the New Year was preferred by the elections office and the governors office https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/09/expects-new-year-referendum/ )

      The elections office urged people to register to vote because they were under the impression the vote would not be held this year ( the CNS article linked in the paragraph below this one corroborates that belief with secondary sources) : https://www.caymancompass.com/2019/09/19/elections-office-urges-voters-to-register/

      At the end of the day regardless of what the law says, people should have been given time after the referendum was verified to register to vote, they were not given time, because the date was set in December to prevent their participation
      I don’t need the elections law’s guidelines on quarterly registers to guide me, because unlike you I actually care about democratic principles

      The government themselves have admitted this process makes no sense and that the elections law is antiquated and needs to be amended or redrafted so not exactly sure what argument you think you are winning here with the “they should have registered” drivel:
      https://www.caymancompass.com/2019/10/31/lawmakers-underscore-need-for-more-modern-elections-law/

      Only in Cayman could people actually argue against people to be allowed to register once they actually know the vote will be happening ( the vote was confirmed on September 11th, the date was set for December the 19th, meaning a voter would have had to been on the register from July 1 to vote)

      I couldn’t care less which way they vote, but they deserve the opportunity that they were denied by a conniving set of MLAs and people like you with no respect for democracy hiding behind laws that are inherently flawed

      and you know, actual links to the things I refer to, because my argument is based in reality

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      • Its fine if you have no respect for democratic principles... but some of us do says:

        Small correction
        I rearranged some of the sections to keep relevant points near each other, forgot to remove the portion that reads ” in the paragraph below this one” the two relevant points are one after the other so it is clear what I am referring to

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why change the date? Because the choice of 19 December is not fair. It means that it is too close to Christmas. Everyone is either travelling or preparing for Christmas. They are allowing liquor stores to stay open and bars to serve alcohol, in direct contradiction to the Elections Law. They have chosen a question that is not in keeping with what the petition asked for. There is no updated Business Case and no updated EIA, so how is anyone supposed to go to the polls, honestly and vote properly? Tell me that. Vote and Vote No.

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  5. Vote No says:

    Thank you for standing up Shirley. What you and CPR are doing is heroic. It is the lies and arrogant ways of the Premier and his government members why the people will not back down and do not trust any of them. The think we are stupid. In 2021 vote them all out.

    The article below and attitude displayed is why it is easy for the majority of people to VOTE NO

    https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/11/key-port-info-coming-after-referendum/

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This is what happens when you don’t listen to your people…You had no mandate and you knew it..You brought these money grabbers here thinking that we Caymanians would believe them because they come from foreign…Those days done Alden, the old style Mckeeva politricks don’t work anymore.

    Our country deserves better and we are not about to sell out to the Cruise Lines..Threatening us and telling us we are a third world country because we don’t have a cruise port is insulting to the people of this country. We chose to be different and we have done much better than any other island that has a port..Why can’t Alden and gang see that?

    I am voting NO!!!

    GTS Voter!!

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  7. Forelock says:

    Beware fellow “no” voters. This battle is far from over. This could be a planned feint to build complacency and reduce turnout at the polls. We need every single person who thinks “no” to vote “No!”.

    Don’t ease up the pressure CPR.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Alden’s biggest problem is his arrogance and belief that he is smarter than everybody else. As such he refuses to listen to anybody who has a differing view.
    I personally spoke with him about this port issue and warned him that Moses was leading him astray and he just blew me off as if I was an idiot.

    On November 19th I will go to the polls and have my chance to return the favor.- VOTE NO.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Shirley. Also thank God for the National Trust and the CPR! They are trying to save our islands! It is as simple and as complex as that!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    They are not trying to stop the Referendum. The referendum will happen as it was triggered under the Constitution after an amazing job by CPR and their volunteers. What the Trust and CPR is to delay the referendum so we can have all the facts when we vote. So please get the facts straight. The Referendum will happen but preferably when we have full info, not lies as well at a time those 220 disenfranchised voters can actually participate.

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  11. Just the Facts says:

    Division in the country?

    There is no divide I am seeing, what I can see is the pro port campaigners and Premier McLaughlin are backing a process that prevents 200 voters from participating and all that after spending a year advertising against a petition, with lies like a referendum would mean the bidders would pull out, and the project would be canceled

    https://www.caymancompass.com/2018/09/25/government-referendum-would-kill-cruise-port/

    -The government were the ones who had the option to prove they had a mandate in August of 2018 when they voted down the opposition motion to hold the referendum
    If the government cared about division they could have called this vote a year ago and this would have already been settled, before there even was a CPR group

    -The government were the ones who said there was no rush to the vote and initiated a costly and months long door to door verification in an attempt to avoid this referendum

    -The government is currently withholding key information until after the vote, in an attempt to prop up the ugly bits of the deal because they have no interest in letting people make an informed vote

    -The government is currently blocking members of the DOE from speaking publicly about their concerns about this project

    -The government is refusing to put into place proper campaign finance limits for both sides to ensure that the public is not browbeaten by those with financial interests and cash to burn

    -The government is refusing to treat this vote as they would every other vote, and refusing to allow the count by constituency, along with other norms like closing alcohol distributors until the polls close.

    -The government is running around with foreigners who as of yet have no business here telling us what we need to do for them so they can “help” us

    -The government is trying to sign us up for 25 years of debt that we don’t want, and that we have no interest in

    And all that goes without mentioning Alden McLaughlin has a long track record of starting horrible projects and then shirking responsibility,
    The schools, the airport, the road expansions etc
    The man destroys anything he touches, while pretending he is some political grand strategist because he can con a couple of people in George town to keep electing him and his cronies

    The country isn’t divided on the port issue
    The country is unified in its opposition to this god forsaken project, which will be displayed when the vote is held whether it is in December or if the vote is forced to be put off by the courts

    The only people trying to rush this vote, are you, you all have done everything you can over the past year and a half to try to stop the vote and have only now accepted this vote while stacking the odds in your own favour and claiming that it is the other side that is scared

    How dumb do you think people are?

    People can see what you all are doing, in your desperation to win the vote. The rest of us have no qualms letting all Caymanians interested vote, waiting for all the available information and holding the referendum at a time when Caymanians are not celebrating the holidays or overseas with family during vacation periods

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  12. Two Cents says:

    As I posted 2 days ago, if you watch the short 20sec segment between 1:07:20 and 1:07:40 from the meeting on Saturday evening in Savannah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeK_tnrcl_E, you will hear the Premier LAUGHINGLY acknowledge that even if the project gets the go ahead with the 19 December referendum, ‘NOTHING’ is going to be done over the next 28 days.

    So why not hold the referendum on 16 January 2020 when everyone who traveled for Christmas is back, when the Christmas activities are over and and we can close the bars as at every other election and referendum?

    He’s running from them 300+ citizens who exercised their right to register and did so because they want to vote ‘NO’.

    I bet if this goes to JR, the government’s imported QC won’t be acknowledging that nothing will happen between 19 Dec and 16 Jan but will have a whole new story about why the 19 December is the appropriate date.

    “Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    BUT why is it 50+ % of the regestered voters and not 50+% of thouse who vote.

    UK law is that way.

    Best goverment money can buy!!!

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  14. Give Alden and Verdant Isle coal for Christmas, Vote No on Dec 19th says:

    She may be alone in the courtroom but when the referendum is held, whether in December or the new year she will be among thousands of other Caymanians who vote down this shortsighted and unnecessary project

    Vote no

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Still confused as to why one of the main issues against Govt isnt included amongst those that keep being mentioned – that being the 50%+1 of registered voters vs TURNOUT. I cannot cite a referendum in any other country that includes absentee ballots as a vote!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      And yet, like many before him (except his immediate predecessor) the governor says and does nothing.

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    • Anon says:

      100% agree, however, unfortunately that is what is written in the constitution 😢

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    • Anonymous says:

      That is a part of the constitution, that was put in specifically to stop these sort of referendums from succeeding
      There are no grounds on which it can be legally challenged, it would have to be removed from the constitution by MLAs
      The PPM wanted the credit for putting the People initiated referendum section into the constitution but they never actually wanted to be held up by one

      People forget in 2018 the Opposition brought a motion calling for a government initiated referendum where Cabinet would have had 100% control of the question and date and they voted no
      That is why they ran the year long ad campaign telling people not to sign the petition
      That is why they demanded a door by door, district by district verification
      They never wanted this referendum, they have no intention of respecting the result unless it is yes

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because you voted to approve the Constitution (order) you clown. Maybe should have read it first.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Well done Shirley!

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Proud of you Shirley. So happy and proud to see sons and daughters of the soil finally standing up for their rights and country. Respect!!!

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Go Shirley it is your Birthday. We gonna party like it is your Birthday. Gooo my caymanian girl.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Vote YES.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of the outcome of this Referendum, the law should change in all votes/elections held moving forward that the winning margin is 50% + 1 of the votes CAST….enough with this majority of registered voters nonsense. get out to vote, or suffer the consequences of inertia

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Brava! What a great example of what one person (that cares) can do. It would be great if someone else could stand up and seek judicial review of the deferred enactment of the SIPL law required under section 117 of Constitution. Let’s pull back the curtain on all of it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It is disappointing that none of the so-called governance societies in the financial services sector (who have a vested reliance on the Cayman Islands continuing to be seen as a compliant and law-abiding jurisdiction/political regime) have commented or pushed hard for judicial review on the SIPL postponement double standard this last decade. Most of us spend hundreds of hours a year demonstrating back-bending compliance, yet we let our school-leaving politicians manage a $2Bln budget without the slightest whiff of conflict disclosure. Come on.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Sigh. The vitriolic comments from CPR supporters and organizers is depressing. You want respect then treat others respectfully. I’ll close off and let you prove my case for me.

        Peace out

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        • Anonymous says:

          My my, what a sensitive soul you are. How you interpret the comment you answer as vitriol is beyond me, its just someone whinging about something irrelevant to this thread and getting his facts wrong. On the other hand, the outright lies of the yes campaign, along with the abuse of public money is absolutely astounding, as well as choosing a particularly difficult polling date. I hope the review wins, it may teach politicians a lesson, although I doubt it frankly. They just love wasting your money on nothing. There you go, no vitriol at all. Nothing but the facts.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Class action lawsuit perhaps? Thanks Shirley.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Let us VOTE…no delays.

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    • Anonymous says:

      spoken like someone who wants to get it over with and does not care about due process or due diligence… all of which is NECESSARY for a democracy.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The cruise ship companies will take the cruise visitor tax (laughing all the way to the bank), strangle the tour operators into unsustainably low prices that in turn will plunge safety and quality standards into the abyss (they currently already do this by the way) and then cram the island so full of the cheapest of cheap visitors the residents and stay over tourists wont have a piece of anything decent (let alone paradise) left.

      Vote NO to mass cruise tourism EXPLOITATION! There is NO mandate (I am Red Bay voter and Alden did not stand on that single issue) and I have absolutely no wish to even been on the same continent, let along same island, for the 2 years that it will take to build a dock and the chaos and sadness that will unfold around it as we all realize someone has made a terrible mistake. That would be you Moses K.

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  24. VOTE NO says:

    Thank you CPR and Shirley Roulstone you are all heroes and history will remember you as such.

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  25. Anonymous says:

    Shirley; set up a Go Fund Me page please.

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  26. Sunrise says:

    Thanks Shirley for standing up to the elected members, their manipulative ways and their disregard to the voting public. I think that they are forgetting who we, the voting public are. I am still baffled how they have the right to say that by not voting, it is a yes vote. Isn’t this illegal? It should be as two candidates, the one with the most votes win. Please explain this to me.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Its in the Constitution along with the 25% threshold to compel a referendum. The 25% limit is to stop people asking for referendums every 5 minutes and to ensure they only arise on matters of national concern. The argument for 50% of electors rather than turn out has a similar theory behind it. The argument goes that if you feel strongly you will vote, and if you don’t you must be considered to be indifferent to the outcome and your vote should be counted as supporting the status quo. Its a pretty high threshold, but not unheard of. For example, the 1979 referendum for Scotland to have a devolved parliament failed because although it got a majority of votes it failed to get a 40% of the electorate threshold. What makes this vote especially contentious is that the system if then exposed to political manoeuvring to reduce turnout – which is exactly what the CPR accuse the government of.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Since the CPR demand higher standards from Government, for the sake of transparency, who are the top five persons of the CPR and what, if any, personal agendas do they have?

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      • #WEARECPR says:

        You should attend one of our meetings. You will see how we function as a grass roots initiative consisting of concerned citizens engaging in principles of participatory democracy and exercising our rights as law abiding citizens.

        FYI – In CPR all persons are volunteers considered equals and our views and opinions matter. It is not a political party. CPR is a NPO.

        Would you like to help us with your time, talent and treasure?

        Please check our website.

        https://cprcayman.com/

        On Referendum Day it’s simple…VOTE NO

        #WEARECPR

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        • Anonymous says:

          I thought the CPR was about gathering information so one could decide which way to vote? Did you have an agenda all along?

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          • Truth Matters says:

            How can anybody support a project without all the relevant information?

            That is exactly why the National Trust are pursuing a judicial review.

            The government want people to vote without all the important details. The Premier said information will only be available after the contract is signed. That is illogical and not in the best interests of the Cayman Islands. It is ridiculous to even say those things as leader of a country.

            Why not give the people the facts and all the information before they vote on referendum day? What do they have to hide?

            Why is DOE denied the opportunity to speak and engage the public?

            Why lie about the off the book loans and repayments by the government to Verdant Isle? The government PR campaign has been built on incomplete information and lies.

            Why all the lies and subterfuge if you want to be trusted as a government of the people?

            The credibility of the Premier and every MLA that supports the port project is on the line without them giving the voters important information like the updated Environmental Impact Assessment and all relevant information. Or was that the agenda all along?

        • Anonymous says:

          Good for you. We are Farmers. Pound Sign.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually protecting Cayman….

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  27. Anonymous says:

    So is the referendum happening or not? It is no less than heinous and despicable for the Premier to say that we may or may not vote on 19 December. If we are, I need a postal ballot. If it is in January, I don’t. What happens if I apply for one, they send it to me, and the vote is postponed? These absolute pricks of politicians we have need to s**t or get off the pot right now or the court will find them in contempt of democracy and violation of the Constitution. Elections and referenda will be free and fair in the Cayman Islands.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    If CPR is not an incorporated entity, how does it have bank accounts opened in its name?

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    • Anonymous says:

      12.37 ; why don’t you ask her directly rather than posing the question on this medium? I’m sure she’ll give you an answer.

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    • Anonymous says:

      don’t worry about that, CPR has the brains to know what they are doing and what they need to do.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Smart tactical legal moves by Shirley Roulstone CPR and the National Trust.

      Thank you for challenging the madness of this runaway government and a Premier losing the plot daily. Unfortunately they seem to be representing the cruise lines more than the Caymanian people they are elected to represent.

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  29. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

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  30. Anonymous says:

    CIG stacking the deck for themselves and their friends? Nothing new there?

    If this kicks them back into the real world it’s a major move towards killing off the Third-World politics (politricks?) that are at risk of destroying these islands.

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  31. Anonymous says:

    I keep forgetting!! I need to go online now and donate…

    Anyone feeling compelled and in agreement that this needs to be a DEMOCRATIC vote can donate to a special account set up for this.

    Thanks Shirley!!

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