Panton targets allied group by Election Day

| 25/01/2021
Cayman News Service

(CNS): Former Cabinet member Wayne Panton, who is running for office in affiliation with Heather Bodden and Osbourne Bodden, does not intend to limit his alignment to the current trio. Panton told CNS he is confident that at least another four candidates will align with his group by Election Day to give them leverage in the post election scramble.

Panton is running for the seat of Newlands, currently held by Alva Suckoo. He told CNS that he is committed to transparency in any post-election scenario and believes that if he and a minimum of six other like-minded individuals with shared policy positions get elected, they can put an end to closed-door political deals.

“We all know that there is a high likelihood of another coalition government, but if we are to influence the shape of the government, I believe we will need at least seven people aligned with us,” Panton said, referring to the three candidates running under the Community Creates Country theme. “Our numbers are definitely going to increase but we cannot be certain at this point by how much.”

All three were once members of the People’s Progressive Movement, aka the Progressives, but a drift away from their former party colleagues over the last few years became a complete break as a result of the scandal surrounding Speaker McKeeva Bush, who was recently convicted of a violent attack on a woman who was trying to help him during a drunken episode at a beach bar last year.

Falling short of calling his new political group a party, Panton said he believes in organised politics where those running together have the same values and principles. 

“What we have had for the last several years is disorganised politics,” he said. “Recent political representation has been about power and personalities and not about policies that can make people’s lives better.”

Panton noted that they are already engaging in discussions with like-minded individuals, but he said there would be no alignments with people who do not share a common slate of policies.

While there is no official leader among the trio, Panton’s history as a relatively successful Cabinet minister while in office between 2013 and 2017 places him in a prominent position. However, he said that his focus is not on the premier’s job. His main goal, if he is able to get to the front bench, is to return to his old job as environment minister. 

Panton believes that Cayman has enormous potential to benefit from a greener economy, but he is well aware that to move things forward and address the major issues on the political agenda, he has to be able to form a government of like-minded individuals who are willing to work together because of shared policy beliefs, rather than personality and power politics. He explained that the platform is not about ending all development, but changing policy so we have truly sustainable development, a term that he said is being significantly misused by the current administration.

Another main issue for the group is integrity, and Panton addressed the elephant in the room regarding one of his running mates. Ossie Bodden, the other former minister in the group, has apologised for his indiscretion in 2016, when he used abusive language towards his chief officer, Jennifer Ahearn. Panton welcomed his apology, saying, “People make mistakes and he suffered the consequences when he lost his ministry and faced public embarrassment,” Panton said. 

Panton noted that holding public office is challenging and comes with significant stresses. But when that gets too much and people behave badly, the important thing is that they apologise, take responsibility and face up to it, as Bodden has done.

When asked by CNS about the outburst, Bodden said he apologised in the immediate wake of that and that his former chief officer had accepted his apology at the time. “I responded inappropriately and I apologised,” he told CNS, as he admitted that his verbal outburst, which was born of frustration, was completely inappropriate.  

Now Bodden is focused on the election and believes that Panton would make a great premier, despite his colleague’s reluctance. Bodden told CNS that, as a former party member, he is also a big believer in organised politics.

“It goes without saying that we see the benefit of working in teams,” he said. “It is really difficult to have good governance when people are coming together with their own agendas.”

Bodden said the introduction of single-member constituencies and one-man-one-vote appears to have brought about a collapse in party politics, and said the lack of alignment is creating a problem.

He supported Panton’s position that any post-election deal he was involved in should be transparent, even if some negotiations would need to take place behind closed doors. “We need to show respect to those that vote for us,” he maintained.

Bodden is fighting for the Bodden Town East seat currently held by Dwayne Seymour, the health minister. It is the largest constituency in the Cayman Islands and Seymour holds a solid base. Despite a lack of national popularity, Seymour retains a significant following, and Bodden realises that his race will require hard work. Nevertheless, he is confident that his work on the ground will pay dividends.

Heather Bodden, who is running in Savannah, also faces a tough battle. Anthony Eden, the veteran incumbent, is retiring from politics, creating a window of opportunity for a new face in the constituency. However, his son, Malcolm Eden, is hoping to keep the seat in the family by retaining his father’s significant voting block, despite Bodden’s own Eden family connections.

Bodden and Eden’s race will not be a head-to-head, however, as Jeanna Williams declared her intention to run back in September.

Panton’s race in Newlands against Alva Suckoo, the incumbent, is heating up as two more independent candidates, Roydell Carter and Raul Gonzales, declared their intent to run for the constituency. While a packed field generally favours an incumbent, Panton’s high profile means that may not necessarily be the case in Newlands this time around.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Too bad he isnt running in Savannah cause he would have 6 votes from myself and immediate family. Heather is all about self praise and posting pictures on FB showing what she does. To me self praise has no place in politics. Good luck Wayne. Maybe, just maybe you will be the next Premier or even Deputy Premier.

  2. Red Bay voter says:

    If we could vote for premier Wayne would win hands down. A genuinely good man. I wish he was running in my district.

    • Anonymous says:

      Definitely Premier material, unlike some other wannabes, and boorish buffoons who are lacking even the slightest bit of polish.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wayne come to save us from ourselves lol we good in Newlands bobo

  4. Anonymous says:

    What is this…. I feel… hopeful?

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s a shame that Wayne Panton has to hold his nose and link arms with whoever he can scrape together. Come on Cayman, step up to the plate please!