Archive for April 23rd, 2009

Candidates fail to meet constitutional requirement

| 23/04/2009 | 188 Comments

(CNS): At least two of the candidates running in the upcoming general election have not met the legal requirement in the Cayman Islands (Constitution) Order 1972, which states that those running for election are obligated to publish in a gazette all their interests in government contracts. This is separate and apart from the register of interests at the Legislative Assembly and does not fall under the Elections Law. Mark Scotland (left) and Dwayne Seymour (right) both have government contracts that have not been gazetted and the deadline has now passed.

Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell and candidate for George Town Burns Conolly were the only two candidates which met this constitutional requirement and, aside from Seymour and Scotland, it is possible that other candidates may have also fallen foul of this constitutional requirement by missing the deadline for publication, as stated in section 19 of the Constitution.

CNS contacted both Bodden Town candidates and Scotland, whose firm ARCP has contracts with government, told CNS that this was an oversight on his part but there was certainly no intent to hide anything as all of the businesses he owns and is involved with are openly registered in the Legislative Assembly’s register of interests and the contracts his business has with government are in turn public documents.

He said what contracts he has with government have been widely reported and they are already in the public domain. “This is an oversight which I am addressing and will be publishing in a gazette, albeit late,” Scotland added. “But there is no intent to hide anything here. I have declared openly all of my business dealings with government. This has nothing to do with my ability to be a representative and it is merely a distraction from the real issues.”

Seymour echoed his sentimentsand noted that his security firm’s contract with Cayman Airways was widely known and that once he had declared his interests in the Legislative Assembly he did not realise that he also needed to do this extra gazette but was doing everything he could to meet the requirement. "It is genuinely an oversight and I hope to make it right by the end of the week," he said.

Despite having no intention to deceive the electorate or hide their interests, by staying in the race as Scotland and Seymour have said they intend to do, they have still failed to meet the constitutional requirement which states under Section 19(1)(g): “No person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the Assembly who…is a party to, or a partner in a firm or a director or manager of a company which is a party to, any contract with the Government of the Islands for or on account of the public service and has not, in the case of a contested election, caused to be published, at least one month before the day of the poll, a Government Notice setting out the nature of such contract and his interest, or the interest of any such firm or company, therein..…”

Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez told CNS that he had alerted candidates to this both through advertisements and news reports in the local media (See CNS Elections Office reminds candidates to check the law) but this issue is not in the Elections Law and that none of the candidates involved in this have actually broken that law.

He explained that this could, however, become an issue after the elections should any of the candidates that this concerns be elected and then a challenge is made. Gomez said it would be a case of someone challenging the legitimacy of the candidate’s election through the courts in accordance with the section 28 (f) of the current Constitution and therefore a matter for the Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, although she said she did not want to comment directly on the specifics regarding her fellow candidates, Sandra Catron, who is also running for election in Bodden Town, said that Section 19(1)(g) speaks clearly about the requirements that all persons who are directors or managing directors of a firm or company should declare any contracts with government at least one month before the date of the polls.

"The requirement is there for full disclosure for very good reasons. No one is exempt or above the law and the position in the Constitution is quite clear," Catron noted. "It is really a fundamental component of any democracy that politicians have to disclose their government contracts and business interests. Failure to do so flies in the very face of our Constitution and there are simply no exceptions allowed. The mere fact that it is in the Constitution shows the importance of it. Our forefathers found it necessary to entrench this in the highest law of the land. It’s a matter of strict liability and I’m sure the parties involved simply neglected to pay attention to all the legal requirements.

"I think that many persons may not realize the intricacies of running for public office. There are many facets, and more and more the bar is being raised for the level of knowledge that a politician must have. The situation clearly illustrates the importance of surrounding yourself with capable advisors because one cannot be expected to know everything."

There is specualtion that there may be other candidates with government contracts which are not so easily ascertained through the register of interests and will also find themselves in breach of thispart of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, a successful challenge to an elected candidate could see the candidate lose his or her seat.

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Joey eyes two ministry jobs

| 23/04/2009 | 22 Comments

(CNS): Although he has not yet served in the Legislative Assembly, Joey Ebanks told the people of North Side that if he was elected and offered a Cabinet seat in the next government he would accept it. He said that he felt he was best qualified to serve as tourism minister or for education, youth and culture. His district opponents, however, both said they would refuse — Ezzard Miller as he said he was running to serve the people of North Side and Oswald Rankine because he said it was important to know your limitations.

Speaking at the North Side Candidates District Forum last night (Wednesday 22 April), the PPM candidate did not hesitate when asked the question if he would be willing to accept a Cabinet seat. “Most certainly I would accept,” he said. “The areas I am most qualified to work in would be tourism, education, youth, culture any of those portfolios. I would most certainly accept the position.”

He also said that if he was able to secure a ministerial post he would seek to move the Cabinet office to North Side, as e-business enabled people to work from anywhere, although he acknowledge that the construction of the new glass house is intended to reduce government expenditure on satellite office rentals.

However, his fellow candidates seemed to be considerably less interested in Cabinet than the district. Rankine said he had served as a permanent secretary for two ministers and was aware of the work involved, but he said he would not wish to take a position during his first term. He said it was important to know ones limitations and to defer to persons who already have greater experience, and too often because of greed people jump into ministerial jobs saying they can do it but they are not experienced enough and mess up.

Having already served as an ExCo minister, Miller gave an emphatic no, saying he would refuse as he had no interest in sitting in Cabinet. “I am running to represent North Side. What North Side needs is leadership on the ground. We have had enough of leadership in absentee. If I was to take a Cabinet position…. no one can tell me what it means….., you won’t see me,” he said, adding that what he wanted to do was represent the district and the interests of North Siders, and bring the community back together to the caring compassionate one he grew up in.

“I cannot do that as a member of executive council, where I am bound by collective responsibility. I want to sit down in this civic centre and talk with the residents of this district, decide what is best for North Side and go to George Town to advocate and articulate your concerns free of any encumbrance or party affiliation…. We are going to have plenty of people fighting over cabinet positions and I am not going to be one of them,” he said to thunderous applause.

He explained he would be going to the LA to sit in the south-east corner, which is neither part of the opposition or the government benches, where he would represent the interests of Caymanians and particularly North Siders as the people had not had a voice in parliament for a long time, but if they elected him they would have one they could be proud to listen to.

Aside from the jobs they would or would not want, the candidates covered a broad range of topics with a focus on the needs of North Side. Issues of development and tourism were high on the agenda but the ‘Go East’ initiative came in for particular criticism from Rankine and Miller, who both said it must still be going east as neither had seen any evidence of it in the district. All three noted the need to be cautious over development, seeing the role of North Siders in any future plans as crucial. Ebanks said he had already been working with a committee to look at opportunities for the people of the district to benefit from tourism with new business start-ups from fishing trips to kayak rental.

Talking about cruise tourism, Rankine and Ebanks said they supported the expansion of this part of the sector and the development of berthing facilities in George Town. Miller, however, disagreed and said the focus should be on stay-over tourists, who spend more money and develop relationships. He said he did not think the proposed investment in the new dock was justified.

For the first time in this campaign the subject widely discussed during the 2005 campaign came up when the candidates were asked if they supported changing the Sunday trading law. Both Ebanks and Rankine said no as it sent a message about Cayman’s Christian heritage. However, Miller said it was hypocritical and had nothing to do with whether people went to church or not. “I have no problem removing it,” he said, adding that it was already being flouted as the gas stations were selling everything you could get in the supermarkets. But above all, he said, it was not possible to legislate morals and all the law was doing was limiting the business that could trade that day. People who go to church would still go to church and those that don’t are not going to go because businesses are closed. “We are fooling ourselves if we think this is protecting morals,” he said.

While Rankine said he would not support a lottery as people would be sure to get in trouble and Ebanks said no because the overheads for government if the number’s game became legal would not be viable, Miller conversely said he would support legalising numbers. Pointing once again to the hypocrisy of the situation, he said that currently everyone was well aware exactly where to buy numbers if they wanted to, lots of people were playing and the law against it was not being enforced. He said it was time for legislation to catch up with what was actually happening and use the money to fund health and education.

Health care, social harmony, job tsars, an orientation programme for foreigners, local contracts, crime and policing were just some of the issues which were discussed by the candidates in front of a large district audience — an audience that question master Stuart Bostock (Chamber President) noted had submitted the most questions to the candidates of all the districts so far.

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The Susan Boyle phenomenon

| 23/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(Christian Science Monitor): It was to her elderly mother, sometime before she passed away, that Susan Boyle pledged she would "do something" with her life. Two years on from that loss, she honored that promise with a now almost legendary appearance on a British television talent show. A video clip of the Scot winning over skeptical judges and a cynical crowd with a rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." from the musical "Les Misérables" has been viewed more than 40 million times, making it one of the most popular YouTube videos ever posted. The youngest of nine, Ms. Boyle is an unlikely global star. Or is she?


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Mystery ‘space blob’

| 23/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): It might not look like much, but this image represents one of the most distant objects astronomers have ever seen, 12.9 billion light years away. It is a "Lyman-alpha blob" and is 55,000 light years across – as large as present-day galaxies. Though younger such blobs have been found, "Himiko" confounds the idea that such large objects grew more recently by the merger of smaller ones. Current cosmology models hold that between 200 million and one billion years after the Big Bang, the first colossal stars formed, emitting radiation that stripped light elements of their electrons and turned the Universe into a soup of charged particles.

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Disaster planning seminar

| 23/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Over 45 Government Departments and agencies gathered at the George Town Hospital Conference room on Wednesday, 15 April, for a workshop on Hazard Management Plan Development. The planning session was led by Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) Director, Dr Barbara Carby. HMCI Deputy Director McCleary Frederick gave an overview of the proposed disaster management legislation which, when passed into law, will require all Cayman Islands Government entities to develop such plans.

In a release from HMCI Carby explained, “The Cayman Islands Government now requires all Government agencies to have in place disaster response and continuity of operations plans (COOP), and many Government agencies already have these plans in place; however plans require review and amendments, and ongoing training is necessary to keep staff current on their roles and responsibilities.”

The (COOP) plans are important because they are designed to ensure that government agencies continue to provide essential functions during and after an emergency. These plans also help to protect staff, equipment, records and other vital assets.

Emergencies that require activation of the plans can take many forms such as a fire or a flood; however it is hurricanes that pose the number one threat in Cayman. The Cayman Islands have been threatened and impacted by a number of hurricanes since Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004, andsince that time there has been increasing recognition that work needs to be done to reduce or mitigate the disruptions that can result to government operations following a disaster or emergency. Government also needs to achieve a timely and orderly recovery following an impact.

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Candidates to discuss sexual assault

| 23/04/2009 | 9 Comments

(CNS): 2nd UPDATE 11:35 am: Nine candidates have so far accepted an invitation to participate in a public discussion on sexual assault, where voters will be given the opportunity to learn where political candidates stand on the issue. The ‘Breakfast with the Candidates’ event will take place on Saturday, 25 April, at the Church of God Chapel Family Life Centre from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. All political parties and independent candidates in the upcoming election have been invited to participate in this event and the public is invited to attend.

The first 10 candidates that respond to the invitation will be given a seat on the panel, and so far nine candidates have accepted, two from UDP, one from PPM and six independent candidates. They are: Gilbert Mclean, Eddie Thompson, Theresa Lewis Pitcairn, Wailing Whittaker, Sandra Catron, Perlina McGaw-Lumsden, Julie O’Connor-Connolly, Alfonso Wright, and Dr Frank McField has now also joined the list, leaving just one spot open.

The political participants will be given the opportunity to provide their solutions and plans to address sexual violence in the Cayman Islands if elected, and the audience will then be given the opportunity to ask questions to the panel of candidates.

The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC), in partnership with the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation (ESRF), will be hosting this historic discussion with political candidates that will focus on discussing solutions to the issue of sexual violence. According to a release from the foundation, the event is being organized as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is internationally observed in April. This and other SAAM activities provide an opportunity to educate individuals and communities on the topic of sexual violence and how to prevent it.

Breakfast will be served immediately following the event, and there will be an opportunity for the audience and candidates to continue dialogue after the formal panel discussion has concluded. For more information on this free event or other SAAM activities, please contactthe Cayman Islands Crisis Centre at 949-0366 or email or the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation at

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Brackers ride for charity

| 23/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Over $5000 dollars was raised which will go into the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac’s Paloma relief fund when 55 Brackers got on their bikes for the club’s 27th annual Bike-a-thon on Saturday, 28 March, who rode the 11 mile course from Spot Bay to the West End Community Park. First past the post again this year was Michael Hundt, who finished in 29 minutes, but he faced stiff challenge from a pack of 5 or 6 serious cycling enthusiasts.

A release from the club notes that it was especially pleasing to see so many parents out riding with their children. The prize for the biggest family riding went to the Fredericks of West End. The oldest rider was Wallace Platts and youngest 5 year old Caleb Frederick. Winners for the school aged riders were Simon Watson, Shanelle Frederick, Eval Miller and Camille Brown. The fastest lady prize went to Vivian Williams. This year the trophy for the school which collected the most sponsorship went to Creek and Spot Bay.

The club wishes to thank all those who donated funds to the riders, and special thanks to the sponsors who helped to make the day such a success. Prizes were sponsored by Jim Bollinger, Lime, Texaco and Casa Bracca. Refreshments and food for the riders were sponsored by Dr Charles Reid, Billy’s Supermarket, Ed’s Place, and The Shoppe.

The club also received a generous donation of helmets to give to all the riders from Pamela Skull of the Young Marines of California.

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Moderating the comments

| 23/04/2009 | 18 Comments

One of the most glaring impediments to progress in the Cayman Islands is the fact that large sections of society feel intimidated about speaking publicly on issues, and this is never so apparent as during election time.

A few years ago, both local newspapers decided to insist that letter writers give their names and contact details. CNS has on several occasions been urged to adopt the same policy but I do not feel that the Cayman Islands is ready for this while recriminations – real or perceived – for weighing in on the issues of the day exist.

To start with, free speech is denied to civil servants, who are expressly forbidden to show support for a particular candidate, or to make public their views on candidates or political issues. Most people living here on a work permit, as well as business owners who depend on work permit holders, are allowed to voice their opinions but nevertheless are reluctant to do so, believing that their livelihoods would be threatened, and whether their fears are legitimate or not is less relevant than the fact that their voices are silenced.

Many residents are unwilling to draw criticism by identifying themselves in what is still a small community, and in some cases fear actual physical harm. An exchange on one thread by single mothers expressing their fears about the rising violence for themselves and their children was particularly poignant, and was yet another conformation that a platform in which people can write freely and anonymously is much needed in these islands.

On the other hand, while free speech is a cherished right in any democracy, it is never without some qualifiers, and every country that sees itself as democratic must try to find a balance between free speech and other rights, such as the right not to be the target of hate speech, discrimination, defamation of character, etc. (See this New York Times article about the different approaches to this in the US, Europe and Canada)

However, without any laws in the Cayman Islands governing hate speech or discrimination, the threat of a libel suit appears to be the only restriction as to what is published in the media. Therefore, it is up to the individual media houses to determine what is acceptable and what is not.

Which brings me to the comments on CNS and how they are moderated. Our comment policy is posted here. However, it probably needs a little elaboration, not to mention the opportunity for readers to comment on the policy and its application.

As the policy says, a comment that is made by someone who has the courage to put their name to it has much greater impact and we encourage those who really care about the Cayman Islands to stand up for what they believe in. Still, for all the reasons listed above, most people comment anonymously, Sadly, when people are brave enough to use their own name they are often rewarded with some pretty nasty responses. Therefore, following a discussion with Twyla, one of our most frequent commenters, we have developed a new rule: you can disagree with people who identify themselves … but be nice, especially if you hide behind anonymity.

Occasionally we get comments that cross the line in some parts but are otherwise interesting. In these cases I replace the offending sections with “XXXXXXX” instead of deleting the whole thing. Comments written in bold, which somehow suggests that it is more important than other comments, are changed to normal, and comments written with the caps lock on, which is annoying, are generally just deleted. Otherwise, comments are not edited and spelling and grammar are left as they are written. If a comment is unintelligible – the litmus test; I read it twice and have no clue what it means – it is deleted. Strangely, a lot of comments posted late Friday or Saturday night fall into this category.

By running for public office, politicians and would-be politicians open themselves up to greater scrutiny than other citizens, but as we get closer to election time and emotions start to run high, deciding what is legitimate opinion or dissent and where to draw the line is often a hard decision. Added to this, as a few people have noted, some comments supposedly written by regular CNS readers may in fact be written by the campaigns themselves. And while, if true, this is reprehensible, it is impossible to prove and hard to eliminate. Nevertheless, I have deleted some anonymous comments that seem ridiculously puerile, that anonymously accuse candidates or incumbents of corruption, or if I feel fairly certain that it was “planted”.

Public figures – a difficult term to define in such a small community – are legitimate subjects of public dialogue, especially if they accept a large salary from the public purse. Given the perception that some high level government positions are filled for reasons other than merit or that sometimes foreigners are given senior civil service jobs that could be filled locally, a free public discussion of senior appointments and their performance is justified. But just as the line between opinion and insult can be hard to pinpoint, so too can the difference between information and gossip, and whether I have always made the right decision is likely also open for debate.

When it comes to crime, moderating the comments can be particularly difficult. For one thing, people always seem to know more than the police have released. However, if the police ask us not to post such comments I comply with the request, at least until that information is made public.

Suspects of high profile crimes are always reviled in comments, but however damning the evidence appears to be (and whatever people believe to the contrary) people are innocent until proven guilty under the law and I cannot approve comments that assume their guilt – though some of them are heartbreaking in their grief and the writers have my fullest sympathy. I would ask people to word their comments carefully at such times. Comments about the victims or the victims’ families are sometimes deleted just because they seem to be unduly hurtful to people who are already suffering.

If I could make one request to those posting comments – if you are unwilling to use your real name it would be helpful to give yourself a “user name”, since arguments between a bunch of people who sign themselves “Anonymous” can get confusing.

Public dialogue is an essential part of the democratic process and the CNS comments seem to have becomean important tool for debate between the people who live here. Perhaps the proportion of commenters who use their real name as opposed to those who remain afraid to do so can become a gauge of the progress freedom of expression in the Cayman Islands.

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Sailing clinic for kids

| 23/04/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Fourteen young sailors attended the 2nd International Optimist Clinic, held at the Cayman Islands Sailing Club and National Sailing Centre over the Easter weekend and run by Allan Coutts, an America’s Cup sailor and Cayman Islands high performance Optimist coach. The clinic focused on boat speed and boat handling and the sailors practised in the North Sound and just outside the reef near Stingray City. (Left: Local sailor Tristan Connault)

The Optimist is a one-person dinghy for children. It is the most popular dinghy in the world and as a result more Olympic medalists learn to race in the Optimist than any other sailboat.

According to the CISC, the The Cayman Sailing Team members who participated were: Tristan Connault, Matthew Courtis, Alex Robertson, Iain Robertson, Ben Williams, Jamie Williams and Niklas Wolfe, and there were also seven youngsters from the United States. The clinic is one of the many international coaching events run at the Sailing Centre throughout the year.

Sailing Director Mike Weber was pleased with the clinic. “Once again Mr Coutts’ coaching was very well received by the sailors and we saw tremendous improvement” he said.

“The Cayman Islands is growing as a sailing tourism destination,” says Weber. “We are getting more interest from foreign sailors to come to Cayman to train and we look forward to hosting more sailing events in the future.”

For more information on sail training opportunities in the Cayman Islands, please contact Mike Weber at or visit


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Education changes recognised

| 23/04/2009 | 30 Comments

(CNS): It would not have come as any surprise that education was a key issue during Tuesday night’s Chamber Candidates District Forum with the minister responsible appearing in the line up. What was surprising was the acknowledgements given for the work done so far from his fellow panellists. Not only did Alden McLaughlin’s PPM colleague, Lucille Seymour, back his work but so did independent candidates Eddie Thompson and Walling Whittaker, and even the UDP opposition candidate Jonathan Piercy said some strides had been made.

Despite the endless criticism on the hustings of the minister and what has been described as a failure to get results in education over the last four years, when asked what they would do if they did not support the new policies all of them said they would continue with the new law and the recently implemented national curriculum. Thompson said he strongly supported the policies going forward as well as the new law. He also emphasised his own feelings of how important education is to addressing all Cayman’s social ills. ”We also need an education campaign that tells everybody every day that education is important,” he said. “I strongly support what has been put in place.”

Whittaker also said he thought the minister has made noble strides in education and deserved recognition for it, though there was still work to do. He said education was not just about fancy buildings and his concern was that the bullying and toxic environment in the existing schools should not be transferred into the new schools.

Piercy reluctantly acknowledged that strides have been made but still said the buildings were excessive and described some of the curriculum and policies as experimental. Speaking about the need for a vocational school he later admitted that he did not know that the policy included plans for the George Hicks campus to be turned into a vocational college once the new schools were complete, despite the fact that the proposal has been in the public domain for more than twelve months.

Seymour said one of the great things about the revised education law and the policies was that it was all driven by the stakeholders and that with a 21st Century curriculum you needed a 21st century environment. “The whole education system has had to change and we can’t teach kids in rectangular schools anymore,” she added.

McLaughlin listed just some of the changes he had implemented and explained how everything linked together, including the buildings, although he said they were yet to be completed and were not the current focus. The minister explained that the changes for education sprang from the national education conference and had been driven by those working in education. He said professional development had been improved with more than 90% of teachers now engaged in further training, that special educational needs programmes were in place, that the number of counsellors had been ramped up, that learning and behaviour support assistance was in place, and that for the first time a national literacy and numeracy strategy had been implmented, along with many other things.

The panel also discussed small business development, financial services, parking wardens, the George Town port (with mixed response and little full support), and a minimum wage (supported by three of the panellists but not Whittaker or Piercy). A discussion on new revenue measures saw Whittaker support the legalisation of ‘numbers’ and Seymour a tax on remittances, while the other three focused on enhancing existing measures and better management of government expenses.

When it came to problems regarding the need to reform the country’s immigration system and its link with labour, Piercy pushed the idea of a human resource authority, as put forward in the UDP manifesto. They all acknowledged there were problems and Thompson spoke from experience as a previous member of a related board. He said it was inexcusable that the Department of Employment Relations doesn’t communicate with the boards, and thought that immigration should be protecting borders and notdealing with labour. “There is reason why the DER can’t review the applications,” he said.

Whittaker noted that three different boards and the chief immigration officer could all grant permits and it was very confusing and bureaucratic and above all not efficient. “What we need is to restructure the process concentrating on a national manpower office,” he said, adding that Caymanians needed to be up-skilled and there was a need for a coordinating agency that was aware of the needs of the workforce as well as who was unemployed. McLaughlin said he was behind the new accreditaiton system which was being explored.

The panel was also asked if they approved of the new constitution as set out in the referendum question. Thompson said that while he did not think the document was perfect he was going to vote yes, as having been at the talks he felt it was “a heck of a lot better” than the current document. Seymour also urged voters to say yes as she said it was the first time that the country’s constitution actually empowered the people, allowing civic society to sit on relevant councils and establishing the principle of a people-led referendum. Whittaker, however, said he had numerous concerns and felt the people did not understand it and he couldn’t advise people to vote yes if they didn’t get it. Piercy said that the UDP was committed to working with the document if the people voted for it or working for new negotiations if they did not, but he refused to tell the audience what he thought of it and if he was voting for it or not.

McLaughlin noted that he would never understand how it was that the UDP were at the negotiation table, where they fought hard for changes – which they got, and now they have come back home to say they won’t back it. He said the country desperately needed a new constitutional framework and that was fundamentally illustrated by the issue of the special investigation. “I believe this document will move the country forward as well as restrain the excess of Her Majesty’s representative and put Caymanians more in control of our own destiny. I support it and urge everyone to support it.”

One question which achieved complete agreement from the candidates was the proposed reduction of MLAs salaries by 15%, although Seymour noted that she was hoping they wouldn’t cut her food as well.


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