Issue-led political forums fail to draw crowds

| 28/04/2009

(CNS): With so many other events competing for the attention of residents last weekend from the Chamber’s Earth Day clean-up to the Batabano Junior parade the political events “Breakfast with the Candidates” and the “Youth Mixer” organised by local activists were both poorly attended. While candidates turned up in force potential voters were thin on the ground. However, with the big day only four weeks away the candidates did not pass up the chance to get their message out both on addressing sexual violence and how to meet the needs of the communities young people. (Left: Eddie Thompson)


Hosted by the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC), in partnership with the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation (ESRF) “Breakfast with the Candidates” at the Family Life Centre on Saturday morning gave candidates an opportunity to tell voters what they intended to do if elected to address the increasing violence and abuse against women and children in the community.

The first speaker of the candidates present was Sandra Catron who was due to attend her sister’s funeral that morning but as a long time outspoken advocate on these issues made time to offer her thoughts before leaving for the service. Calling for an open sex offender’s register and the immediate implementation of gender legislation she said waiting around for cultural and behavioural change would not protect women and the children. “We have to move the moral compass with legislation,” she said. “We cannot wait for people to adjust their attitudes and I will demand the much needed legislation.” She said Cayman lags behind the region in implementing necessary laws. Catron criticized the current administration for talking about implementing laws but not actually doing it. She said she would work towards a definitive sexual offences act which included treatment and punishment and covered the issue of internet predators.

Theresa Lewis –Pitcairn who was unable to attend sent a message from overseas to the forum through Ellen Peguero, in which she indicated her concern about the gender violence and child abuse and said whether elected or not she would continue to give priority to these issues and called for education to extend to boys as much as girls and mandatory counselling.

Most of the candidates called for similar things including a cultural shift in attitudes, a challenge to existing myths, the need for sexual crimes to be equated to violent crime and transparency. The only other candidate to support Sandra’s call for an open sex offender’s register was Eddie Thompson who also pointed the finger at the church. Although speaking from church premises he still criticised the many churches on island for not speaking out as loudly as they should about both gender violence and sexual abuse. “I have advocated against it for years,” he said and lamented the failure of government agencies and the ngos to communicate. He also spoke about transparency and said he himself came close to becoming a victim of a perpetrator who was abusing boys in a sports club he belonged to in the past but when reports were made instead of the perpetrator being properly investigated and charged he was quietly removed from the island and no more was said about it.

Burns Conolly agreed that transparency was crucial and went across the board and said that it was time to stop covering up for those in authority or high offices who were also accused of these crimes and that no matter who was involved this crime would only be addressed through disclosure.

Perlina McGaw Lumsden also spoke from genuine experience of abuse in her own family when she was young and later sexual harassment as an adult. She said the UDP would attack the issue through comprehensive educational programmes and establish a public/private partnership. She also noted the need for co-ordination of existing agencies and resources for the crisis centre.

Gilbert McLean, Walling Whittaker, Bernie Bush, Dr Frank McField, Alfonso Wright and Ellio Solomon also attended and offered heir support for future legislation, increased transparency and expressed their desire to truly tackle the problem.  After being challenged to really put their money where their mouths were by activist Marilyn Connolly, all the candidates agreed to take the Darkness to light seminar offered by the Crisis Centre which educates individuals on the issues surrounding the identification of abuse. Anthony Eden the minister with responsibility for gender affairs did not make the forum as a result of other commitments.

Later that day the same candidates were also crowding on to a platform at the former Marquee Cinema for a youth forum organised by Luigi Moxam a youth activist and local entrepreneur. Sadly however, there were very few young voters there to challenge them. Given a microphone and a platform however, the candidates pressed on regardless offering their thoughts on the issues affecting young people. Bernie Bush, independent candidate for West Bay who has devoted most of his life to dealing with youngsters noted that getting young people involved in the political process was an important issue and he knew how to engage young people. He said aside from the need for physical facilities for young people in West Bay a sense of belong was important but adults had to show young people respect and understand their needs.

Dr Frank McField raised his concerns over the fact that the gang issue in Cayman was not being addressed which he said had been festering for years. He said the gangs now control the schools and there was a need to recruit from those gangs people who can help address the problem but there are no quick solutions to the social problems facing young people which had developed over a long period and could not addressed over night. “We need preventative policies we don’t have people working with the gangs,” he said adding that people ignore these things until they are impacted and then they complain. He also said, “There has to be a real strategy to address the alienation of young people which the courts and police have helped to intensify.”

Most of the candidates said restoring the strength of the family and the disconnect between the youth and the community were important goals.

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Category: Election 2009

Comments (4)

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  1. noname says:

    Dear Eddie,

    Ten were invited to participate! Thatdoes not mean that they could not have attended and participated as part of the audience and to lend their support in that manner.

    Please don’t defend the slackness of your other candidates – looks very poor on all that they did not come out to the breakfast.

  2. The Enforcer says:

    Not there! NO Kurt, Alden, Lucille, Anthony, Ossie, Arden OR Joey Ebanks.

    NO McKeeva, Dwayne Seymour, Rolston, Capt. Eugene, Jon Piercy, Mike Adams, Gilbert McLean, Ezzard Miller, Bo Miller, LanaMae Smith, Paul Rivers, Bernie Bush, Choppy, Dora Ebanks, Ormond, DaCosta, Julianna, Vicent Frederick, Justin Wood,

    Very sad if you ask me.

    CNS: Note: Bernie Bush was present at both forum.

    • Eddie Thompson says:

      Please be advised that only ten candidates were invited (due to time limitations) but it was on a first come first serve basis. That said, only nine candidates responded (as I was told).
      I would like to correct the last poster that in fact Bernie and Gilbert were present at the forum.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kurt / Alden?

    Where was Kurt & Alden?