Archive for April 2nd, 2013

PNA hopeful off the ballot

| 02/04/2013 | 94 Comments

slidepic1.jpg(CNS): Richard Christian, who was nominated as a People’s National Alliance candidate in Bodden Town, has been dropped from the district’s ballot paper, election officials have confirmed. According to a short statement from the Elections Office, Christian was advised by the district’s returning officer, Ned Solomon, that he is not qualified to be a member of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 62 (1) of the Constitution, after nominations closed last week. This is the section that deals with nationality as Christian is understood to own and use a valid American passport. As this is considered an allegiance to another country, the official has concluded that Christian cannot run and the office said his name was removed from the ballot.

Although Christian appears to be the only nominated candidate whose name has not made it to the ballot sheet, there are still a number of others whose qualification is in question but who have not been challenged by the authorities after discussions with the office.  

It is not yet clear whether the clearance from election officials will prevent challenges to more of the candidates, however, especially where questions have been raised about their qualification. Cline Glidden, who also previously held a US passport, has stated that his is no longer valid, removing any possible allegiance to another state. Meanwhile, questions over Tara Rivers’ residency in the seven years prior to Election Day have reportedly been satisfied because she was a student while she was living in the UK, even though she was also working as an associate for a Magic Circle legal firm.

There are understood to be a number of other candidates who refused to sign the Elections Office voluntary survey, although not all of them have issues of eligibility.

With Christian the only casualty so far from Nomination Day, there are now 57 candidates running for office across the six districts. The newly formed PNA, which included Christian with all five incumbent members of Cabinet, is already a man down before their campaign launch.

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One third of local kids victims of bullies

| 02/04/2013 | 2 Comments

tdc168-a.jpg(CNS): Following the results of a survey among local students in both the primary and high schools, a group of local businesses have come together to sponsor an anti-bullying campaign. The survey found that more than one in three children in Cayman has been victimized by bullies. Bullying behavior reported by the students included physical assault, tripping, intimidation, rumor spreading and isolation, demands for money, destruction of property, theft of valued possessions, and name-calling. With the advent of the Internet, cyber-bullying is also a growing problem with the use of modern communication technologies used to harass children from afar.

The campaign to put a stop to bullying is entitled “Be the Difference” and organisers said it will take a multifaceted approach to raising awareness. The campaign will provide outreach and learning tools for children, parents, and schools throughout the Cayman Islands, a spokesperson stated in a release.

The short-term and long-term effects of bullying are felt throughout the nation and affect everyone.  Bullying can lead to low school attendance rates, depression, aggression, increase in criminal activity and even suicide. 

“Bullying is a complex problem that needs to be addressed cooperatively by schools, families and communities to make Cayman a safer place for all,” said Dr. Jill Kristal, a prominent psychologist who specializes in treating children and families. “The Be the Difference campaign will spread the word about bullying, encourage schools to adopt anti-bullying programs, inform parents and teachers of the warning signs and how to discuss this issue with children.”

Be the Difference materials will be distributed to Cayman schools.  The kit includes movies, workbooks, and discussion guides designed to ignite honest, meaningful dialogue about the issue of bullying.  Educatorsand organizations who contributed to the kit include Harvard Graduate School of Education, Not In Our School, Love is Louder, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Facing History and Ourselves.

Cayman businesses that have partnered with Z99 and Rooster 101 to broaden outreach on this issue include  Burger King, Caledonian Global Financial Services, Davenport Development, Edgewater Development, Flowers Group, Island Taste, and Lime.

 

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Ex-London cop speaks out on RCIPS probe secrecy

| 02/04/2013 | 28 Comments

Bridger rubber ring (2).jpg(CNS): The former Scotland Yard cop who led the ill-fated probe into possible RCIPS corruption has spoken out about the secrecy which now surrounds the fallout of the investigation. Martin Bridger, who was the senior investigating officer on Operation Tempura, has questioned the efforts of officials to restrict public examination of the decisions and actions made. which, he says, raises questions over good governance, accountability and integrity. Bridger, who is facing several law suits as a result of his role in the controversial probe, is at risk of losing his financial support for his defence because of a desire by FCO and Cayman officials to keep a lid on what is understood to be embarrassing behaviour by the authorities involved in Tempura.

Bridger said it was understandable in the absence of facts that inaccuracies about the investigation and his role in it continue to circulate, but because of court proceedings he was limited in what he could say. 

“Since my return from the Cayman Islands there has been a concerted campaign by the establishment to keep the truth about what happened during Operation Tempura from the public,” Bridger stated in a letter released to the press Tuesday.

There are three current actions against Bridger, which are all linked to the advice he received from legal counsel working on the Tempura case. The first was filed by former police commissioner Stuart Kernohan, who was one of the main victims of Tempura. In a 2009 suit Kernohan accused Bridger of Misconduct in Public Office. Bridger said he needs to use certain documents from the investigation in defence of that action but the Cayman and UK authorities have filed suits against him to prevent him doing so.

“They are trying to prevent me using legal advice which I received during Operation Tempura,” he said.

Although limited in his ability to explain his position because of the legal action, Bridger provided some details of what he described as continued efforts by the authorities to hinder his attempts to defend the action by Kernohan and to conceal the truth of the probe from the public.

In 2009 the Cayman Attorney General agreed to represent Bridger in the Kernohan action provided the UK former cop agreed not to criticise the local judiciary or the AG’s chambers, and at first he agreed. Bridger was assisted by Douglas Schofield, who had been part of the Tempura prosecution team. But when the AG’s chambers told him that Kernohan was abandoning his legal action, Bridger decided to make the complaint he had earlier agreed to shelve. This related to the behaviour of some members of the judiciary, the AG and FCO officials during the Tempura probe.

“I thought that by making an official complaint people would be held accountable for their actions and the truth about what happened during Operation Tempura would be revealed,” he said. But instead, the AG withdrew the defence support in the Kernohan action, which turned out to be still live. The RCIPS commissioner also refused to help Bridger, who was sworn in as a special constable during the ill-fated operation, because of the breach over Bridger’s original agreement to keep his criticisms to himself.

“I was left with no other alternative other than to fund my own defence,” he said, adding that after almost a year he was able to get some funding from the Metropolitan Police as he was still a UK cop when he was first dispatched undercover to begin the RCIPS probe.

While Bridger’s complaint was investigated and ultimately dismissed, when he asked for a copy of the report he was refused. Eventually he was supplied with written reasons for the dismissal but only if he signed an undertaking not to share the contents. In his efforts to avoid a fourth legal action, Bridger complied but he urged the Cayman community to ask why he was asked to sign such an undertaking.

Pointing to a recent failed mediation process between the CIG and Kernohan, Bridger stated that he still needed the documents he acquired during Tempura to fight the action against him. “Much of the advice I particularly want to rely on was provided by Andre Mondesir, who was my independent counsel for much of the duration of the Tempura investigation,” he said.

Although a decision by the Cayman courts over the documents is still outstanding and local as well as UK authorities continue to do all they can to stop him, a UK court has ruled in Bridger’s favour that he should be allowed to use the documents as part of his defence.

The problems for Bridger are far from over, however, as a request by the current police commissioner, David Baines, to the Metropolitan Police asking that organisation to force Bridger to return the documents, despite the UK court decision, has put  the funding from the London cops in jeopardy, leaving Bridger with what could be a hefty legal bill.

Meanwhile, as the UK and local authorities continue their fight against both Bridger and Kernohan, the local tax payer continues to foot the growing bill for an exercise in avoiding exposure, not necessarily of corruption, but what is believed to be embarrassing levels of incompetence.   

See full letter below.

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Four years for double arson conviction

| 02/04/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 32-year-old George Town man was sentenced to four years imprisonment after submitting guilty pleas before Justice Alex Henderson for a double arson attack in 2011. Sven Conner was convicted for two counts of arson and being reckless to life when he set fire to an air-conditioning unit at the residence of Theresa Brown and Eric Russell. After Brown alerted the fire service to the first fire and they moved across to her mother’s home on the same property, Brown and Russell were awoken by dogs barking and another fire. Justice Henderson commented that this case was “not the most serious of offenses to come before the court” but that Conner's previous criminal history was extensive.

Sven Connor, known as “Dappa”, was in a stormy relationship with Theresa Brown, who is the mother of four children. Although Brown and Connor did not have children together, he would still help her financially. The couple separated during an argument that occurred when Connor was in custody for an unrelated incident and had given Brown some cash. It came to Connor’s attention that some of the funds had notbeen used as Brown had said.
When Connor returned from jail in December 2011, he met with Brown after work and another argument arose, with Brown’s suspicion of his infidelity.

At approximately 10:45pm on the night of the incident, Connor went to see Theresa but he came upon another man, who described himself as being Brown’s new boyfriend. Sven and Brown’s new boyfriend, Eric Russell, got into a physical altercation and a few members of Brown’s family parted them. While he was leaving, Connor made idle threats towards the family. In fear of Connor returning, Brown sent her children to sleep with her mother in a nearby residence on the same property.

An intoxicated Connor returned sometime after midnight and decided, on the spur of the moment, to set a fire to Brown’s home. The couple alerted the Cayman Islands Fire Service and the fire, which destroyed various household items, was extinguished quickly.

Shortly afterwards, Russell and Brown were awoken to the surprise of another blaze, this time to the exterior of Brown’s mother’s residence, where they had moved to sleep after the first fire.

Defense Counsel Nick Hoffman submitted that his client was in an intoxicated state due to the consummation of alcohol and cannabis and therefore became confused as to which house was Brown's residence, which led him to start the second fire. The damage is estimated to be valued at around CI $5,000. Connor said his intention was not to harm anyone, but to frighten Brown, while he was in a fit of anger.

“I don’t infer that the intent was to harm anyone,” Justice Henderson commented. "We’re not talking about a case where the defendant went out with the intent to kill.”

In the most recent prison report, Connor tested positive for cannabis. Defense counsel stated that this said “sadly more about the prison than the individual”. Justice Henderson agreed by adding that this news was “not quite remarkable” to him. Included in the prison report, it is stated that Connor had some disciplinary issues but these were resolved, and that he is currently a member of the Inmate Counsel. In addition, it stated that Connor is taking classes for anger management which helps with the treatment of his depressive disorder, along with other courses.

Justice Henderson said he took all of this into account, along with Connor’s letter detailing his remorse and desire to change his life. Sven received full credit for entering a guilty plea prior to the beginning of a trial, the judge said. Although Connor had served a ten year prison sentence for manslaughter and was convicted of possession of an unlicensed firearm, Justice Henderson said he was not permitted to punish him a second time for that.

In his conclusion, the judge accepted that there was a risk of the fire spreading and people getting hurt but that these could not be accepted as aggravating features of the incident as they were typical features of an arson case and no one was harmed.  A  sentence of six years was considered appropraite by the judge who gave connor a two year discount for his guilty plea. The judge also ordered that Connor's time in custody would be taken into consideration.

 

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Second-hand drinking genuine issue, says NDC

| 02/04/2013 | 18 Comments

alcholprobs.jpg(CNS): As the general election campaign moves into full swing, Caymanians may be considering if ever there was a time when they needed to drink alcohol it’s now, but the National Drug Council is taking the issue seriously this month as booze remains Cayman’s most problematic drug, which has a far wider impact than problems suffered just by those who drink. April is alcohol awareness month and the local organisation said it is raising the genuine and worrying issue of second hand drinking and the negative impact alcohol can have even on those that abstain. “Second-hand drinking is an expression used to describe the impact of a person who is on the receiving end of someone’s drinking behaviour,” the NDC said.

“Imagine the effect on a child or adult that has experienced a restless night of drunken arguments, and have to function at school or work the next day,” the local experts noted in a release as part of its campaign to address Cayman’s continued excessive alcohol use.

“Second-hand drinking is obviously a play on the term ‘second-hand smoking’. When the world became aware that second-hand smoke was damaging, smoking in public and in close proximity to others became socially unacceptable. Moreover, it was found that second-hand smoke was killing thousands of people,” the NDC explained about its campaign.

In terms of the second-hand effects, emotional, social and psychological well-being seems to be regarded as the most damaging effect of alcohol abusers.  Second-hand drinking (SHD) is what happens to families and other associates of an alcohol abuser.

“The brain experiences significant changes caused by alcohol consumption, ranging from social drinking to alcoholism,” stated Simon Miller, Prevention Officer.

Alcohol abusers’ behaviour often manifest in different ways, from verbal or emotional abuse and domestic violence to neglect or broken promises, he explained. Fights, driving under the influence (DUI), unprotected, unwanted or unplanned sex, sexual assault and a diminished work ethic that can surround some drinkers also impact others. However, the consequences of Second Hand Drinking are rarely intentional and as a result help is needed to support individuals coping with these effects in unhealthy ways, the NDC said.

“Stakeholders of the National Drug Council offer services with a cultural awareness and understanding of the ripple effects of substance abuse and how it can be devastating to families,” Joan West-Dacres, Executive Director of the council added.

For information of local events to commemorate Alcohol Awareness Month or information of where to get help, please contact us at 949-9000 or visit us at www.ndc.ky. Together, there is “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow”.

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Scott officially endorsed on C4C ticket

| 02/04/2013 | 40 Comments

IMG-20130327-00538.jpg(CNS): Having already appeared on the campaign platform and being a founding member of the advocacy group, Jude Scott’s formal endorsement by the Coalition for Cayman came as no surprise. Scott, who appeared on the platform last year when the C4C formally launched their goal to endorse a selection of independent candidates, was also the original joint leader of the group. He stepped down from the team’s executive when he later announced his intention to run for a seat in the capital. Scott is often seen as the leader of the team, which still denies being a political party. C4C's formal endorsement came on 1 April, when the group said in a release that Scott was “the kind of respected statesman we need to unite the Cayman Islands”.  

C4C said it remained dedicated to electing independent mindedleaders that will be accountable and free of partisan political ties.

“For as long as we can remember, Jude Scott has been leading the way toward a better Cayman Islands,” said the group. “From his work as a successful business executive to the countless hours he has spent volunteering for various boards and non-profits, his intelligence and passion for country make Jude the kind of respected statesman we need to unite the Cayman Islands toward common goals.”

Although he is only the fourth candidate to be formally endorsed, following the endorsement of his fellow George Town running mates Jacqueline Hayes, Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolly, the C4C is expected to endorse Sharon Roulstone in the capital as well.

Mervin Smith and Tara Rivers, who are running in West Bay, are also anticipating being endorsed shortly. Charles Clifford, who was understood to be in talks with the advocacy group last week over his endorsement and association with the team, is speculated to be the 8th and final candidate that the group is going to support.

C4C continues to court a certain amount of controversy as it refuses to be acknowledged as a party, despite the joint platform that the candidates are appearing to be running on. In addition, the group’s collective position that it is the party system rather than the individuals on the political scene that are responsible for what they see as poor governance in recent years has brought considerable criticism from both the main political parties and the wider community.

However, the group and its candidates have also received wide support from those who have become frustrated with the political landscape.

“We are committed to bringing new and accountable leadership to unite the people of the country and restore the Cayman Islands’ reputation while maintaining social balance and sustainable growth,” the group said in its latest release.

One problem facing the group, however, is that unless things change in the coming weeks, it is not likely to have more than eight candidates running on its ticket, and with the increase in the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly from 15 to 18, any group that wishes to form a government will require a majority of ten.

Hoping for a coalition, none of the C4C candidates have yet committed themselves publicly to a party that they would work with to help themselves or another group form an administration if a single group fails to gain a majority. Nor have any of them yet stated which independents outside the coalition they would be willing to work with or which potential premier they would be willing to rally around.

The split in the United Democratic Party following the arrest of its leader, former premier McKeeva Bush, on 11 counts of theft and corruption related offences, has left the minority government now running as the People’s National Alliance under the leadership of Juliana O’Connor-Connolly with a team of just six and they have dropped heavy hints about aligning with the coalition or independent candidates to form the next government. However, they have yet to name names.

Meanwhile, the UDP still has Bush at the helm and twelve candidates, including four incumbents, in the race.

The PPM, led by Alden McLaughlin, the current opposition leader, has fifteen candidates, including four incumbents, with their eye on the LA. These two parties remain the only groups that are in a position to form a government in the wake of an election without the need for horse trading or negotiations.

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Eligibility questions remain

| 02/04/2013 | 62 Comments

(CNS): The Elections Office is expected to release information later today over the qualification of a number of candidates whose eligibility remains in question. Despite their best efforts to ensure that the names on the final ballot sheet would not be subject to challenge, question marks remain about some candidates over dual nationality and residency issues. Although most candidates signed a voluntary survey that clarified the qualification question and placed responsibility on the candidates for their own compliance with the law, a few elected not to do so. Those candidates who would not sign were questioned further and the qualification of some who may continue in the race remains in dispute.

Following a number of election challenges throughout the region that have disrupted the political landscape in several countries, the local elections office was keen to reduce the risk of challenges to avoid the costly and disruptive possibility of by-elections after the event. However, it may be that some candidates for the Cayman Islands General Elections are staying in the race despite possible questions.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands’ election last year the failure of a candidate to qualify disrupted the result and triggered a by-election, even though he had failed to poll enough votes to win. The difference in the number of votes between the top two candidates in the constituency was so low that the votes given to the candidate discovered not to qualify were significant enough to trigger a successful challenge.

Here in Cayman, questions remain over the dual nationality of Richard Christian and Cline Glidden, who are both running on the new People’s National Alliance ticket and who both declined to sign the voluntary questionnaire. Glidden, an incumbent MLA and cabinet minister, is pressing on in the race, as he says he no longer has a valid United States passport. However, Christian, who was planning to contest one of the four seats in Bodden Town, is believed to still have a valid US passport, implying an allegiance to another country.

Meanwhile, Tara Rivers, who is running on the C4C campaign ticket and who, it is understood, also refused to sign the questionnaire on Nomination Day, has been questioned over her residency period. However, Rivers may still press ahead as her right to run remains up in the air. Although she was out of the country until 2009 and fails to meet the seven year requirement to be resident prior to an election, her status as a student during her time of absence may be sufficient to meet on of the exemptions, even though she was employed by a London-based firm as a lawyer at the same time.

Although Dr Frank McField is understood to have also refused to sign the questionnaire, his qualification is not thought to be in question.

Officials from the Elections Office stated that most candidates completed and signed the voluntary questionnaire, which they said was designed to focus the attention of those wanting to run on their qualification and essentially asking them to take responsibility for their compliance. Speaking to CNS Friday, they said that they would be revealing the identities of those candidates who were continuing to run even though their qualifications remained in question and those who refused to sign the questionnaire.

Although 58 candidates were nominated last Wednesday, the list may be reduced depending on the decisions of those who could face election challenges, either before polling day or after, when the results are in, depending on the impact they may have on the result.

Last election both UDP candidates in Bodden Town, Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour, failed to meet the constitutional requirement regarding their business interests with government before the deadline. Although both men had private businesses that had government contracts, neither candidaterevealed the details in time. However, once this was published in the press, both claimed it was merely an oversight and rushed to supply the information and gazette publicly their government business interests and continued on in the race.

No formal challenges were made by local officials, and when the opposition declined to challenge their qualification once the two candidates were elected and after the failure of the attorney general to pursue the action, a group of voters took to the courts. However, their difficulties in raising the necessary finances required meant they missed the official three week deadline under the elections law to mount a challenge and submitted an originating summons instead.

The chief justice threw out the suit as he found it was not the lawful route to make the challenge, and so the question of qualification was never addressed.

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Two drivers injured in Easter Sunday road smash

| 02/04/2013 | 5 Comments

(CNS): A male and female driver were both taken to George Town hospital on Easter Sunday evening following a major crash near Bodden Town post office at around 7:15pm. Police stated Monday that the crash was a head-on collision between two vehicles and both drivers were hurt. A 50-year-old male driver remains at the Cayman Islands Hospital under treatment for what the RCIPS said was a serious but not critical injury, while the 49-year-old female driver was treated and released. Traffic was diverted for a short time following the smash as police dealt with the aftermath of the collision. Anyone with information about the crash is asked to contact Bodden Town police station on 947-2220

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‘Indies’ back ‘treating’ ban

| 02/04/2013 | 23 Comments

vote-for-me.jpg(CNS): Several independent candidates have welcomed the clampdown on catering at public meetings during the official campaign period for the 2013 elections and agree that it could be interpreted as treating. Given that those running on their own platform usually have less to spend on campaigns than the major parties, teams or alliances, candidates going into the election battle alone say the enforcement should help level a playing field that can be unfair to them. Although politicians have traditionally offered refreshments at their meetings, which can last for three hours or more, the Elections Office is now keen to stamp out increasingly lavish events, which they say constitutes inducement.

Ezzard Miller, who has already fought several campaigns under his own steam, said he welcomed the move by the Elections Office because the emphasis on the refreshments in many of the ads and flyers during election campaigns made it obvious that it was used as an attraction.

“If it was not intended to attract a bigger audience, why advertise and promote it so boldly?” Miller asked. “It seems a direct attempt to attract a larger audience to provide a greater opportunity to influence more people to vote for the candidates. The purpose of the meetings is to influence people to vote for a particular individual or group to enhance their chances to form the next government. I believe it is against our existing law and that the law should be enforced across the board on all candidates, especially now that we have all been warned by the election officials," he added.

On nomination night Stefan Baraud, an independent candidate running in George Town, returned his food when he heard that officials would be interpreting the traditional catering as treating. But down the road at the C4C launch refreshments were still served, leaving a question mark over how far the Elections Office is prepared to go.

On Friday Elections Supervisor Kearney Gomez said that, going forward, the office would be keeping a close eye on this issue as they believed that anything more than water would be considered ‘treating’ and the office would be monitoring meetings. In the past candidates have hosted lavish parties, where even alcohol has been served, but the Elections Office said that it would not permit that kind of flagrant abuse of the law and, as a result, it is drawing a strict line.

Dr Frank McField, who has fought elections as part of the party machinery and on his own, said treating has an historical meaning in Cayman that relates directly to inducement and the office is right to put a stop to it. However, he warned that it could be difficult to prove that a person was guilty of treating in a political context and therefore hard to enforce.

The former cabinet minister explained that it goes back to the days when merchants running for office provided cows for butchering, with the beef to be divided among the community only if they were successful at the polls. 

“Enforcement of this section of our election law is well overdue and will, in addition to the cap on spending by candidates, assist in levelling the political landscape for all, a condition needed for many election seasons,” McField noted.

Dwene Ebanks said the letter of the law may be unclear but the spirit was about free and fair elections, which he said means free from any undue influence or persuasions. "Arguably, food, drinks and entertainment may present a case whereby the variables are open for individual interpretations," he said, but added that  in the interest of good democratic principles he supported the efforts of the elections office.

Bo Miller, who is also fighting for one of the capital’s six seats, said he supported the clampdown too, saying it was time voters focused on the issues and the candidates’ solutions instead of rewards.

“The political process in recent past has been to condition some people into believing that they should expect something personal for their support and ultimately their vote. While this may be attractive to some, it certainly has not resulted in a free and fair process,” he observed. "It is past due that we free ourselves from this nonsense."

Vincent Frederick, who has thrown his hat into the Bodden Town fight, said he felt the law was reasonable. “Corruption has been on going in these islands for years, especially during the last election, and I throw my support behind the Election Office, the observers and the police in their efforts to stamp out the many different forms of corruption,” he added.

Joey Ebanks, who has so far been running his campaign for a seat in North Side on the pages of Facebook, told CNS that he also believed it would level the playing field. The free entertainment provided by parties has grown into a major undertaking, he said.

“It falsely implies that the parties are better organized and able to better govern than independents,” said Ebanks, who was recently arrested over financial irregularities at the ERA, where he was managing director until his resignation last week. If the law was enforced, people would attend meetings, not for refreshments, but to hear the candidates' positions on the issues, he noted.

“Finally, no more smoke and mirrors. Candidates cannot hide their inabilities behind the entertainment; they must have a clear understanding of why they want to be elected,” Ebanks added, pointing out that he planned to hold a Q&A after his meeting, where he has promised to expose corruption in high office.

Meanwhile, Andrea Christian, who is campaigning for a seat in West Bay, said she supported the decision, despite the sudden change now faced by the electors and candidates.

“One of my concerns has always been the need to continually educate and inform the electorate so that the most ethical, qualified, concerned citizens are elected to manage the affairs of these islands. We need to accept the responsibility as candidates to communicate our messages without gift or favours,” she added.

However, Matthew Leslie, another independent candidate running in George Town, pointed to the cultural role food plays in Cayman’s community. Leslie said he had every intention of respecting the law but when people were going out of their way from work or home without eating to come and sit for two to four hours to listen to candidates, it wasn’t unreasonable for some refreshments to be on offer.

“I doubt a vote will be gained by serving juice or water or some little food. Voters are smarter than that,” Leslie observed.

Candidates running in teams, however, were more circumspect about how influential catering at a public meeting can really be.

Mervin Smith, who was on the C4C platform last Wednesday evening where catering was provided for all who attended, said it was an exaggeration to suggest a vote could be bought with a plate of food or a can of soda. However, ifelection officials were saying that it is illegal to offer food and beverages, then he would ensure it didn’t happen at his meetings.

“I ask those election officials to ensure that it is enforced across the board, thereby eliminating any advantage,” he said, calling for a review of this section of the Elections Law because he found it hard to believe that a person would be persuaded to vote for an individual or party based on the refreshments.

Former Cabinet minister in the last PPM government, Charles Clifford, who is running for a seat in Bodden Town and also rumoured to be running on the C4C ticket, pointed out that there were many scenarios that could constitute 'treating' under the Elections Law. Although he welcomed the news of greater enforcement, he questioned whether the provision of refreshments was treating as he believed it was stretching the definition far beyond what legislators intended. 

“This is a traditional and cultural norm in Cayman and it could only be considered 'treating' if it can be proven that it was being done to 'corruptly' influence voters,” Clifford said.

This was also the position taken by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who said a plate of curried chicken or a soda couldn’t be considered a direct inducement to vote in a particular way. He pointed out that political meetings and rallies could be long, with people stopping to listen on their way home from work, and that was why food was generally offered. McLaughlin said voters wanted to hear what the candidates have to say but should not have to sacrifice their supper to listen to the views of those running for office.

“We will be following the law,” the leader of the PPM said of his party, but he raised concerns that the issue could become a side show, detracting from the importance of the election and the genuine problems of corruption in office. McLaughlin said the law was quite clear that ‘treating’ was a direct inducement by a politician to a voter and not the open provision of some refreshments during a four hour rally to all who passed by.

CNS Online Poll: Should the provision of food for potential voters at campaign rallies be allowed?

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