How not to ‘treat’ democracy

| 08/04/2013

This year there seems tobe an attempt by authorities (and political motivation by some political opponents looking for a 'level playing field') to stamp out 'treating'. In short, treating means giving stuff to voters to influence their vote and this apparently has included food and beverages for some time. Both the giver and the recipient commit the offense.

No one knows why this was never enforced despite being widely discussed during the last election. But we can assume that the fact that this year there will be election observers combined with a more competitive election scene are the reasons for the sudden urge to issue strong 'warnings' on this provision for the first time.

The political activist group C4C has jumped on the bandwagon, launching ads against appliances and turkeys. This is all good. But specifically on the subject of food and beverages at public meetings, is this provision 'good' for democracy?

There is the very reasonable observation raised by bloggers, including a few on CNS, that no one is going to swear allegiance to a candidate based on a piece of jerk chicken or some fruit punch.

A law is a law is a law and obviously breaches of it cannot be ignored. But that does not stop us from questioning whether the law is in fact a good one. The treating provision cannot simply be assessed as 'good' because it discourages the giving of food for votes at a meeting. It also needs to be assessed from the perspective of whether it is practical to discourage thousands of voters from bothering to attend a public meeting where they can get information directly from candidates in order to make that very important decision on May 22nd. If that means providing a basic amenity, such as some food or a soda, so they are comfortable, then why is this practice (which has been around for the past 70 years, not just in the Caribbean but all around the world) so terribly 'offensive' to democracy?

Like it or not, the democratic process simply will not work if people are asked to be as uncomfortable as possible to participate. No one supports the giving of money, appliances or anything of other material value to voters. But organising a public meeting and providing refreshments does not seem unreasonable.

At this stage the law is set but the Elections Office and the sitting government should seriously consider taking some form of action to correct or amend the treating provision to enable food and drinks at public meetings, or they should be prepared to enforce the provision fully and change the face of local elections (including risking a reduction in public participation in the democratic process) in 2013.

Doing nothing is simply setting everyone up for failure. At this stage at least one group has broken the law and if we are enforcing it then they should technically suffer the consequences now without further delay. The Elections Office and other parties within the entire elections administration face a very serious credibility issue if they continue to say that food at public meetings "may" be considered as treating while allowing it to continue without enforcement.

Either it is or it isn't treating and they know very well what the answer is because the law is clear. Ironically, their unwillingness to enforce the provision is a sure sign that they realise how impractical it is. And if that's the case, then take some action now to avoid the ridiculous situation that sets everyone up to commit a criminal offense by giving or drinking a free fruit punch by making a legislative or policy change to maintain some credibility in the Cayman Islands' democratic process.

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Comments (32)

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  1. Gambling or Charity? says:

    Well! Who knew that we were breaking the law every time we buy a raffle ticket for some "worthy cause" or even scratch that Foster's ticket, or go to a Bingo, or any other philanthropic event that goes on here? Since I am a law abiding person, I can see I'll be saving a small fortune from now on…at least until this whole idiotic issue is cleared up.

  2. Anonymouse Man says:

    You are correct to state that unless the law is enforced there is no point in having a law. It is quite clear to me that providing low,or high value food, at a political meeting is an attempt to attract voters and gain friends and influence people. However,I must say, I have been glad at times to get a sandwich and a glass of punch after attending some of these 2+ hour meetings. You and many others are wrong to suggest that this is a practice that has been around for 70+ years. Indeed the first time I saw this practice was in West Bay in 2000 at a political rally for Sterling Dwayne Ebanks,Tara Rivers,Bernie Bush and William Ebanks. It was a supporter that brought the food. Every meeting since then there has been somekind of food around.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry i agree with everything u say but the last point. I have had food and drinks at political meetings as far back as 1988 and im sure its been around long before that. No one thought it was a big deal then either.

    • noname says:

      Think of it this way……most if not all these candidates are going to be spouting the same rhetoric during their campaigns, the issues over the last 4yrs being the main crux of all their arguments.

      Now, if come election time, people are undecided on who they are going to vote for, I can bet money that it will be the one of the factors affecting their decision will be who provided the best food at their rallies.

      Food, paving, fridges, monetary contributions are all the same during elections no matter what the scale of the "gift" from these "politicians", the point is to abide by the law, you have to stamp it ALL out, starting with the smallest i.e. a plate of turtle.

      The excuse that it has been going on for years is dead, pointing fingers that they also did it is not an excuse anymore.

      If anything is going to chnage on this island after May then everybody needs to change and that starts with getting rid of the stink habits and abiding by the law, end of story.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cash is also king. That how they do it.They give bills when walking around

    • Anonymous says:

      I know people think its funny but giving cash is one of the serious things the candidates keep doing. They do it a lot in the poorer parts of george town where giving someone a 25 bill is normal. Police should hang around gt areas for couple hours to see some true offences. Forget about food and drinks.

      • Rorschach says:

        Police should hang around gt areas for couple hours to see some true offences.

         Podna, that is too much like wuk..when you gonna get it through ya head?? This police service, do not see anything wrong with what is going on..all you have to do is see who the majority of the officers are and where they are from to see why they don't see any problem with any of this..

  4. Anonymous says:

    "No one knows why this was never enforced despite being widely discussed…"

     

    Not true. Hypocrisy is the reason. It is endemic in Cayman culture.

     

    Instead of banning jerk chicken at political rallies, we should ban baloney and ask the candidates to speak truthfully.

  5. Anon says:

    Actually the police say its ok they wont charge.

  6. Just Sayin' says:

    Whichever candidate comes and collects my garbage (which the DEH has been unable to do for just over two weeks) will get my vote, treating or not.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Vote buying happens trust me especially the handing out of cash by political hopefuls and their agents also loads of marl, fill, top soil in addition to appliances, beef and turtle meat that is given away during election time. All of them do it and have been doing it for years udp, pna, ppm it’s how they buys loyalty from poor people who are desperate and politically manipulated by career politicians.

    Premier Juliana was creative and decided to pave the Brac and private driveways in advance of the campaign season so what will Commissoner Baines do about that?

    • Anonymous says:

      She also “gave” 100000 of your money to Her favoured church, that’s treating, and thus immoral

    • Anonymous says:

      Well well we see some big time vote buying with ju ju giving 100 thousand to churches again.

  8. Slowpoke says:

    You are right about "… piece of jerk chicken or some fruit punch" but, when it comes to some curried goat and a cold beer, you have my attention.

  9. Pay up sukka says:

    @101
    We in Cayman have a bad habit of writing laws without any vision of how or if we will inforce them. It seems that many laws are written and enforced on a relative basis, whereby if it benefits me is directly correlated to the intent and implementation of the laws. Examples are gambling/lottery are illegal but for churches and some other groups its ok. Immigration laws that should be inforced, unless I have a friend from foreign that I want to work for me, then it’s a different story.
    It is time for the electorate to insist that common sense be one of the qualifications to be a member of the LA!

  10. anonymous says:

    question for everyone: if someone is poor and ask you for some food to eat or five dollars at a political meeting, is that treating? and if you think the answer is yes then are we not taking this thing too far?

    i saw some people in rough situations almost begging for a few dollars to buy some food. so if i give it thats ok but if a politician does it he is buying votes? 

    • Anonymous says:

      If someone begs you for $5 or some food because they have nothing to eat, instead of just instantly satisfying their need you need to consider their next meal and their long-term needs. Try reading the parable of the Good Samaratan for a good example of what to do.

       

      We have a Social Services department whose job is to take care of anyone who is hungry or does not have a place to sleep. Instead of giving $5 and feeling good about yourself, you need to get the person in touch with Social Services to have their needs evaluated.

       

      The problem with a one-time "treat" is that you are only offering temporary relief to the truly needy, but more than likely your are enabling someone who uses the money you gave (or the money they saved by accepting food) for other purposes.

       

      It's time to stop giving people handouts, and start giving them hand-ups. Giving handouts to anyone and everyone is how McKeeva and JuJu brought this country to near ruin.

      • Anonymous says:

        They would starve to death by the time social services reaches them. Try calling that place for anything and you will see what i mean

        • Anonymous says:

          If you have a cell phone your problem is not that serious. Go stand outside their doors if you want attention.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are part of the problem if u give them money. That just encourages our people to be beggars rather than help themselves. Saying no and try to get them a job would be better

  11. anonymous says:

    they been treating for past 4 years trust me. they dont really need to do it now as they already bought the votes. doesnt matter what change you make damage already done. 

  12. anon says:

    cmon 101, a little fridge here and there and a nice washing machine never hut no body. people need tings and times hard brotha man!

  13. anon says:

    i heard someone from elections office saying on the radio that food and drinks is treating. but compass story said police say its is not. which one is right? we would  lose at least 6 more candidates from ballot if they enforce the law.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The law requires criminal intent. Providing refreshments at a rally is not a violation. No law has been broken unless something is given for the promise of a vote. People should focus on the important things like paying money and appliances for votes.

    • Just Commentin' says:

      That the law requires criminal intent is substantially factual. The law requires corrupt motivation, which results in a crime being committed. A slight and rather insignificant difference. However, the statement, "No law has been broken unless something is given for the promise of a vote", is not quite correct. If you are referring to the section or the law dealing with "Treating", the law focuses on whether there exists corrupt intent to influence the voter. This seemingly slight nuance of difference makes your statement at significant variance with the law. If consideration (stuff) is given in exchange for specific performance (a promise to vote a certain way) it is a form of contract and is certainly a bribe. But the section of the law concerning treating does not necessarily describe a contractual relationship, it centres on the more unilateral matter of enticement, or trying to gain favourable regard with corrupt intent and the expectation that the treat will exert influence upon the voter's ballot choices.

      If, as even opponents of the enforcement  regarding "treating" have stated here,  providing refreshments can influence voter behaviour by enticing people to attend or remain longer at a rally, then the matter of "influence" is to some degree settled. To what extent that influence will guide the person's vote and whether or not the intent is done with corrupt motivation is subject to determination.  The safest course of action is to remove the influence.

      • Rorschach says:

        Your statement is far too accurate and logical…hence it will NEVER be taken seriously by the relevant authorities…

  15. Anonymous says:

    Really?? You need food to go listen and learn about who will run your country?

    Not wonder we are in the mess we're in!

    • Anon says:

      You are correct but so is the author. Try cutting all food and drink from meetings and see what happens. Sure you and i will be there but many others wont bother…it is sad but true. A social event without refreshments just sucks..

    • Anonymous says:

      just look at the obesity levels around here too……..

  16. Anonymous says:

    Have to question your statement that "treating" happens the world over. I have lived in many EU countries…these days treating is not allowedin any..it is in fact illegal in most. The food and drink, (if not checked) can lead people to feeling that are at a party and that political party gave them a good time…and thereby influence voting. People who live here know that treating is not allowed, so if going to a meeting, they can take their own water or whatever with them…no issue, no problem, no question. Simple.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It’s a question of degree, at one end the fruit punch, and at the other is the fridge, free paving or worse.
    You can’t draw a legal distinction, because you can’t sensibly define the limit, so the only way is to stop all “treating” and make sure it is applied. That is how most democracies work, and if Caymans cannot because the people expect it then sadly the people misunderstand what the process is about, and in some ways who can blame them. They have a system under which they almost expect the politicians to extract benefit for themselves, so why shouldn’t they pass on a few treats, but both are wrong because both are corrupt, and both should be excluded.