Archive for May 23rd, 2013

Cubans sail up on Seven Mile Beach

| 23/05/2013 | 15 Comments

cubans_0.jpg(CNS): A group of 30 Cuban refugees who had turned up in the Sister Islands earlier this week, which includes three women and several return migrants, were in local waters close to the West Bay public beach Thursday morning at the end of Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach. The makeshift craft in which the migrants arrived was escorted out of local waters by the authorities around lunch time but none of the migrants opted to land. The group were first spotted off South Sound in the early hours of (23 May) while Cayman's attention was firmly on its election results. The group then sailed into the West Bay area where they undertook repairs to their engine before opting to press on in their perilous ocean quest to Honduras in their makeshift vessel.

As the boat was anchored off West Bay dock this morning many of the local Cuban population in the district had come to greet the travellers and expressed real concerns about not being able to assist them as a result of the government’s existing policy regarding migrants from the neighbouring island of Cuba.

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Voting system delayed count

| 23/05/2013 | 9 Comments

ballot boxes.JPG(CNS): The outgoing supervisor of elections pointed to the multi-member voting system, in the capital in particular, as the reason for such a long delay in the announcements of the final results of the 22 May General Election on Thursday morning. Kearney Gomez said that the count in George Town, which began on time, took so long due to a combination of the number of voters in the capital, the number of candidates running and, above all, the number of votes on each of the ballots. Although the polls closed on time and there were no recounts or disputes over any of the results, the physical act of tallying up so many ballots with multiple votes on them saw the count drag on until around 8am, some 11 hours after it started.

Pleased, however, that there were far less spoiled ballot papers, which Gomez said was down to the efforts of the local media to inform voters how to vote, but the count took much longer than would have been the case under a one man, one vote and single member constituency system.

“If we had implemented one man, one vote for this election, we would have all been in bed at 9:30pm,” Gomez said in the early hours of Thursday morning at the command centre as the count dragged on. “The difficulty was the need to tally six votes on each and every ballot, which had to be cross checked with the tallies of candidates' agents.”

The last box to be counted was from the Prospect area, which kept everyone waiting on the final result because, while all indications were that the PPM had won enough seats in George Town, the battle for the sixth seat was still very close. Before the final box was tallied, the UDP’s Mike Adam was still in with an outside chance of stealing the seat from the Progressives, which could have triggered the need for bargains and backroom deals in order for a government to be formed. This could have resulted in instability at a time of near political crisis for Cayman, given the continued questions raised not just about the former premier but many of his original political colleagues in the last UDP administration.

Despite the delay in the result and the marathon count, the election process went very smoothly, even with a tight budget and some problems with the lack of air-conditioning at one polling station in West Bay, where the church building in use was under construction and therefore had no electricity.

Gomez said there were no recounts as all the counters and the relevant candidate representatives had consistently agreed their running totalsat frequent intervals, despite the close call for the fourth seat in Bodden Town, where just 41 votes separated the PPM’s Al Suckoo from Theresa Pitcairn of the UDP, and the 51 votes that separated the Progressive’s Joey Hew from Mike Adam ( UDP) for the sixth seat inGeorge Town.

The supervisor of elections, who has now retired after thirty years running local elections, ended on a marathon poll and offered his support for the concept of one man, one vote, which the new PPM administration has committed to implement in its first year in office.

Following the count, Gomez thanked the many people involved in the election process, including the electors, candidates and agents as well as the election workers, support staff and the media. 

The winning candidates were as follows:

West Bay: 3,349 ballots

  1. McKeeva Bush – 1,583 votes
  2. Tara Rivers – 1,483 votes
  3. Bernie Bush – 1,460 votes
  4. Capt. Eugene Ebanks – 1,307 votes

George Town: 5,828 ballots

  1. Kurt Tibbetts – 2,470 votes
  2. Roy McTaggart – 2,160 votes
  3. Alden McLaughlin – 2,145 votes
  4. Marco Archer – 2,085 votes
  5. Winston Connolly – 2,039 votes
  6. Joey Hew – 1,940 votes

Bodden Town: 3,593 ballots

  1. Anthony Eden – 1,781 votes
  2. Osbourne Bodden – 1,615 votes
  3. Wayne Panton – 1,571 votes
  4. Alva Suckoo – 1,393 votes

North Side: 465 ballots

  1. Ezzard Miller – 326 votes

East End: 554 ballots

  1. Arden McLean – 317 votes

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman: 835 ballots

  1. Moses Kirkconnell – 628 votes
  2. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly – 461 votes

The final figures for all candidates, as well as supporting documentation on the process, are posted on the elections website.

Full election results below.

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Officials invite tributes to former speaker

| 23/05/2013 | 3 Comments

7636004.jpg(CNS): The Cayman islands Government has opened a condolence book in memory of Edna Moyle, the former speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Cabinet Minister, district MLA for North Side and founding member of the new ruling party the PPM. Moyle died on the eve of Wednesday’s historic election (Tuesday 22 May) in the Cayman Islands hospital surrounded by her family after losing her battled with cancer. Government is inviting people to visit the LA or the administration buildings to pay their respects and tribute to a local political stalwart and a trailblazer for the women’s movement in Cayman. She was a member of the LA between 1992-2009 when she retired from the front line of politics but retained a keen interest.

The condolence books will be available on Friday from 24 May until 31 May at the Government Administration Building on Elgin Avenue, in George Town between office hours of Monday to Friday, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm and at the Legislative Assembly Building, 33 Fort Street, George Town, Grand Cayman also Monday to Friday, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. The book will also be available at District Administration in Cayman Brac 19 Kirkconnell Street during the same time.

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Missing West Bay man now traced

| 23/05/2013 | 0 Comments

Delmore Ebanks.jpg(CNS): The 44-year-old diabetic man who had been missing from his West Bay home since Wednesday evening has been found. An RCIPS spokesperson said Friday morning that Delmore Ebanks was traced safe and well after being reported missing on Thursday. He had last been seen about 7.00pm Wednesday night (22 May) leaving his home in Fountain Road, West Bay. He told a family member that he was going fishing, but did not provide any further information. Whenhe did not return home, his family contacted the police.

Ebanks had never gone missing before and the family were particularly concerned as they were not sure he had his diabetes medication with him. 

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The importance of a strong opposition

| 23/05/2013 | 29 Comments

With a decisive win in this election, the Progressive party is now able to form a strong government. Once a speaker is chosen from the House (Ezzard Miller or Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, perhaps), they will have a clear majority on the government benches and be able to move forward with their policies without having to haggle in a coalition government. But, just as importantly, this has also given us a potentially dynamic opposition.

There is a temptation here in Cayman for people to want a Legislative Assembly where everyone “gets along” in place of healthy debate, and there will be plenty of people calling for the PPM to include C4C members in the next Cabinet, or at least to “work with them” over the next four years. But this would rob us of the most important of parliament’s checks and balances – an effective opposition.

A word on how the Westminster-style parliamentary system works: if the C4C members choose to sit in opposition to the government, this does not mean that they must align themselves with McKeeva Bush's UDP party or that they support the man. The opposition benches are not necessarily unified but are made up of any and all parties that are not aligned with the majority party government. So, for the new C4C members the decision is whether they join the government benches, where their job is to support the government, or whether they choose to sit in opposition, where their job is to scrutinise and question government decisions.

So, what we should have – what we desperately need – is a government dictating policy but an opposition that demands explanations and justifications for those policies within the House, the most public of forums, and has the ability to debate the issues knowledgably and intelligently. The three C4C members – two lawyers and an accountant – are eminently qualified to take on this role, which is vital for the democratic process to work as it should.

Hands up all those who would like to see Roy McTaggart on the Public Accounts Committee drilling government officials on government audit reports!

In addition, a good opposition will be a viable competing party in the next election, another way to hold government to account. If they all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya", who are they going to campaign against?

I agree with 101 (Don't stop the party) that the C4C should, now that the election is over, stop pretending that they are not a party because they clearly are – and that’s a good thing. The three members of C4C who have been elected and some of those who weren’t may well be part of a future government, but not this one. Right now, we need them to spend the next four years holding the Progressives to account because if Roy McTaggart, Tara Rivers and Winston Connolly do not, then who will?

Sadly, here in the Cayman Islands the party system, where opposing sides of the Chamber debate issues, has been hijacked by McKeeva Bush, who turned it into personality politics – opposition to him is never because people think he is wrong or that his policies are insane, it is always because they don’t like him, hate him, are conspiring against him, etc. But where politics is in the hands of more mature individuals – and I believe both the C4C and PPM newly elected or re-elected members are just that – they can debate the issues of the day but remain courteous, and even be friends outside their political differences.

McKeeva Bush will undoubtedly continue to argue bombastically within the LA, but the charges of fraud and corruption that he faces, with possibly more to come, have compromised his ability to be an effective leader of the opposition. They will undoubtedly be a huge and growing distraction (which is why politicians in his position usually step aside) and an embarrassment to the country, as well as severely casting doubt on the integrity of his party. I hope that his new party colleague, Bernie Bush, will prove an effective MLA because there doesn’t seem much hope that his old one, Captain Eugene Ebanks, will become one any time soon. However, I suspect that the UDP is irreparably fractured and will not survive the next four years anyway.

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, former UDP and now the solitary PNA member in the House, has repeatedly stated lately that this is her last term. An MLA for five terms, she has been a minister several times, as well as speaker, deputy premier and, finally, premier. That doesn’t leave much to aspire to in politics and nothing to prove, so I predict that she will not make too many waves during this administration.

The C4C should be the new opposition party with Roy McTaggart the new opposition leader but that cannot happen if they continue to maintain that they are independents supported by an advocacy group.

The point of having political parties is so that politicians and would-be politicians can join forces with others who share the same economic and political philosophies (ergo, the parties must have different philosophies) with the goal of forming a government to collectively move the country in the direction they think it should go.  I believe that these differences between the C4C under McTaggart and the PPM under Alden McLaughlin will become increasingly apparent over the next four years – how to tax and how to spend, a minimum wage, immigration policies, for example.

Because of these fundamental differences, coalition governments are invariably weak, whereas a strong unified government with a mandate from the people can accomplish more. But the opposition benches have an important and powerful part to play in this democratic process: to scrutinise government on our behalf and if it fails to deliver its objectives, to offer themselves to the people as an alternative government.

Isn’t that what happened in May 2013?

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Don’t stop the party

| 23/05/2013 | 30 Comments

Wherever you stand on this morning's election results, one thing is clear: party politics is here to stay. The C4C had a good showing but truth be told there were only 4 "real" independents that won seats last night: Ezzard, Winston, Tara and Roy. The others, while loosely speaking are independent, are either until recently members of a party or just individuals dominant in small or single member constituencies (such as Arden and Julie). Ezzard escapes that description only because he left the party system over 5 years ago.

Political parties got 12 of the 18 available seats (and if you remove Julie and Arden from that, the argument becomes even more compelling). One party was strong and the other as expected very weak. But both benefited from the block votes from the vote straight strategy and this was clear as independents and newbies just got swamped slowly but surely as party members got lots of "coat tail help" throughout the evening.

But while parties may be here to stay, the results also show us that the party concept can only be demonstrated on a national scale with one of the existing parties, that being the PPM. The UDP, as has been charged for several years now, proved that it remains a party for one district only with last nights results.

We also learned another important "party" lesson from the C4C: that clearly if they did not work together (ironically just like a party) they would not have had the success they achieved this morning. So the days of sole individuals working alone with their CI$35,000 budget seem to be behind us. Everyone now knows, based on the campaign, ads and posters, etc, that the C4C did not operate like seven sole individuals and anyone who tried that strategy (aside from those in single or near single member constituencies) was left in the dust.

The C4C, if it is to continue, must reconcile its anti-party message with its clear display of group/party type strategy and operational structure and it may be able to grow as a credible institution. Its confusion likely hurt several of the candidates, and if you look at the facts closely, it must discount some of the credit that it may rush to take regarding the success of some of its winners (for example, some say Tara's win in West Bay is a surprise, but we must recall that she did extremely well "all on her own" in that district two terms ago).

As for the UDP, it must find a future with a leader of integrity, strip itself of those members considered "baggage", and become far more professional as an organisation (hopefully a democratically run one). All of this will require almost gutting the organisation with a few exceptions.

The PPM have demonstrated that they are a very well organised political machine. They won and they now have a lot of hard work to do.

We now wait to see how the horse trading exercise goes but should not expect too much fireworks because Alden only needs one independent to step up to assist him in forming a government. But as the country's next premier, he will now need to demonstrate that, after all, he is the leader that many have charged he has not been during the past few years. The country has taught us since the introduction of the party system that it simply swings from one party to another if the country does not improve.

Alden and his team run the very same risk that the pendulum swings the other way in four years if they cannot get a grip on the current extremely difficult challenges that this country faces.The switch did not occur in 2009 because of corruption within the PPM (because integrity remains one of their strengths), but as we all recall, it did occur because of failure to manage the economy and government finances effectively.

We should all wish them luck so that the Cayman Islands situation improves.

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Alden is next CI premier

| 23/05/2013 | 294 Comments

014_0.JPG(CNS): With the PPM taking four seats in both George Town and Bodden Town, and Moses Kirkconnell being returned in the Sister Islands, the PPM will be able to form the next government with Alden McLaughlin at the helm. The UDP were wiped out in the capital, with the C4C taking two George Town seats while Mike Adam, the only UDP candidate with a hope throughout the count, fell at the final hurdle. The George Town count was announced outside the Family Life Centre at around 8:30am Thursday as Cayman could breath a sigh of relief that it had a stable administration and was not facing the prospect of horse-trading or backroom deals, with both Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean willing to back a PPM administration, securing the party a majority in Cayman's new 18-seat parliament.

In George Town the party's patriarch, Kurt Tibbetts, was returned as first elected member with 3,470 votes, while C4C's Roy McTaggart came in second with 2,160 votes and PPM Leader Alden McLaughlin third with 2,145. Marco Archer (PPM) was fourth, Winston Connolly (C4C) fifth and Joey Hew (PPM) held up the rear, pushing out the incumbent Mike Adam to take the sixth seat as the UDP's support disappeared in the capital.

The long wait followed a tense count in West Bay, Bodden Town and George Town, where the result was very close in all three districts. Earlier in the evening Miller and McLean had both achieved comfortable majorities in their constituencies and PPM Deputy leader Moses Kirkconnell soared passed Juliana O'Connor-Connolly to take 75% of the vote in the Brac.

In the critical battle ground of Bodden Town the PPM had a clean sweep but a close race to push out Theresa Pitcairn (UDP) and Charles Clifford (IND). Incumbent PNA candidates Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour both lost their seats, and although the UDP candidates fared better than the interim government ministers, they failed to get a single seat for the party.

In West Bay Tara Rivers made history when she rocked the UDP boat and turfed out Velma Hewitt, who came in fifth. The C4C candidate was returned as the second elected member in an emphatic rejection by West Bayers of the straight vote. The PPM did poorly in the district but so did the PNA incumbents Rolston Anglin and Cline Glidden, who also lost their seats despite their focused campaign on the former premier and allegations of more corruption.

The UDP were wiped out in every district except West Bay and will now occupy only three seats on the opposition benches along with the only remaining member of the PNA, Juliana O'Connor-Connolly. It is not clear if the three C4C candidates will join Bush across the chamber or whether they will be seeking to support the PPM government.

How McLaughlin will secure his premiership is not yet clear but he has a number of options, which will likely include offering the speaker's job to Ezzard Miller, who is the most knowledgeable member of  the Legislative Assembly when it comes to parliamentary procedures and would be an obvious choice. 

With the PPM in government, this is the last time that Cayman will have to go through a full general election under the multi-member system, which is far from user friendly, as the party has committed to introduce one man, one vote and single member constituencies. 

See full results here.

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Alden is the next premier

| 23/05/2013 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With the PPM taking 4 seats in both George Town and Bodden Town as well as Moses Kirkconnel being returned in the Sister Islands the PPM should be able to form the next government and Alden McLaughlin will be premier. The UDP were wiped out in the capital with the C4C taking two George Town seats.

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PPM set to take GT

| 23/05/2013 | 49 Comments

(CNS) Updated: With the back and forth in the capital continuing, Kurt Tibbetts was still holding steady at the top of the poll at 7am Thursday morning, leading what was shaping up to be a victory for the PPM in George Town. The result was held up by the last box but with over 93% of the count complete, C4C candidate Roy McTaggart was still in second place while the Progressive's leader was secure in third place just a few votes behind him. The PPM's Marco Archer was safe in fourth place ahead of C4C's Winston Connolly, who was in fifth place, and Joey Hew was keeping up the rear for the Progressives in sixth, while Mike Adam remained outside the top six as the gap widened between him and Hew.

See the results so far here

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PPM sweeps Bodden Town

| 23/05/2013 | 37 Comments

0zzie.JPG(CNS): Anthony Eden, Ozzie Bodden, Wayne Panton and Al Suckoo made a clean sweep in Bodden Town when the result came in at around 4:15am. The numbers positioned the Progressive as the potential new government but with the George Town count still underway, who will be the new premier remains in question. As the returning officers were announcing in districts there were no statistics immediately available at the command centre but the race was understood to be close in Bodden Town for the final seat. Meanwhile, the count continued in the capital where it was shaping up to be a straight head to head fight between the C4C and PPM.

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