Archive for April 26th, 2009

Late gazette does not qualify UDP candidates

Late gazette does not qualify UDP candidates

| 26/04/2009 | 118 Comments

(CNS): Despite the fact that an extraordinary supplementary gazette has been published by GIS citing details of government contracts held by both Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour’s  companies, the two UDP candidates remain, according to the constitution, disqualified. However, as yet no challenge has been made to their right to continue on the hustings. Although many have expressed their concerns over this off the record, it seems none of the candidates are prepared to undermine their own campaign with the distraction of a legal battle. (Scotland & Seymour far right at UDP rally)

According to the late Gazette Extraordinary No. 27/2009 published on Friday, 24 April, four days late as required by the Constitution stated in section 19(g), Scotland has published his interest in Advanced Road Construction and Paving Ltd. (ARCP) with current government contracts for the parking lot for Government Office Accommodation Project, the repair and upgrade to football fields, the reconstruction of Dorcy Drive, and a subcontract to Royal Construction which is working on the George Town Library. He has also published an interest in MCM Consulting Ltd, which has contracts with the NRA for the East West Arterial. Meanwhile, Dwayne “John John” Seymour has published his interest in APS Airport Professional Services, which has a contract with Cayman Airways.

Both men have stated openly that the failure to publish their government contracts before the deadline was an oversight and not a deliberate attempt to deceive. Their legal status as candidates, however, is still in question as even though they indicated that they have not broken the spirit of this constitutional requirement, they have still not complied.

Following stories across the media about the situation, the UDP released an official statement from the two candidates on Friday in which they said they wished to assure the public, and in particular the people of Bodden Town, that they had made full and frank declarations of all their business interests along with all the other candidates in their Declaration of Interests forms filed prior to Nomination Day in the register of interests at the Legislative Assembly.

However, the register of interests does not require candidates to list their government contracts that those businesses may be involved with. To ensure that the voters can easily identify and understand what government and public contracts those businesses have, and any potential conflict of interest a candidate would therefore face if elected, the Constitution requires all candidates to fully disclose those details in a public gazette.

Scotland said that it had recently been brought to his attention (despite wide publication of the fact at the beginning of the year by the Elections Office)  that he was also required to gazette his contracts with the government, under section 19 (g) of the Cayman Islands constitution, but said that his road paving company is widely known to have government contracts and further pointed out that this information was already in the public domain as all government contracts are a matter of public record.

“The short delay in meeting the technical requirements of section 19 of the Constitution was an honest oversight rather than any intent to conceal all such interests, as can be seen from my Declaration of Interests,” Scotland added.  “In order to ensure that there is no doubt as to what contracts with the government are held by any company in which I am a director or manager I have made the necessary arrangements to ensure that they are published at the earliest opportunity in an extraordinary gazette.”

He said he had been advised that the late gazetting of the contracts does not impact his ability to stand as a candidate and to contest the May 2009 General Elections. The Constitution, however, states otherwise.  “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,….”

While the Governor’s Office seem to have agreed to the publication of the late gazette, Alan Drury, of the Governor’s Office, confirmed to  CNS last week that the Constitution would not be suspended.

Therefore, if it is not to be suspended in according with the constitution the two candidates remain in breach of it and remian constitutionally disqualified. Moreover, even if the candidates continue on to Election Day without facing a challenge from other candidates or registered voters, who are also entitled to challenge their qualification according to the constitution, it is very likely that other candidates in Bodden Town will challenge either one if they were to poll enough votes to gain a seat.  

Seymour noted that it is possible that there are other candidates unaware of this separate requirement in the Constitution, thinking that once they had completed and filed their declaration of interest form they had complied with all requirements.  He also said that he has no contracts with the government, although it is with the nationally (i.e. government) owned airline. “I have a contract with Cayman Airways that I will publicly gazette out of an over abundance of caution.” explained Seymour.

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Wally backs Conservation bill

Wally backs Conservation bill

| 26/04/2009 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Describing the environment as a precious thing that needed to be preserved, Walling Whittaker declared his full support on Saturday night (25 April) for the National Conservation Bill which he said was languishing in obscurity. “The National Conservation Bill needs to be passed,” he said. “We need to stop paying lip service to the environment and pass this legislation.” He also called for a full recycling programme, which he said would require a change in behaviour but one those who loved their country would be willing to make. He also promised to get people back in work and predicted 5-5-5 for the elction result.

Speaking to George Town voters on Marina Drive on Saturday evening, the independent candidate said he fully supported the National Conservation Bill exactly as it was proposed and wanted to see its passage as soon as possible. He also noted that the George Town dump, aka ‘Mount Trashmore’, was getting “higher and higher, stinkier and stinkier and uglier and uglier.”

Criticising the incumbents, though not insulting them, on a number of familiar topics, from unemployment to the lack of affordable housing, Whittaker said the most important thing and the very first job he would see to when elected was the auditing of the various outstanding annual reports across the government ministries and departments.

“How can we run a country if we don’t know how much money we have?” he asked. Although he said not everyone and everything in the current administration was bad, he said it was important to elect people that could get things done and that the message from the parties that independents couldn’t get anything accomplished without them was nonsense.  

He predicted that the voters would return five candidates from each of the parties and five independents, which he said would mean the parties could not do anything without the independents and the people would get a coalition. “If you put enough independents into the Legislative Assembly you will change the face of politics and send the message that you are tired of empty promises,” he said, adding that the clear advantage of independent candidates was that they answered directly to the people no on else especially not a party and a party leader.  

He presented his case for a national lottery, pension reinvestment, tackling crime by recruiting old Caymanian officers back to the RCIPS and the idea of buying land when it became available for Caymanians to buy back from government at an affordable rate. He said that he had neversaid he would prevent Caymanians from selling their land to foreigners or anyone else as had been attributed to him recently, but his intention, he said, was to try and buy good value land when it became available that could be sold back to Caymanians. Otherwise he said future generations would never be able to afford to buy a piece of their own country.

Above all, however, he promised the people jobs. As former director of employment relations he said he know about getting people in work and that he would develop a manpower board that would take over the issue of work permits and ensure that the right balance was found between the 27,000 work permit holders and those Caymanians who were being laid off on a weekly basis.  “I know what it takes to make our people employable,” he said. “Tell your friends that Walling will get them the jobs.”

He asked the enthusiastic and not insignificant crowd of people to vote for number 12, and said he had the solutions that the parties were already borrowing for their manifestos. He said he didn’t mind, though, as he wanted to help but he did wish they would give him credit at least and say that they were Walling’s ideas.

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Ignorance is not bliss

Ignorance is not bliss

| 26/04/2009 | 8 Comments

One rather worrying commonality emerging from this election campaign is the failure of many candidates on all sides to have done their homework or to really understand the role they are asking for.

While the issue with UDP candidates Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour has clearly demonstrated that our existing and would-be politicians are unfamiliar with the country’s Constitution, this incident is not the only one where would-be and existing members of the Legislative Assembly have revealed a serious lack of knowledge during the campaign of past, present and future legislation and policy.

Candidates have criticised ministers without seeming to have the faintest idea what the policies of the last four years have been and made glaringly inaccurate statements that existing research and data contradicts. Others have admitted to not reading the proposed new Constitution but still telling voters to vote no, and many have demonstrated a clear ignorance of the policy developments and reviews that have taken place over the last decade or so in the Cayman Islands on everything, from implementing a national lottery to what legislation has and has not been passed.

While ‘the man in the street’ may not find it easy to follow the twists and turns of legislative research, development and implementation, the voters have a right to expect that their existing and would-be legislators should have done that work and understood it. At the very least they should be aware of the policies that have been put in place and the laws that have been passed over the last four years. Without that knowledge they are not only misleading the voters about what has happened over the last term, but they are wasting campaign time criticising things that may not have happened. Moreover, and crucially, they may fail to see things that really do need to be criticised and addressed.

Ignorance on the part of any would-be politician is simply unacceptable and certainly not bliss for the electorate. The country’s legislators don’t all need to have PhD’s or be political science geniuses, they simply have to know the legislative history of their own country. After all, the cry from all the candidates is that they are doing all this, giving up their lives, to serve and to make a change — but if they have so little understanding of current policies and laws how can they know what they want to change?  

Two candidate’s campaigns have been seriously broughtinto question quite simply because they, their party colleagues and their advisors had not read the most fundamentally important document to any potential politician – the country’s Constitution. These two candidates may very well pay the highest price for that. However, voters need to understand that many of the other candidates on their ballot papers may not have read the Constitution either or any of the new legislation passed during the last four years or even beyond.

It is therefore something that all of Cayman’s 15,000 plus registered voters should consider when they go the polls next month as they decide where to put their X or Xs. Is this candidate going to read the proposed legislation that will come through the Legislative Assembly during their time in office and look out for my interests, or will they simply rubber stamp laws because they have neither the grey matter nor the inclination to read what could sometimes be complex and difficult documents?

Shouting on the hustings and criticising everything that moves is all well and good, but being a member of the Legislative Assembly or a minster requires brains and some common sense. Not only do law makers decide what should be done, they need to approve the language and details of how it will be done. Quite simply, if the people’s representatives are not capable of reading and understanding the laws, they are not serving the people at all but doing their constituents a serious disservice.   

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