Ignorance is not bliss

| 26/04/2009

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 brought into 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 eitheror 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.   

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

About the Author ()

Comments (8)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    This commentary is so true.  How can these candidates come to the people offering so much criticism and so little real information about what has been going on in the government over the past 4 years? They claim the government didn’t do anything, then in the next breath they say the government spent too much money, if they didn’t do anything how can they spend too much money – which is it? Give credit where it is due. Every government makes mistakes and this one is no exception.  It is very disappointing for seemingly sensible and educated people to be spewing such foolishness just to get votes from the uninformed.

    As for those candidates who are saying ‘vote no’ on the draft constitution but can’t tell us why we should vote no, I say shame on you!! If you want to represent the people of the Cayman Islands you need to know the document backwards and forward, including the proposals in the draft. 

    Candidates this is what we want to know from you:

    • What areas of the constitution you do not agree with and why,
    • Tell us what existing laws you would seek to amend and why,
    • Tell us what motions you would seek to bring to the House and why,
    • Give us concrete examples of what you will do to improve the economy,
    • What would you do to get the unemployed back into the work force and
    • Tell us how you will tackle our social issues.

    Voters you need to wake up! There are so many outlets to receive news these days, everyone should be informed and stop being misled.  Read the newspapers, listen to the LA broadcasts, check out the government website and listen or watch the press briefings, this is the only way to be informed. 

    Thank you again Wendy for this commentary, it hits the nail right on the head!!


    • Anonymous says:

      Thank God the comments on this thread are sensible.

      To:  Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/27/2009 – 17:44 

      You are so right about what we need to hear from the candidates.   

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wendy, your commentary is so correct. Hopefully, unlike the Vincent Frederick fall-out, you will not be criticized or worse, denigrated, for doing your job effectively and objectively. I am Caymanian born and very proud to be Caymanian but I am equally proud to have been educated overseas (including high school) and thankful for that opportunity which has blessed me with a better standard of education, a broader outlook and the appreciation and acceptance of the benefits of some foreign influence. I must be cautious here but I say some foreign influence because, while I am not one to knock foreigners just for being foreign, I have witnessed and experienced the prejudicial behaviour of some foreigners in this country and therefore I can understand why some Caymanians take a general stance against foreigners.   However, I digress.

    I do not recall ever being as embarrassed by some of my fellow Caymanians who have chosen to declare themselves as candidates as I am during this campaign. Of course it is our right to seek public office if we are not a part of any excluded demographic but we should know our personal abilities and limitations.  Some of the candidates have simply given the type of foreigner I mentioned above justification for their own prejudices against Caymanians.  Quite simply, an ignoramus is an ignoramus regardless of nationality and this campaign season they have seemed to crawl out of the woodwork. Reminds me of the slew of candidates who became our elected Government back in 1976. It is indeed a sad commentary on us as a people if we elect ‘leaders’ like that – but we once did!   Therefore it is no surpirse that we have candidates who don’t have a clue about the Constitution and other critical issues seeking our votes.

    Currently, many of the Government incumbents appear inept, most of the Opposition wouldn’t know honest governance if it slapped them in the face and many of the new candidates are either morons or are in the race to enrichen themselves per previous examples. Sandra Catron and a few others provide a breath of fresh air in the current morass but alas, I fear, not enough to make a difference.  Not a promising selection in any given constituency.

    The problem is that most of the well educated, well suited persons of integrity who could be good political candidates and indeed good elected representatives choose not to get involved in the dirty clown show that has become Caymanian politics. As  a proud Caymanian, it hurts me to have to admit this and stay in the background.  


  3. SM Jackson says:

    This commentary is so true.  It amazes me to hear how our wannabe politicians blatantly twist the truth and ignore the facts about the tremendous amount of work that has been done by the current Government.  People need to understand the importance of keeping themselves regularly updated and aware of what is going on in the Country in order that they are able to make informed decisions for themselves every four years and not rely on the kind of nonsense I’ve been hearing coming from the mouths of this latest set of so called politicians…that is for sure a recipe for disaster and will take us down the wrong road.  Unfortunately many people do not keep themselves informed…but they are the first to criticize. I know without a doubt that this Government has accomplished more than any other has.  And that is because I keep myself informed – I read the Newspapers thoroughly, I listen to re-broadcasts of the LA sessions, I listen to the weekly Government Press Briefings, I get involved in my Community, etc etc.  This Government has been dealing with issues that are not just facing us at the moment but they are also ensuring that medium term and long term issues are also being dealt with…sadly, most people only see far as the now!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The lack of knowledge was very evident in the debates as well. To be honest the best debator I’ve heard thus far was Sandra Catron.

    She even brought to the public’s attention about the Summit of Americas and after she brought it up it come up in the media. Our current government and many of these want to be politiians simply are not making the grade.

    I would give many of them an F! How can you not have taken the time to read the constitution, write your manifesto etc. Preparation and a well defined plan is needed. Anyone who does not  have this simply will not get my vote any longer.

    Take for example Mr. Eden – after 17 years of being in the LA – the best source of new revenue he could come up with was arts and crafts and mango jam? Give me a break! None of those things are new nor can they provide sufficient revenue to sustain even 1 district much less an entire country.

    Forwarding thinking not ass backwards is what we need.

  5. squadie says:

    Our two Parties motto You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. With all these political strategist and so call top notch attorneys who are party chairpersons Yet they seem to over look many many important issues one beingthe peoples say. There only concerns are obtaining power and controlling the wealth and maintaining their family legacy of wealth.  These people do not give two hoots about or constitution. That is something for the poor people.

  6. Judy Singh says:

    Thank you for calling attention to this grave matter Wendy.  It is astonishing how many people wag their tongues for hours on end on topics of which they know nothing.  Unfortunately, politicians often need only sound like they know what they’re talking about to get elected.  Sometimes they only need billboards or long fingers to point at the incumbents.  Either way, our little community is a complex one and needs people in office who can read as well as they speak and speak as well as they listen.

    Too many people think being contrary is the same as being critical.  It’s not.  Contrary for contrary’s sake is as useless as voting someone into office who is too lazy (or too dim) to read legislation.

  7. Rev Nicholas Sykes says:

    "Others have admitted to not reading the proposed new Constitution but still telling voters to vote no"

    Wendy, you are absolutely right.

    However, ignorance and extravagant negative expressions about the new Constitution are not confined to election candidates. The newspapers have had quite a number of contributors who clearly do not know what they are talking about when it comes to the new constitution – and then irresponsibly advocating a No vote.

    I hope that voters will study the Constitution carefully, read what the Constitutional Review Secretariat have said about it, and study any other genuinely analytical articles about it, before anybody takes the very serious step of contributing to a debacle by voting No.

    I have done these things, and I will be voting Yes. I also will not be voting for any candidate that does not have a serious knowledge about the new constitution. I hope others will join me in this.