Mission queried criteria

| 24/06/2013

Election Observer 25 (243x300).jpg(CNS): Long before the challenge to Tara Rivers' election to office last month was filed in the Cayman Islands court, the election observers' mission had already said that some of the qualifications for candidates taking part in the election were unreasonable. Mario Galea, a member of the Maltese parliament and the head of the international observers' mission, pointed to both the period of residency required before the poll and the ambiguity over allegiance to another power or state, when so many people are born overseas as a result of medical need or because of Cayman’s multicultural community, where many locals are born to a parent who may be from elsewhere.

The mission noted in its preliminary report that the required “durations of residence in the Cayman Islands before the nomination appear to be unreasonably limiting the right to stand for elective office.” Speaking at a press briefing before their departure, Galea said the requirement was too strict.

in addition, the mission said they believed that the issue of dual passports was also troubling because it, too, could undermine the democratic process and because the ambiguity of the language in the constitution regarding what is allegiance through one’s own act had led to the Elections Office apparently treating people differently.

"The lack of clarity in the Constitution Order 2009 on what constitutes 'his or her own act' led the Elections Office, which has the authority to initially decide on eligibility of candidates, to make different decisions in similar cases. It should be noted that many Caymanians were born outside the Cayman Islands or to parent(s) with other citizenship and therefore either possess or have right to some other citizenship,” the preliminary report notes.

The international election mission is expected to submit its full report in July as the observers had promised to complete the full report within two months of the 22 May election. However, with the Rivers' case set to be heard, the report may not be ready in time for the courtroom showdown.

Rivers, the new education minister, who is required to have her submissions regarding the challenge filed with the courts by the end of next week, is fighting a challenge on both of the issues raised by the observers.

Although she is qualified to have a US passport by virtue of her birth in that country, it is not clear if she has renewed and used the passport since becoming of age.

Richard Christian, who had planned to run in Bodden Town on the PNA ticket with the former interim cabinet members, was prevented from doing so by election officials as a result of him holding and using a current US passport and his failure to renounce his US citizenship before Nomination Day. George Town candidate Sharon Roulstone, on the other hand, who also once held a US passport as a result of parentage, formally renounced her allegiance and gave up her US passport ahead of the national poll and was able to run with the C4C.

The residency situation is also ambiguous in Rivers' case as she was absent from Cayman in the seven years preceding Nomination Day. Between 2006 and 2009 she was employed as a legal associate with a London-based law firm. However, she was also studying while in the UK. Under the election law there are several exceptions to the requirement to be resident for seven years before an election, including being a student, though it is not clear if that also applies to those who are studying while in full time employment. However, Rivers may also be able to argue that her post in London was part of her professional legal training.

Kent McTaggart, another would-be candidate who had hoped to run on the Coalition for Cayman ticket, was disqualified by election officials in Bodden Town because of his long absence from the island prior to the election for medical reasons. However, because it was not his own personal health issue but a close family member’s medical requirements which kept McTaggart overseas, he was not allowed to run.

The issue of whether Rivers is or is not qualified to hold office will now be decided by the courts as both teams of lawyers argue the finer details of the elections law and the constitution.

Rivers was challenged in Grand Court on the final day of the three week deadline provided for any voter to dispute the qualification of an elected candidate. The challenge came from John Hewitt, the husband of Velma Hewitt, the UDP candidate who came in fifth in the West Bay race.

Rivers’ election to office, however, was emphatic. Running on the Coalition for Cayman platform, along with running mate Mervin Smith, Rivers polled 1,483 votes, more than 44% of the district, and voters were well aware that Rivers had been absent during the seven years prior to the election as it was reported in the local media. It was also reported that Rivers had failed to sign a voluntary declaration certificate relating to qualification, created by the Elections Office, before voters went to the polls.

Despite the democratic support that Rivers received in the district, where she was raised and still lives, the choice of voters could still be overturned if the challenger can prove she was not qualified in the first place. If the challenge succeeds, however, there will be a by-election as it will be difficult for Hewitt to argue that his wife would have been the recipient of Rivers' votes.

See election mission report.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Politics

About the Author ()

Comments (43)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unless you have gone to the US consulate and told them you are renouncing US citizenship, the US government still considers you under a duty of allegiance regardless of what any other land’s law says about it. They can subpoena any US citizen anywhere in the world to appear before the US Congress and force you to testify about anything, even if you swore an oath of secrecy about it to the Queen. Doesn’t matter if you don’t “consider yourself” a US citizen or if you “never used your passport as an adult”. Until you tell the US you are no longer one of their citizens, you are a BOMB in the Cayman Islands that the US can choose to blow up at any time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This version of our constitution was what was drafted and accepted! Sad no one cared to bring these opinions to light earlier. But it remains as is UNTIL changed. And I dare not believe that this would be altered to provide for ones government agenda, now should it? Let her go and see if she will be returned in 4 years. Simple. Sad scenario for her and her supporters I know. But if this constitution is in any way altered at this time, this could signal the start of something ugly. UDP will not and SHOULD not back down on this, the others wouldn’t! Rules are rules. Lesson learnt. Examples given.

    And hey, T/C and Jamaica just went through the same things so figuring this out shouldn’t be hard.

    Move on. The courts have other more serious issue to deal with.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I will preface what I am about to say by saying that I hope Tara Rivers wins this case. I say this because she is more qualified by leaps and bounds that who is seeking to replace her and also because it is glaringly obvious by the number of votes in her favour that she is who the majority of voters in West Bay want to represent them. That said, I feel that both Ms. Rivers and the Hewitt Petitioners had the option to deal with these matters prior to Ms. River's nomination. In my opinion she could have opted to report her circumstances regarding the passport as Richard Christian did and the Hewitts couldcertainly have challenged her prior to her nomination and/or election day. Of course if Mrs. Hewitt had been lucky enough to win it is unlikely we would be having this dicussion and this distraction from good work being done these Islands.

    • Blessed says:

      Don't matter who wants the seat.  Right is Right and Tara is wrong for taking this risk.

    • Anonymous says:

      Stop being so sanctimonious nd let justice take its course.Cha.

  4. Anonymous says:

    CNS, please note that to the best of my knowledge Tara Rivers lives in a condo near Galleria Plaza, doesn't live in West Bay and the register of voters indicate she is not even registered in her own district.


    She continues to make people 'see' what she wants them to see, but I am definitely not a UDP member/fan, but let's keep things in perspective.


    If truth be told, if it was reversed and a UDP member was elected based on same qualifications re residency as Tara, and the UDP member challenged the constitution in order to remain in power, we'd all be talking about power hungry people. 

    How can we truly have a transparent government if a MLA has already shown so little regard for her people and our Constitution?

    I am so embarrassed I supported her. Live and learn I guess. But last thing we need is to encourage a 'she-McKeeva'.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is nothing in your post that would lead me to believe that you ever supported Tara.

      What difference does it make whether she lives in a condo on WB Road and not in WB? I assume the voters who voted her in as 2nd elected member for WB were fully aware of that and yet they massively supported her. I assume that you were also aware. Why bring this up now as if it has some relevance? 

      She has not said or done anything up to this point to cause me to believe that she has "little regard for her people and the constitution". Quite to the contrary, when she was asked by the PPM to join their Cabinet as a Minister she consulted her people. There was no evidence of "power hunger". I have not seen any evidence of her "challenging the constitution in order to remain in power". Lawyers do disagree over the proper interpretation of the constitution. The court will have to sort it out.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Lady could only get second place running against McKeeva Bush with 11 felony charges against him and the whole Island campeigning against him. I would stop throwing her 2nd place finish as some kind of badge of honor.

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh, but it is. It is huge! WB is Jonestown after all. NO ONE has managed to do that before, and it came as a shock to the UDP. She was only 100 votes behind McKeeva and if the votes had not been split among so many she would have surpassed him.   

  5. Olivia Pope, the gladiator. says:

    This may be a little off the subject matter, but since we are discussing the issue of who may be elected as a legislator in Cayman, I would like to mention another issue which I find troubling and that is the  OMOV and the recommendation of the boundary commission. I did not vote in the referundum last year, but it was not because I did not support OMOV, but rather I did not agree with the recommendations of the boundary commission. Its  recommendations are unfair and lacks equality. The unfairness and inequality to the voter would be worse than what we have now. My suggestion is that new boundaries be established. The districts should be referred to as District 1, District 2, District 3 and so on. Forget about West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town and so on, but make each district as close as possible with the same number of voters. Land mass is of no consequence. It is WRONG and undemocratic for a person to be elected with only 300 votes in one district and in another district it takes a person 1000 votes to get elected. It is all well and good for the government to say it will bring in OMOV, but that by itself is not enough. Equality of voting power must go hand in hand with OMOV.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The exception is “(b) attendance as a student at any educational establishment”

  7. Anonymous says:

    please keep the rules as is.. let the LA remain CAYMANIAN! 

    • Just Commentin' says:

      Yeah! Sure. Right. Ok…so can you define "Caymanian" so we know what you are talking about?

      • Anonymous says:

        You know, those people that you constantly disparage. Don't play dumb.

    • Anonymous says:

      Reducing the 7 year residency requirement won't make it less Caymanian.

    • Disgusted! says:

      Please tell me what a Caymanian is,  beg you?  Is it a name, is it a color, is it an accent…  Please, Please tell me!

      • Anonymous says:

        It s a legal immigration status clearly defined in our immigration law, and in the words of Mr. Benson Ebanks in 1971 when the concept was created, a label by which certain types of British people could be distinguished from others in these Islands, because all Caymanians are British by Nationality.

        oh what, oh what, have Mac and his cronies done!

        • Anonymous says:

          Aha, but that is not so. Not all Caymanians have British Nationality.  

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, but largely because of Mac and his cronies. All Caymanians did have British Nationality. The cabinet status grants have totally screwed us –  not least because of them we have thousands of Caymanians who are not even allowed Cayman Islands passports, because they are not British Overseas Territories Citizens. 

            We also now have persons who have Cayman Passports who are not Caymanian and have no right to live or work here.

            Get your head around that as you try to plan for a stable future.


    • anonymous says:

      In most countries, the bar is set very high with relation to citizenship and residency requirements. I find it insulting that the "independent" overseas observers, Maltese and otherwise, should be "weighing in" on our Caymanian election laws or constitution. A financial article read recently attributes Malta's surge in business to funds relocating from the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers. I'll take their opinion with a grain of salt.

    • Jonas Dwyer says:

      AMEN AND AMEN so mote it be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    who cares?…we live in a place where the majority of residents can't vote and have no representation…… any comment on that mario?

    • Anonymous says:

      The majority of the residents who can't vote are work permit holders who should NOT be allowed to vote. Certainly, unless you are a US citizen you are not allowed to vote in the U.S. Canada too. 

      • Anonymous says:

        why should a tax paying resident be denied his/hers democratic right?

        • Anonymous says:

          Talk about about circular reasoning. The point is you don't have a democratic right to vote in somneone else's country. Vote in your own.  

    • Anonymous says:

      The majority of residents you refer to Mon, 06/24/2013 – 12:07, have the option to return to their homelands and vote as is the case for non-citizens living in countries globally. You are guest workers and not citizens therefore you cannot and should not be allowed to vote, either here or anywhere else, other than the countries of whom you are a citizen.

      • Anonymous says:

        all i said is that we are residents……sorry if that offended you…

    • Anonymous says:

      Mario said, "Please, you must exercise your right to democracy by voting in your own country. This is easily done in most countries by way of postal ballot.  Otherwise, until you return home, please respect the wishes and rights of the people in the country where you are a GUEST."

    • Anonymous says:

      And how many Africans ate in England that can’t vote do you hear of them crying down the government. Would suggest if you are that interested in our politics go back home. Our leaders represent all of the people living on this island, we will not be over run. Kapish.

      • Life Is Life says:

        Bless.  You think "Kapish" is a word.  That is the beauty of the online world.  You get to "meet" stupid people you would never normally encounter.

  9. Slowpoke says:

    This constitution was not written "by the people for the people" but, by special interest groups protecting their turf and agendas.  So, as far as they are concerned, too bad some people had to get thrown under the bus…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sounds a little like rules drafted to favour a few instead of those who are qualified to do the job…time for change!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Since the mission report proceeds on the basis that  being Caymanian means that you possess a particular Citizenship, when that is simply not the case, the entire review loses credibility.

    The issue would not arise if Caymanian was defined as a BOTC with Caymanian Status (which is in effect what the historic definition always was).  Cabinet status grant recipients in high office objected to that definition remaining and it was abandoned. Now you can be Caymanian AND be whatever citizenship you want without having also to be a BOTC or British – so now we are in a mess, with thosands of Caymanians not even having the Queen as their Queen, and no clear line of allegiance to anyone or anything.

    We should not have to be exposed to being Governed by Americans or Hondurans or  Canadians or Jamaicans for that matter who do not even have dual citizenship. That is what is about to happen.

    Change it back!.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Unreasonable or not rules are rules and Ms. Rivers is not above the rules.  Don't like the rules change them so it won't impact another individual running next time, its too late for her.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Petitioner does not have to prove much.  It seems common ground that Rivers would not satisfy the residency criteria unless she falls within the study exception.  The burden of showing that she fell within an exception falls on her not the Petitioner.  This reporting is hardly neutral.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no such thing as a neutral press in Cayman. Each editor has their own agenda, be it colonial, evangelical, atheistic, communist, conservative etc or a combination thereof and they report/delete/add/omit as necessary. Get used to it. Sooner or later someone will get sick and tired of it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Basically, it is a Term Limit Policy…on Caymanians then ?

  15. noname says:

    In other words its Caymankind.