One Man One Vote – the Belly of the Tiger

| 30/07/2014

Recent events with regards to One Man One Vote (OMOV) reminded me of this line from JFK’s 1961 inaugural address where he said “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” It is said that one of the purposes of election is to determine the will of the people.

I believe it is fair to say that a majority of electors in this country supports One Man One Vote (OMOV) and that their will is clear both in the 2012 referendum and the general election of 2013.

While some may argue that the referendum held in 2012 did not meet the criteria for passage into law – and legally they would be right – it does not change the fact that more people came out and said “Yes” than those that came out and said “No”.  If the same scenario had taken place back in 2009 when we voted for a new constitution – the constitution would not have passed. Why? Because, like many other democracies around the world, the only vote that truly counts is the one that is cast. If we were to even try to attempt to determine how some people would have voted if they came out, no one would truly be elected.

But here is something I want you to consider and also ponder. Why was the benchmark for the referendum set so high? And more importantly, why was this benchmark not challenged by the PPM members? While the constitution is clear that a people’s initiated referendum requires a majority of 50% + 1, the minute the Government of the day decided to call the referendum, it became a government initiated referendum and at a minimum the government should have considered using the benchmark established for the 2009 Constitution referendum, and equally so, the PPM members should have insisted or fought for that benchmark to be used.

They did not. I am sure that many people would agree that it is a retrograde step in our democracy to have thepassage of a law held to a higher standard than our constitution. This is hypocritical and goes against the principles of democracy and the purpose of elections in determining the will of the people.

But the real truth in this matter is not tactics used by Premier McKeeva Bush at that time that would have made Machiavelli proud. The real truth is the sinister way in which those that did not support OMOV jumped on the band wagon to say that they supported OMOV when they did not.

Everyone and their aunty knew that, based on previous political trends, the real number that would have been required for the referendum to be successful was closer to 70% when considering average voter turnout. There were people in the UDP at that time that was urging Premier Bush to keep the referendum on a Monday instead of during the week just to create a “long weekend” and ensure that the voter turnout would have been even lower to ensure that the referendum failed.

While the position of the UDP’s elected government was clear with regards to OMOV, the PPM on the other hand took a calculated approach in supporting it knowing that it would have failed. In doing so, not only did they mislead their own members and some new candidates, they also misled the public. Credit should be given to Al Suckoo and Anthony Eden for their principled stand and we should not only commend them but support them in this endeavor. Some of the old guard politicians in the PPM saw a political opportunity and took advantage of it and in doing so foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger, and we now find them being chewed alive and the public is preparing to digest them, literally.

They have once again been given the power and responsibility to lead this country, and like many before them, the power as gone to the head of their Head and the only focus now is to retain power at all costs. Why are they doing this? If I was to make a political guess, I would say that they need to keep the 2 seats in the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman at all costs if they want to be returned as a government in 2017. In their ranks they have the Deputy Premier that was elected with over 75% of the votes, and since the election, his only true political opponent that was re-elected with over 55% of the vote has joined forces with him giving the PPM a formidable advantage in the Sister Islands.

Lately, I have listened to some PPM politicians used the term “equality of votes” in an attempt to bastardize our electoral system with “at large candidates” to try and eke out as much seats as possible from their George Town leader. There is however one problem with their argument with regards to equality of votes and that remains the Sister Islands. The real issue that OMOV as well as the equality of votes will highlight is that George Town will remain under represented and that the Sister Islands would be over represented and may be challenged by voters and/or other politicians in George Town.

While the PPM may have 4 seats in George Town, they too also recognize that their franchise and brand in George Town is diminishing day by day and at the current trend would be worth even less come 2017 when consider the record that they would have to defend. Their number one vote getter for the last several elections is the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, and like the Hon. McKeeva Bush and Anthony Eden, have developed serious coat tails over the years with one exception in George Town.

While McKeeva and Anthony have maintained polling numbers around the 50% mark, Kurt’s numbers have not been holding up. At his peak, back in 2000, Kurt got 2,753 votes from 3,400 ballots that were cast. 13 years later, Kurt received 2,470 votes – 283 less despite 2,428 more votes being cast. He went from receiving 81% of the votes in 2000 to 42% in 2013. Clearly his coat tails are wearing thin as not only did 58% of the people in George Town not vote for him, 63% of the voters in George Town did not vote for Alden.

The credit that I give to Mr Eden in this regard is that by supporting OMOV he is actually opening his district for serious challenges as he is guaranteed to lose one seat in Bodden Town (Bodden Town East) where he has not topped the polls in that division for the last 2 elections and knows he has no coat tails there. He is also putting Bodden Town West and Newlands in play as the only safe seat that will be left is Savannah proper. Kudos to him for leveling the playing field and bringing more accountability in the process. All Bodden Towners should be proud of his stance. 

The UDP also needs to let go of this position. In the past, they could count on 4 seats in West Bay simply from having a dominant position in 3 polling divisions. Quietly, we always knew that West Bay South was the Achilles heel and the last election proved that with Tara Rivers receiving 99 more votes in that division than Mr Bush. However, despite his other personal challenges, he was able to pull 3 seats and remains confident that he will pull all 4 once his challenges pass away. 

Both political parties have their reasons for not supporting OMOV and maintaining the status quo. Afterall, why mess with a system that allows them to interchange power? Both have agreed in the past to leave Sister Islands alone as they were each guaranteed a seat. However, in these modern times where people are advocating for equality of all types of rights neither party can remain blind to the disproportionate level of representation that the Sister Islands receive compared to that of George Town. While some may argue that the same principles would apply to East End and North Side that they should be merged to ensure equality of voters – I beg to differ for 2 reasons.

Firstly, from a historical context we cannot have a district within a Westminster style democracy without any representation. Secondly, we cannot only use the number of registered electors in any district to determine the level of representation. We need to also consider the number of Caymanians living in a district. To do otherwise would imply that a Caymanian that is not registered to vote should not be entitled to any representation. The following table provides a breakdown of the population by district using the 2010 census and the number of electors as at July 1, 2014 per the elections website:

From the table above, it is clear that there is some alignment between the number of voters per each district and the number of Caymanians in each district for Bodden Town, West Bay, East End, and North Side. However, there is a clear anomaly between George Town and the Sister Islands that needs to be corrected to ensure equality of votes. Adding one seat in George Town and taking one from Cayman Brac would fix that anomaly. For the record, if one seat was added to George Town or one taken away from the Sister Islands, the table would look like this:

I am sure that you would agree that this would be better equality of votes both in terms of voters and number of Caymanians. Similar to the United States, we can revisit the boundaries and number of seats every 10 years after a census is conducted.

I don’t want anyone to believe that this article was intended to be an attack against Cayman Brac. Anyone who knows me and my family also knows that when my grandmother arrived here in the 1940s she first settled in Cayman Brac. Additionally, my own personal views have always held Cayman Brac in the highest of regards as they have created more Captains and Titans of industry and serves as an example for others to follow with achievements and accomplishments in the development of our islands too much to list.

The real truth is that the issue of OMOV has always been about electability rather than accountability. For too long in our political history there have been people that have been elected on the coat tails of others and know that they can’t stand on their own two feet if they have to face down a serious challenger. We have pockets within the multi member districts that skew the overall results of the districts and by doing so not only skew the quality of representation but more importantly distort the will of the people.

The reality is that our country and political landscape is changing. There are a lot of serious issues out there that needs to be addressed such as the direction of our country, cost of living, opportunities for all, and the overall quality of our lives. It is said that not even the march of a mighty army can be greater than an idea whose time has come. It is now time for OMOV to be implemented and put to rest. The result of the last election is clear with regards to OMOV. The result of the 2012 referendum is clear with regards to OMOV. The will of the people is clear with regards to OMOV. I therefore say to all the members of the political family, put your own personal views aside and respect the will of the people. If not, you can follow in the PPM’s footstep and find yourselves inside the belly of the tiger.

One love. Walk good.  

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is my first post to this website as I usually stay away from politicians. when I was living in cayman none of them help me or my family. I was lucky to find a job at a hotel after I leave prison and able to find a wife because of Mr Sanders. He used to come up at the prison and teach us so we can get jobs when we leave. We had Mr Mcintyre. Ms Natalie and this other jamaican guy that used to teach us tailoring. The only Caymanian that helped me was Mr Sanders. Everyody else was foreigners. You think any of us cared how Mr Sanders speak? we were just happy that he came up. All you Caymanians do is curse each other and blame foreigners but dont want to do anything to help. You all good for nothing only complain. Mr Sanders is a good man and a real Caymanian. I wish I met him before I got in trouble. He help me get a job after I leave prison and I found a nice wife. Thanks to people like Mr Sanders I got a second chance.

    Caymanians shut up and help and do something. Stop blaming others. I used to do it and it didn't help me.  Mr Sanders good luck next time dont run with Mckeeva he just want to get elected.

  2. Anon says:

    One person, one vote – YES! Single member constituencies – NO! 

  3. Anonymous says:

    There's a big problem with your article. 

    It states: While the constitution is clear that a people’s initiated referendum requires a majority of 50% + 1, the minute the Government of the day decided to call the referendum, it became a government initiated referendum and at a minimum the government should have considered using the benchmark established for the 2009 Constitution referendum, and equally so, the PPM members should have insisted or fought for that benchmark to be used.

    This is incorrect. To be binding, a people's initiated referendum required 50% + 1 of the ELECTORATE, not the majority of actual voters.  It failed to get that figure, which is why it failed. It didn't matter if it were a people's initiated referendum or a government referendum. The PPM couldn't fight anything. 
    This is why not voting in the referendum was basically the same as voting "no" to the question and also why you can't say, with any kind of certainty, that the majority of the electorate wants OMOV (although you could be right).
    I said it at the time and I'll say it again: Cayman Islands voters will regret passing the 2009 Constitution for a long, long time, probably all the way to independence, whenever that comes. There were unholy compromises made in that document, all to get the homophobic clergy to give it a stamp of approval.
    • Anonymous says:

      Failing to vote countered as a no vote but did not necessarily mean that in fact. In every election about 30% people don't vote. They are not necessarily making a statement of any sort.

      • Anonymous says:

        Since the question needed a specific number of yes votes to pass, anything but a yes vote, including not voting, essentially the same as voting no.  A referendum of this nature is unlike other election where candidates win based on a majority of votes. If this referendum would have been conducted so the majority rules, which it was not, then maybe more people would have shown up to vote because their no vote would have counted more than staying home and not voting.  No one can say for sure, but my point remains: Anyone who says the people clearly have spoken is incorrect. Maybe the majority of voters favour OMOV, maybe they don't. But no one can say they do with certainty based on the last referendum.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well written and explained. However, may I ask what Mr. Saunders' public stance was on OMOV during the 2013 campaign? If he was always in support of it, then kudos to him. If not, I guess he is speaking from the tiger's belly and does not want the PPM's company. 


  5. Anonymous says:

    One might be surprised that Mr. Saunders is challenging the position of his party leader against OMOV single member constituencies until one realises that he expects to benefit personally because while he did very well in Bodden Town East (which would become a single member constituency) he cannot hope to win in a BT multi-member district as it currently stands.

    "The credit that I give to Mr Eden in this regard is that by supporting OMOV he is actually opening his district for serious challenges as he is guaranteed to lose one seat in Bodden Town (Bodden Town East) where he has not topped the polls in that division for the last 2 elections and knows he has no coat tails there".

    • Anonymous says:

      Chris Saunders will get a seat in Bodden Town next election, simply because he is a man to his word.  A man to be trusted.  A man who appreciates kind words and deeds.  A man who will not hesitiate to find your phone number and call you and say thanks for your support.  He has a christian upbringing and deserve a chance like all the others.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Love the quote in first paragraph and will apply semantics and ponder.

    I wonder how many politicians and would-be politicians are 'riding the back of the tiger' to get power/elected and then the same 'tiger' (offering incentives and motivation be it money for some, others power, sense of power through association…take your pick) still devours/crashes the riders?

    If politics wasn't so serious and influential on all our daily lives and ambitions it would be funny.


    Just hope we can engage more people in the community, Caymanians and expats to discuss several sides of the issues and at times even dare to question each other. But alas, we all know too well the real freedom of speech in Cayman has serious consequences.


    Anyways, interesting, well written article my friend.

  7. 4Cayman says:

    Excellent and an articulate view point. Sad though your views weren't the same in the last general election.  Why the sudden change of heart? Are you certain this isn't one of UDP's manipulative  action to sway the votes in the next elections? My view is that a leopard is a leopard even if you  paint it black and a snake will always be a snake. Unfortunately, for me you already joined the ranks of the existing politicians and for that, like the PPM, you can change your views once you are elected. Sorry, it is what itis! Like any predetitor/politician, go after your prey when it's weak and vulnerable at least a meal is a meal, no matter how you caught it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Chris, I am a BT voter. I did not vote for you last time but with this piece you have certainly got my attention for next time.  It was honest, insightful and well-written. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Well certainly didn't take much to change your mind.  You are who politicians love.

      • Anonymous says:

        "Got my attention" does not automatically mean "got my vote". 

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually politicians like those who blindly follow them regardless of their policies.

  9. Michel says:

    An excellent viewpoint on that article Chris. I too was influenced into voting for our ruling Party and feel vevy desapointed on the subject of OMOV. So I feel like I was had. I might be a Party member (?) but there's a lot of issue I don't like including this one. But I voted for individuals and not the Party so that I don't have to  swollow a lot of nonsense that I don't agree with that's going on. Thank you MLA Mr. Alva Suckoo for being there for us ( We the People) and vote your concience as you realized from the get go that you represent your constituants and are a good example for others to follow in their districts for Their constituants also. VOTE YOUR CONCIENCE and think of the Future of your Children and Grandchildren. As far as I am concerned I will Never do the same mistake again and If Lord's Willing we can continue to live here with my wife Caymanian Heritage is deeply rooted. Than you also to Our Honorable Anthony Eden who always have time, He helps so many families behind the seen, cares very much for His People and votes his concience . Thank you again Chris for many of us are desapointed to say the least. God Bless, Michel Lemay

  10. Anonymous says:

    "Because, like many other democracies around the world, the only vote that truly counts is the one that is cast."  The premise of this entire article – is false.  I stayed at home because that was choice.  That's democracy as well my friend.  The freedom to stay home and avoid trivial votes.  So, why did I stay home?  Because, This OMOV issue is truly a nonsensical distraction from the real challenges facing our country.   Problems that cannot be solved by OMOV or other political gimmicks.   Our electorate is intelligent and if our people believed that OMOV could magically help Cayman solve her problems it would have been passed quicker than turtle meat in West Bay.  OMOV is not about our people and solving their problems, OMOV is politics pure and simple.  Its a manufactured political issue, by politicians, for politicians, for pure political gain.

    OMOV is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Kirk Pride  to prevent her from sinking.  We need real ideas to help our country grow and prosper to avoid going off the drop off in Hog Sty Bay where the Kirk Pride rests today.

    OMOV reminds me of one of my favourite examples of the power of good and bad ideas in politics.  Singapore vs Jamaica.  Recall both Michael Manley and Lee Kuan Yew were classmates at LSE yet left with very different ideas about how to run their respective countries.  One prospered while the other perished.  Lots of lessons for Cayman to learn here.

    Lee Kuan Yew views on Jamaica and the 1970s Socialist administration of Michael Manley.

    “At Kingston, Jamaica, in April 1975, Prime Minister Michael Manley, a light-skinned West Indian, presided with panache and spoke with great eloquence. But I found his views quixotic. (Definition: Exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical) He advocated a “redistribution of the world’s wealth.” His country a well-endowed island of 2,000 square miles, with several mountains in the center, where coffee and other sub-tropical crops are grown. They had beautiful holiday resorts built by Americans as winter homes… One Sunday afternoon, when Choo and I walked out of the barbed wired enclosure around the hotels used for the conference to see the city on foot, a passing car came to a halt with the driver shouting, “Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee wait for me.” A Chinese Jamaican, speaking Caribbean English came up. “You mustn’t forget us. We are having a very difficult time.” He gave me his card. He was a real estate agent. Many professionals and businesspeople had left for America and Canada and had given him their homes and offices to sell. He had seen me on Jamaican Television and was anxious to speak to me. Chinese, Indians and even black Jamaican professionals felt there was no future under the left-wing socialist government of Michael Manley. The policies of the government were ruinous…. Thereafter, I read the news of Jamaica with greater understanding.” – – – Lee Kuan Yew — Page 364, From Third World to First The Singapore Story: 1965-2000

    • Anonymous says:

      One Man One Vote is exactly what it says ONE MAN ONE VOTE!! It is about fairness and each and every person in Cayman having the same rights when it comes to voting. Not some having one vote and others having 4, 6. OMOV is not the magic bullet to put food on the table, send our kids to college or any such thing. It is a reform to the voting system that is needed.  It is true democracy. There is more to democracy thnt eating, drinking and living a life without struggles.

  11. Knot S Smart says:

    What we really need is a national election that elects only six representatives total for the three islands. We have a small population and there is no need, nor can we afford, so many representatives as we currently have. So everyone would cast six votes at election time.

    When the best six candidates in the elections are chosen, then they elect the Premier whose role will be not only Premier, but also Speaker of the House. The assignment of portfolio seats can be done as we currently do, or the six successful candidates can choose who will manage which portfolio, based on the area of expertise of each member.

    This will reduce our expenditures for the legislators by around 70% to 80%. There will be less fighting, and more cooperation because each of the five portfolio members will need consensus from other members – so there is no need for a Leader of the Opposition.

    As I said – we are a small population and we must improve government efficiency and reduce  expenses in everyway, which will enable us to reduce taxes and the cost of living, making us more competitive in the world business environment…


    • Anonymous says:

      I assume that was meant to be humorous because you couldn't possibly be serious.

    • Anonymous says:

      11.40, What a mouthful of BS!!…so eloquently proffered with the naivete of one totally devoid of any political knowledge or experience, and one who is obviously contemptuous of the success story of the Cayman Islands. Hopefully, you are not paid by our Government for your sage advice. Despite our small population, as a country, we operate as well as, and better than, most so-called "developed" countries.

      • Knot S Smart says:

        The greatest impediment to mankind is our inability to accept new truths and ideas and make changes in order to adopt to our environment.

        In short resistant to change and new ideas…

        And of course judging the personality of others often reflects a defect in our own personality…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this refreshing viewpoint as I found it educational. I didn't vote for Chris the last time as I wasn't sure where he stood on issues such as these. But after hearing him a view times on Rooster and now knowing  that he isn't afraid to speak his mind, he will have my support if he chooses to run again.

    I wouldbe curious to know what his party leader thinks of this viewpoint. I know he cant be happy. Well done Chris. You and Al Suckoo are giving us in Bodden Town hope that you won't tow the party line.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes I totally agree Chrs Saunders and AL Suckoo are young men with a GOOD vison for Bodden Town and the Cayman Islands.  None of the others has proven themselves yet.

      I believe Mr Eden should retire now.   He has done well for the district and can now pass the batton  on.

  13. Len Layman says:

    Thank you Chris for an excellent article.  I am personally very disappointed n the PPM backing off of their promise of OMOV as stated in their Manifesto.  I do believe it is not too late for them to keep this promise, but if they don't a large majority of voters will be switching allegiances  I know I will be one of them.

  14. Isaac says:

    An excellent, well written piece. Good job Chris!

    • Anonymous says:

      I much prefer  to read Chris's writings that listen to him talk.  He was born and raised in Cayman but have such a strong patois that makes him difficult to understand.

      • Anonymous says:

        11:55  How Chris speak has nothing to do with his thinking.  I am a Caymanian with a Jamaican partner and I speak Patois and my Jamaican partner sometimes use Cayman Lingo.  We cannot help that.  It just rubs off on you sometimes.  No matter how Chris speaks he is  born Caymanian.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It is clear that there is a self serving manipulative aspect of this OMOV agenda by politicians who wish to break the power of the party system for their own interests.

    East End and North side need to be combined into a single eletorial district, the country is tired of having the tail try to wag the dog.

    • Anonymous says:

      I wish there was a "thumbs down for the first sentence, thumbs up for the second sentence" button.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thumbs up for the first sentence, thumbs down for the second sentence for me.

  16. Caymanian / says:

    A well informed article. I just hope Chris, it gets positive feedback.

  17. Anonymous says:

    For a total voting electorate of 18,000, 19 MLA's is a joke, especially at the wages they receive.  A move to OMOV and a reduction to 9 or 11 MLAs would go some way to reducing the easy by which corruption can affect elections.  Of course increasing the electorate to include residents of 5 years or more would help greatly too, as similar territories with that type of rule seem to have more stable and less corrupt governance.

    • Anonymous says:

      We have 18 MLAs which is fine. Reducing the number of MLAs has nothing to do with limiting corruption. Our most corrupt politicians have tended to come from more populous districts.

      There is no way that anyone other than a Caymanian or a status holder should have the right to vote given the proportion of expats to Caymanians.      

      • Anonymous says:

        There is no difference between a Caymanian and a Status holder. It is holding status that makes a Caymanian a Caymanian.

        • Anonymous says:

          Umm…no a piece of paper can no more make you a Caymanian than a tag can make a dog a cat. 

          • Anonymous says:

            Except that is all Caymanian is, a legal residence status.  It is nothing more.  So you are deluded.

            • Anonymous says:

              For a paper Caymanian that is true, but it is so much more than that for real Caymanians. 

      • Anonymous says:

        "a Caymanian or a status holder"  If you read the law you are being repetitive.  A status holder is a Caymanian.

        • Anonymous says:

          I meant a real Caymanian as opposed to a paper Caymanian. Got it now?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, now we have got it that you are a bigot.

            • Anonymous says:

              The poster is not a bigot.  It's the truth. Have Cayman Islands if we had an army go to war with their birth country and see whose side they would be on.  Just watch football matches betwen their home country and Cayman as an example.  They're not rooting for Cayman.  Where your loyalties lie shows the real you and your nationality.  A motorcyle in a car garage doesn't make it a car and neither does a paper given to an Expat make them Caymanian.  

            • Anonymous says:

              Like you are bigot when you are deingrating all Caymanians (by whom you mean real Caymanians)?

        • Anonymous says:

          You are only Caymanian when it suits you to gain some benefit. You know who Caymanians are when you are slagging them off.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, like all the real Caymanians living and owrking in teh UK or USA right? As and when it suits them to come back…normally around hand out time..

        • Anonymous says:

          The best thing about being a "paper" Caymanian is that you have somewhere else more civilised to go to.

          • Anonymous says:

            There you go proving my point!

          • Anonymous says:

            Spoken like a paper Caymanian. 

          • Anonymous says:

            Non-paper Caymanians have somewhere to go, too, and they are: to the UK.  And since many of them were actually born in the US, they're going there as well.  I know several young born Caymanians who have decided the small-minded bigotry that is rampant here isn't for them and have moved to the US. One even had a great job here, but just couldn't stand living in such a small-minded place. And no, he's not gay.