Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) is claiming a degree of success even though the Appeal Court on Thursday ruled in favour of the Cayman Islands Government (CIG) over the challenge to the planned cruise port project brought by Shirley Roulstone, one of its executive members of CPR Cayman, with the support of CPR Cayman.
They had taken the government to court on the ground that the manner in which a referendum was organised as consultative tool to gauge public reaction to the project was in violation of the constitution.
The Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned a previous Grand Court decision, finding that the then presiding judge had gone too far in finding the Port Referendum Law to be unconstitutional.
Kate McClymont of Broadhurst LLC. who represented Shirley Roulstone in the case stated:
“While Court of Appeal found that the judge at first instance had gone further than he was entitled, this decision was not a recognition or vindication of the Government’s position on the port referendum or the law it passed to govern the referendum process.”
She opined that “the Court of appeal were sympathetic with the reasons why the application was brought and why the Judge in the Grand Court felt constrained to decide the matter as he did.”
Still a success
Ms McClymont stated that overall the proceeding has been a success for them.
“We achieved a number of victories along the way that will ensure the referendum on the port project, when it takes place, is conducted in a manner that is likely to be much fairer than might otherwise have been the case.”
“In particular,” she notes, “the Government has amended the wording of the referendum question to make it clearer and more neutral and has agreed to pass a general referendum law to govern the process by which all future referendums will be conducted, rather than using legislation that is specific to this particular referendum and, therefore, inherently more likely to create an uneven playing field in favour of the Government position.”
“Through these proceedings, Shirley Roulstone and CPR Cayman have shown that the Government cannot run roughshod over people’s rights and the Cayman Islands people can stand up against Government for what is just, fair and equitable; they can achieve great things,” Ms McClymont added.
Shirley Roulstone who spearheaded the objections to the cruise port project stated that:
“The Cayman Islands owes a debt of gratitude to the CPR founding members who had the foresight to start a petition and to see this process through.”
She said; “The government may have won an appeal but the people of the Cayman Islands have won so much more than CPR ever even set out to accomplish. The biggest one being that Caymanian’s realise that they do have a voice and they can stand to protect their environment and other things that are near and dear to them.”
“The other one of equal importance is that if not for the work of CPR and this process we would now probably have all of our marine environment in the harbour destroyed and maybe a partially built pier sticking out in the water that may or may never be completed.”
A victory no matter what
“So we have WON no matter what,” she declared, and urged that “now it is of the utmost importance to register to vote in 2021. It is the only way to participate in what goes on in our country!”
While the outcome of the appeal is disappointing, the objectives of the legal action brought by Ms. Shirley Roulstone, a member of CPR Cayman, have largely been achieved in any event.
She said they achieved their main objectives as being to:
• Ensure there would be a general framework law passed to govern the process for future Referendums, which she said the Attorney General’s Chambers accepted in the course of the proceedings
• Expose the inequality and unfairness of the process that the Government put in place to govern the petition process and referendum on the proposed cruise berthing process
• Ensure the referendum on the proposed cruise berthing project would not take place on the date originally proposed by Government, being 19 December 2019, which they claimed would have disenfranchised many voters
Taken as a whole, Ms Roulstone concluded, the work of CPR Cayman, including the legal challenge, has also had the effect of delaying progress on the port project.
However, she states that while the Premier has acknowledged that the referendum on the cruise berthing project will not be carried out during the term of this Government, the matter it is not over.
The CRP executive member said: “The referendum still needs to take place as it will determine whether future governments are permitted to proceed with the project.”
She is calling on the government “to minimise the cost of the referendum process by engaging with stakeholders in respect to the general referendum legislation that they have agreed to pass and confirming that the Referendum will be held at the same time as the May 2021 election.”
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