Opposition Leader Hon. V. Arden Mclean J.P. on Tuesday expressed the Official Opposition's complete disappointment and concern with the Government and Carnival Cruise Lines executives who have descended on Grand Cayman to hold meetings. Sources have conformed to Opposition members that the meetings were held by invitation only and appear to be focused on convincing others to support the project.
The Opposition members have now become deeply concerned at what appears to be the cruise lines deliberate meddling and interference in local political issues. This would be the second occasion where they have appeared on island to influence public opinion regarding the cruise berthing project. One year ago, both Carnival and Royal Caribbean sent executives to attend a public meeting held by Hon. Minister Kirkconnell. The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for members of the public to discuss their concerns with their elected representatives and were disappointed and angered that potential bidders of the contract were imposed on them at the last minute. The inclusion of the potential bidders were a departure from established best practices and brought the entire procurement process into disrepute as a result of the perceived conflicts.
Mr. Mclean expressed his concern that the Deputy Premier is now running the real risk of completely losing any remaining confidence from the public that the cruise berthing bidding and selection process was run fairly and transparently. There has been no final contract signed, and with the referendum now imminent, the Opposition members feel that the latest visits by the cruise lines is tantamount to political subversion and may even be a violation of local and United States laws.
“I am very concerned that the Deputy Premier would encourage this visit at such an inappropriate time. The Country is preparing for the referendum and here we have the ‘Selected bidders’ arriving in Cayman to influence public opinion.”
Mr. Mclean questions,
“Are they here as visitors under the Immigration law? Or do they have valid work permits? This is very concerning and is perhaps the biggest insult to the intelligence of the Caymanian people. The Government has now gone too far and this needs to stop now.”
Mr. Mclean added,
“I doubt any of the other Cabinet members and Government backbench have the fortitude to stand up to the Premier and take this matter seriously, but let me remind all concerned that there is a law in the United States call the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which allows the US Authorities to take serious action against corporations and their accomplices who operate contrary to the law, and if this sort of behaviour continues we will write to the U.S. Department of Justice. These corporations need to understand they are required to stay out of local politics, more specifically they need to stay out of the upcoming Peoples Initiated Referendum, it is not their business.”
Bodden Town West MLA Mr. Christopher Saunders also questioned the case for the port in light of recent events as reported in the Jamaican media where the total cruise passengers that arrived at Jamaica's three main ports for the month of June 2019 decreased by 27.9% to 66,552. Alternatively, the Cayman Islands which is also on the western itinerary, with one port and no piers, welcomed 104,527 cruise passengers which was 37,975 or 57% more than Jamaica.
Mr. Saunders questioned the logic of the PPM led government by asking,
"Why can't the Premier and his other colleagues learn from the mistakes made by Jamaica? The people of the Cayman Islands have worked hard to earn their place as leaders in the Caribbean and to become followers at this late stage is a recipe for disaster. The cruise lines already gave Jamaica a six for a nine and is now trying to do the same to the Cayman Islands. Enough is enough."
Deputy Opposition Leader, MLA Alva Suckoo added,
“Once again we see what little regard this Government has for the wishes of the people. A group of citizens have bravely exercised their constitutional rights in calling for a People Initiated Referendum and the Governments next move is to disrespectfully ignore their voices and invite their business partners in to deny the people a fair vote and outcome. I am saddened and deeply disappointed in our colleagues on the other side and can only hope that there are a few among them who will stand up to this level of treachery and disrespect.”
Mr. Mclean reiterated his call for a fair, open and transparent referendum process, and condemned what appears to be the Governments unrelenting acts of interference and voter manipulation. He added,
“We will not stand for this insult and disrespect for the Caymanian people. If the Government does not see the harm in allowing these super rich corporations to waltz in here, try to buy our islands, and attempt to influence the referendum results in their favour, it is because they do not want to see it. We call on the Government to cease and desist immediately. The Opposition has endorsed overseas Observers as the best course to ensure a fair referendum, our hope is that we will never rue the day when our democratic process becomes like many other countries in the world.”