By Christopher Tobutt
Hon. Arden McLean, Leader of the Opposition and representative for East End, was joined by fellow Opposition members Kenneth Bryan, MLA, Alva Suckoo, MLA, and Chris Saunders, MLA, in an attack on the government’s handling of the people’s-initiated referendum concerning the proposed new cruise berthing facility, as well as the way it has handled the issue of proposed constitutional change.
“We have called this press conference to address a number of concerns relating to the governance of the country, particularly the constitutional changes, and the people - initiated referendum,” Mr. McLean said.
“On the matter of the proposed constitutional changes, we have listened intently as the Premier…addressed the talks and the circumstances leading up to the talks which were held in December 2018. Unfortunately, while they have explained that we were aware of the proposed changes, they have not let the country know that they did not have consensus on all the proposals.
“It should be noted that all the opposition-supported aspects of the proposed changes which dealt with “Overreach,” by the UK government with respect to legislating for the Cayman Islands, with respect to legislating for the Cayman Islands. We believed then, and we believe today that any proposed legislation affecting the lives or livelihoods of the people of the Cayman Islands should not be promulgated or implemented by the United Kingdom, without first consulting the people of the Cayman Islands via their elected representative,”
Later in the meeting, Mr. McLean expanded on some of his ideas regarding correct governance:
“I did not agree with parliamentary secretaries, for instance. Parliamentary secretaries are constitutionally required to follow the government, thus in a small parliament like ours, we then corrupt the whole democratic process by using those same people to go on public accounts committees and elections, because they are part of the government; of the executive and I did not support that…there must never be interference with the domestic part of it and the wishes of the people.
“Turning to the matter of the People’s initiated referendum, we, like the rest of the country recognise that the referendum is imminent, and we would like to congratulate those individuals who worked so hard to reach this historic milestone.
While we believe this provision in the constitution is a vital part of ensuring that our people participate in the governance of the country, we are mindful of the absence of a law that defines the process of a people’s initiated referendum. To that end we encourage the government to propose one, which we will happily contribute to.”
When asked about his views about the way the referendum has been handled, MLA for Bodden Town West, Chris Saunders answered, “With complete disrespect to the organisers. At the end of the day these are still citizens of the Cayman Islands, and one of the things that we, as opposition members believe, is that the highest political office in this country is not a politician or premier, it is actually the voters. They are the bosses. And no-one in the workplace would deal with their bosses like that.
“The moment this process started, and we recognised that there was not a referendum law, we know the Government of the day was not going to pass a referendum law. Now we are in a situation where we are coming close to the threshold, and we are in uncharted territory, simply because we have no law to govern such an important process.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo said: “It is a real slap in the face to democracy when you see the way that Government operates with regard to their response to the petition. I have seen them spending Government money fighting not a referendum, but a petition, and their negative campaign that is going on to convince people to remove their signatures from the petition. All those things give us a lot of cause for concern.”