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Orman Lauder Panton: Charismatic Party Leader, National Hero - Tribute Written by

Education 22 Feb, 2024 Follow News

Dr. Steve McField

Ormond Panton

Professor Livingston Smith, Vice-President, UCCI

Dr. Steve McField

Three Caymanians, Mr. Roy Bodden, Mr. Erren Merren, and Dr. Steve McField wrote tributes as part of the education thrust on Ormond Panton. In this series of articles, I present these tributes as written by these eminent persons who knew Mr. Ormond Panton well.

The tribute written by Dr. Steve McField is carried first and in two parts. This is the second and final part of Mr. McField’s article.

In early 1962, Governor Blackburn came from Jamaica to confirm Jamaica’s position. On January 18 and 19, 1962 Governor Blackburn held a meeting at the Town Hall with the Assembly and the Caymanian people. Approximately five hundred Caymanians were present. He explained that Jamaica Independence Day was set for the 6 of August that year. He also explained that Jamaica would continue to fulfill the Federation’s commitment to grant Cayman a constitution guaranteeing full internal government.

The Governor stated that the Caymanians had two options: full internal self-government or Crown Colony Status directly administered by the British government. He explained the pros and cons of both options. He stated that the only obstacles to self-government were the absence of an army to protect the Cayman Islands and external offices to assist in their external affairs. He proposed that Jamaica would provide those service for the sum of £ 20,000 per year.

Orman Lauder Panton spoke passionately and lucidly for Self-government. Jack Rose and McTaggart spoke questionably against self-government and gloriously for Crown Colony status. Jack Rose likened the two options as choosing between a black ball and a white ball. By the black ball he meant Jamaica. He stated that there was no grey ball. In so doing, he characterized the options in racial terms.

McTaggart falsely and deliberately misstated that self-government meant going into independence with Jamaica. On the 19 January 1962, a Resolution moved by Farrington, and seconded by Merren posed the question of the choice between the two options (the Black ball and the White ball). The vote on the Resolution was decided by the clapping of hands. Jack Rose ruled that the Crown Colon Status faction had the loudest claps. That sealed the deal. Internal self-government for Cayman was dead in the water at Hog Sty Bay.

Jack Rose continued his political assault on Orman Lauder Panton throughout the election in 1962. The 1962 election results show that the National Democratic Party won seven (7) Assembly seats comprised of

O.L. Panton

W.W. Conolly

A. Colin Panton

Anton Bodden

Evelyn Wood

R.E. McTaggart

E.E. Kirkonnell

The Christian Democrats won five (5) seats, comprised of

T.W. Farrington

Spurgeon A. Ebanks

Dalmain Ebanks

Burns Rutty

Chaddock Ebanks

Jack Rose appointed nominated members who supported the Christian Democrats. When the Assembly voted for elected Members of the Executive Council the nominated Members along with the five (5) Christian Democrats voted for Farrington instead of Orman Lauder Panton the Majority leader. One of Orman Panton’s party members betrayed him by voting against him. Orman Panton called for a constitutional crisis by requesting his elected party members to resign with him but only Mr. McTaggart resigned. Ormond Panton contested the by election that followed the resignation and won his seat along with will Walace Bodden. McTaggart did not run in the by-Election.

By 1965 It can be said that party unity was fading and beginning to fall apart. In the 1965 election, the NDP’s main campaign message was self-government. The CDP and Independent Candidates were against it. The 1965 election campaign was dirty and pungent. Political meetings were platforms for vitriol and low-down personal bashing that ended up in several law suits for slander and or defamation.

Biblical texts were grotesquely misquoted to support some candidates, manifestos, and political views. Outright, derogatory accusations against Orman Panton and his family were recklessly thrown to achieve the goal of ridicule.

Some members of the Christian Democratic Paty stated from their political platforms that Orman Panton was a communist and atheist. One of them went so far as to say that if this charismatic leader got elected with internal self-government led by him, that he would turn Cayman into another Cuba. Another opponent circulated the rumor that Orman Lauder Panton was going to introduce casino gambling in the Cayman Islands.

Some political meetings were like comedy shows, where many voters attended to be entertained. Issues were far away – mudslinging held the sway rather than the use of the campaign period to debate the issues. Some candidates used the period  to belittle and drag the other candidate down to the political mudhole. Buying votes with rum and gifts was the order of the day. Many politicians allowed the campaign to be divided by race. Orman Panton and his supporters, the more politically aware voters, would not bite the division bate.

Orman Panton as Leader of the NDP, struggled to build a bridge between the Cayman people and their government. His focus was also on party unity. He believed that the  problems that the Caymanian people were facing were political  and structural and he wanted his followers to overcome personality politics and concentrate on the NDP as becoming a governing party.

Orman Lauder Panton vision for the Cayman Islands was a demonstratable democratic society, where misleading information and dirty politics would never be rewarded by election to the Legislative Assembly.

When the rancid campaign dust was settled by the vote at the polls, W.W. Conolly was the only NDP candidate to win a seat. Orman Panton left the party-political scheme after the 1965 election. He was disappointed and overcome by deep regret not to have succeeded in delivering democracy to his people and by the colonial faction conspiracy to prevent the Cayman Islands from moving forward politically.

Later in his lifetime he held several positions such as Chairman of the Caymanian Protection Board; Chairman of the Public Service omission; President of the Caymanian Bar Association and Lawyer.

His political life was a struggle for democracy and civil rights. He opposed colonial rule and colonialism. His political footprint in the Caymanian soil reminds me of what the Martinique born French Algerian psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary Franz Fannon wrote in - the Wretched of the Earth –

“It would be as well to decide at once to change our ways. We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged and leave it behind. The new day which is already at hand must find us prudent and resolute”.

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