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Orman Lauder Panton: Charismatic Party Leader, National Hero - Tribute Written by Dr. Steve McField

Education 14 Feb, 2024 Follow News

Ormond Panton

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.

The tribute written by Dr. Steve McField is carried first and in two parts.

‘Caymanians founded their democracy by election and appointment to an assembly of Justices and Vestrymen on the 10th of December 1831 at Pedro St. James in Savannah.

‘Orman Lauder Panton, the son of our soil, the political and social patriot, the charismatic party leader, the anti-colonial democrat “The Wizard” as he was called by his hundreds of supporters, was born into the George Town Panton merchant family, and his political contribution began in 1948.

‘Orman Lauder Panton was elected in the lower House of the Assembly of Vestry as a Vestryman in the 1948 Elections as one of the representatives for the District of George Town. Other George Town elected members in 1948 were - Roy Edison McTaggart, Edgar Ducan Merren, Allen Berkley Bush and Hugh Malcolm Coe. Orman Lauder Panton was the Youngest Vestryman elected.

‘During the First Year of Orman Lauder Panton’s presence in the Assembly of Vestry he was Quiet, taking no active part in the cut and trust of debate, but he was absorbing every Assembly activity and learning the craft of a legislator.

‘The first significant contribution that Orman Lauder Panton made after his 1948 election was his support for the group of women in George Town expressing their right to vote and to run for election. Up until 1948, women did not vote, even though there seemed to have been no law prohibiting women from voting. The matter of Caymanian women Right to vote and to stand for election was finally settled in 1959.

‘In 1950, the British Government made the move to establish a West Indies Federation of the British Colonies in the Caribbean. The Cayman Islands stood against membership in the proposed Federation. Membership in the Federation would have cause profound political changes for the Cayman Islands.

‘The Caymanians took the view that their local autonomy, was a Right conferred by the 1959 written Constitution and not a granted privilege. This view led to a National debate in the Cayman Islands led by Orman Lauder Panton. Orman Lauder Panton pointed out fearlessly that the Cayman Islands had no Representation, in the Federation Parliament but would be subject to Federation direction.

‘Caymanians were in fear that taxes would be leveled upon them; they also feared that the privileged position for their Seamen in United States merchant marine that remitted some US$ 150,000 monthly, the Cayman biggest industry at that time would be controlled by the Federation for other West Indian workers. Orman Lauder Panton and Captain Keith Tibbets, the Representative from Cayman Brac had been successful in obtaining the Visa-Waver from the United States State Department to allow Caymanian to enter the United States in Leu of a Visa from the American Embassy in Jamaica.

‘Caymanians also feared that the revenue of some £ 92,500 earned from their Stamp collectors would be lost, because of the threat to issue a Federal stamp to replace the Caymanian beautiful stamps issues that fetched a high collector price.

‘However, Orman Lauder Panton pointed out to the masses of Caymanians in his public meetings, in the Districts, that the greatest harm to them that could come out of Federation was Curtailment of the legislative and internal arrangement that the Cayman Island had Carved out without interference from the Jamaica Legislature.

‘By this time Orman Lauder Panton had formed and became the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP) with some two thousand card carrying members made up primarily of the Caymanian poor and people of colour.

‘Edgar Ducan Merren the Rich Merchant legislator representing George Town and T. William Farrington, merchant and Senior legislator representing West Bay formed the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) led by Merren.

‘In the first Part of 1961, Orman Lauder Panton led a Caymanian Delegation comprising of Farrington, Merren and his uncle Earnest Ottey Panton, Clerk of the Assembly, to the Federal Constitutional talks in Trinidad where it was agreed that the Cayman Islands would have a full internal self-government Constitution within the Federation. That a special associated status in the Federation was fully sanctioned in London, by the British Government later that year.

‘That was a significant democratic achievement for the Cayman Islands. The Jamaica Gleaner of 12 July 1961 had this to say about it.

“The recent West Indies Constitutional Conference in London has made Recommendations which involve great changes in the Status and Constitutional position of the Cayman Islands.”

‘Under such a Constitutional Scheme the Cayman Islands was to have a head of state appointed by the British Government titled Lieutenant Governor, a Chief Minister, Council of Ministers, Attorney General and the Legislature would continue to consist of 12 elected members, two nominated members, but the two official members would be excluded. The Attorney General was to serve as Speaker of the House.

‘Grand Court Appeals were to go to the Federal Supreme Court and final appeals to the Privy Council in London.

‘To facilitate the new self-governing Constitution General Election was to be held early in 1962. At this stage Orman Lauder Panton started to Campaign and for Humans Rights provisions to be protected within the Self Government Constitution.

‘It was also at that stage that the political conspiracy led by the then Administrator Jack Rose to prevent Orman Lauder Panton from ascending to the position of Chief Minister became into full bloom and matured most grotesquely to destroy Orman Lauder Panton’s political Career.

‘Jack Rose together with his agents’ provocateur initiated a Campaign of hateful lies and unlawful Criminal Charges against Orman Lauder Panton.

‘In 1961 Orman Lauder Panton stipendiary Magistrate Robinson issue three warrants for the arrest of Orman Lauder Panton on trumped up information, sworn by the Chief of Police and drafted by himself. At his trial before the Magistrate, an additional charge was brought against Orman Lauder Panton for abuse of the Magistrate because Orman Lauder Panton objected to a trial before him. After long submissions to the Court about protecting his Civil Rights another Magistrate dismissed the charges, against him.

‘Orman Lauder Panton then sued for false imprisonment. His case went all the way up to the Federal Supreme. The Court held for Orman Lauder Panton, The Court found that the information sworn by the Chief of Police to ground the Warrants issued by the magistrate disclosed no offence known to Law.

‘The charge against Orman Lauder Panton was based the facts that Orman Lauder Panton had posted a notice outside the Court house on a Notice Board that read:

“When monkeys are prone to their antic passes, the higher they climb the more they expose their arses.”

‘Later that year (1961) Orman Lauder Panton also sued the Chief of Police, Sherwood for arresting and charging him without cause. The Federal Supreme Court held that Sherwood had charged Orman Lauder Panton on the direction of a legal authority and therefore Orman Lauder Panton could not prove malice.

‘Orman Lauder Panton and his party marched on despite his arrests and the many attempts to destroy his popularity among his people. At his political meetings his political supporters which were growing in numbers sang this refrain:

“We will flow Orman Panton till we die.”

‘The established Wealthy Merchants supported by the CDP supporters were afraid that “the Wizard” would up root their economic Social and political power and social privileges so they tightened their grip on their privileged positions and turned the race toward the general (1962) election as us versus them - Rich versus poor white versus coloured. It was becoming an unpleasant political environment.

‘However, by the end of 1961 it became clear that the Federation experiment was over. Jamaica withdrew its Membership.’

The next article completes the tribute from Dr. Steve McField.

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