The (now postponed) referendum to decide the progression of Cayman’s port was without doubt the most controversial topic of 2019 for the Cayman Islands, and in his New Year’s message to residents, Premier Alden McLaughlin urged people to come together, whatever the final outcome.
If people decided to stop the project via the referendum, Government would accept the result and the project would be stopped, he said.
“But if I am right that most people support the project, and so the ‘No vote’ fails to reach the required threshold, then I call on those opposing the Government’s case to accept the result for the project to go ahead,” he said, adding that a positive result for the port would not mean the immediate dredging of George Town’s harbour.
“Instead, the work to determine how best to mitigate the environmental concerns will continue,” he stated.
The Premier said he hoped those opposed would work with Government on the programme of environmental mitigation that they had from the start insisted on as part of the project.
“Cayman will get a better result if we can come together to work for the benefit of our Islands. It is only by continuing to work together that we can ensure our future success,” he said.
Same sex marriage
The question of whether the Cayman Islands should accept same sex marriage has been another hot topic for 2019. The Premier said that Cayman had to deal with this issue otherwise the UK would step in and legislate for the jurisdiction.
“Regarding same sex partnerships, as I have said previously, it is important that legislators determine the best way forward for our Islands and find a solution that works for Caymanians,” the Premier stated. “If we abrogate our responsibility to do so, we must accept that the UK will legislate for these islands as the Court of Appeal has suggested they do. That would be the worst possible result for these Islands, not just with regard to same-sex partnerships, but more generally.”
Both the port and same sex marriage issues had proven to be divisive ones, the Premier said.
“I hope that whatever the outcome on each that we all accept the decisions and come together as Caymanians and residents and continue the work to build and grow our Islands for the benefit of all our people - not just the privileged. A more just society is, after all, a better society.”
Cayman’s ability to make important decisions for the jurisdiction without the UK’s interference was also discussed in the Premier’s New Year’s address. He said he was grateful for the way his colleagues on the Government and Opposition benches united to pass these important reforms in December last year.
“These reforms will provide us with increased autonomy and underscore our right to manage our own affairs without undue interference by the UK,” he said. “They also mark the continued acknowledgement by Her Majesty’s Government that the Cayman Islands has developed as a mature, self-governing democracy.”
Traffic woes to be eased
The Premier touched on the biggest issue facing everyone in the Islands on a day-to-day basis, the problem of traffic congestion, which he said, came as a result of the economic prosperity that had been enjoyed in recent times.
“In 2020, the National Roads Authority will continue working to smooth traffic flows at critical junctions and to increase capacity. These improvements once completed will help bring relief to commuters as we reduce congestion,” he advised.
In the New Year work would also begin on determining the best solution for an improved, fit for purpose, public transport system that would ease the numbers of cars on the roads, he said.