Change in a season of discontent
Things are coming to a pretty pass in the Cayman Islands these days, judging from the political events taking place in the country over the past several weeks.
Questions still surround what is now known to be three investigations into the Premier and while the calls for him to step down have been strident, Mr Bush has declared his innocence and therefore his refusal to go. To add fuel to the already raging fire, the Premier last week took a combative stance against the Governor and accused the UK’s representative of standing in the way of all that he has been trying to do to jumpstart the Cayman economy.
Not surprisingly, the Premier’s broadside against the Governor has prompted another round of public outcry, and many people have not been shy in voicing their disgust at the Premier’s actions in this regard.
This latest round protest and outrage only serves to underscore that in the body politic of Cayman, there appears to be serious discontent right now. The events of the past week may have taken over the headlines from the ongoing protests against some of the current administration’s major projects such as the For Cayman Investment Alliance and the planned relocation of the islands waste disposal to Bodden Town. Civic groups and individuals still continue to be deeply troubled by, and opposed to these projects. Add this to the current political turmoil and one could perhaps conclude that we are in the midst of our very own Cayman spring, now heading into summer.
Beneath this all, a quiet change is taking place and is embodied in the work of many individuals, who two months ago, initiated the one man, one vote petition campaign, to call attention to the need for an overhaul of the electoral system.
Over two months, this movement has succeeded in getting the government to announce a referendum on the issue, which is set for 18 July. Despite this, the drive for signatures to the petition continues. Based on information from the organisers, it is obvious from the popular response to this petition that the issue of one man, one vote is one that is resonating with voters, regardless of their political party affiliation.
Based on the government’s response to the petition, the organisers have concluded that obstacles are being placed in the way of the referendum’s success. At first, there were questions raised about the timing of the referendum for July, especially as it was know then that government was not inclined to make the referendum day a public holiday. We now know that this position has shifted, so at least that is one less perceived obstacle.
The opposition has been pointing out certain difficulties with the referendum bill, especially that fact that the question, as drafted, does not specifically bind the government to implement one man, one vote for the 2013 general election, as the petitioners had demanded. Press statements via the Premier’s press secretary have indicated that this will the case, but there remains some level of mistrust as to whether this will actually be done.
The many hot-button issues occupying the minds of residents these days point to a search, indeed a yearning for something that is not currently happening in the society. We are left to wonder if this is a consequence of the challenging economic conditions under which many people have had to live over the past three or four years, or whether there is something of a new political and social awakening.
Whatever it is, many are counting on the current campaign for one man, one vote to make a difference in the politics of the country. They are counting on a new kind of electoral system that will bring greater participation and accountability to the country’s political life. The expectation is also there that a system of one man one vote and single member constituencies will attract, new, young and vibrant personalities into the political life, around whom a more participatory kind of democracy can be built.
We hope that over the course of the next two months, voters will take the time to educate themselves on the merits of one man, one vote and that come 18 July, they will fully participate in the referendum, thereby clearly taking control of their own political destinies.