October 21, 2020

Clear cracks in advisory system

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Nominations for George Town’s Advisory District Council opened on Tuesday night at a downtown Peace Hall public meeting, but cracks in the system became clear as questions mounted about membership on the panel.

Led by United Democratic Party (UDP) George Town MLA and Minister of Community Affairs Mike Adam, and UDP founder and adviser Steve McField, the 90-minute gathering exposed problems with the nascent councils, which are being boycotted by the Opposition People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) because of political bias.

Announcing that “nominations are open to everyone who is a resident in George Town,” Mr McField was asked if candidates – who must be approved by the UDP-dominated Cabinet – were restricted to Caymanians and permanent residents.

“I should think they must be permanent residents,” he said, but acknowledged the District Council law does not discriminate amongst candidates, calling only for “training, experience or knowledge of the district”.

One alarmed audience member said “this seems a muddy area, a dangerous open spot,” echoing previous concerns that “foreigners” could guide
government policymaking.

Mr Adam said the UDP had debated the issue of permanent residents and registered voters, but had reached no decision.

“A lot of laws have grey areas so maybe the second time around, we’ll look at it in the future, going forward,” he said, referring to a second round of nominations after 2013 expiration of the new councils’ one-year term.

He also acknowledged “a grey area” where the law appears to bar the two opposition council members from any of the panel’s four executive positions: chairman, vice chairman, secretary and treasurer, relegating them to “other” status.

“It does look that way,” Mr Adam said. “This needs to be tidied up a lot. It’s a good question and another grey area.”

Both Mr McField and Mr Adam said that, despite the opposition boycott, they were holding the opposition seats open.

“The nominations are open for another two weeks until 6 December at 5pm,” Mr Adam said, followed by Mr McField, who said “we cannot take the opposition appointments tonight, but we will leave those positions open if they are not appointed.”

Alden McLaughlin, PPM leader, told iNews Cayman yesterday that the six proposed councils, each comprising up to 10 members, had been twisted into UDP political tools.

“They have converted these advisory councils into UDP district councils, and I am not about to set people up to be frustrated at every turn,” he said, pointing out that PPM councillors would always lose an 8-2 vote.

“These were supposed to be among a range of councils and commissions to promote participation in democracy and help provide advice with respect to district representatives. What the UDP has done is to create a process that has weighted the councils in favour of the government.”

Mr Adam said, however, the George Town council would “most definitely” function without PPM members, and pointed to West Bay, where “we have a full slate”, although West Bay has no opposition.

 

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