April 1, 2020

The Editor speaks: Referendum Judicial Review wraps up

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Colin Wilson

It has always seemed ironic to me that the Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) group, who have been pushing for a Referendum and got their wish, are now saying the Referendum Law, passed by the Legislative Assembly last month should be struck down because it does not meet “an idealistic standard”.

It’s like crying ‘foul’ when a small local football team get their wish and are matched up with a large international team and lose twenty goals to nil.

CPR’s Shirley Roulstone managed to get the Cayman National Trust to side with her because government had not adequately answered their claims they had not put forward enough scientific evidence the cruise ship project would not cause serious environmental damage.

Their partnership had resulted in a Judicial Review being heard and the Referendum being postponed.

Since then government have provided the majority of the information The Trust had been asking for.

The Judicial Review commenced last Tuesday and wrapped up yesterday (Thu).

Justice Tim Owen made it clear at the Review Hearing the hearing “is not about whether the port referendum will be held, nor is it about the merits or demerits of the port project. This is no longer about the question to be asked in the referendum, The battlefield has tremendously decreased,” he said.

The Review was now only about how Section 70 of the Constitution ought to be interpreted, and whether it calls for one law to govern all referendums or a new law for each referendum, or both.

Owen said, “Whatever judgment I pass, it will not require the government to draft a general referendum law or a specific referendum law,The task of this court is to take a look at whether the current Referendum Law is compatible with Section 70 of the Constitution.”

“The call for government to provide and promote neutral information during the referendum process is not a requirement of the law, nor are limitations on campaigning expenditure,” he added.

Owen did rule on one point raised by Roulstone, who was qualified to vote? As well as cut-off times for potential registration to vote in the referendum – some voters would be inadvertently disenfranchised. Government had set out conditions on this.

Owen said said there was no voter disenfranchisement. He said “If you are not registered prior to the first of the quarter, you have not been disenfranchised because your right to vote hadn’t arisen,”

On the subject of a call for a new law for each referendum,the Judge rightly pointed out that in the UK they have had multiple referendums and none had such requirements.

All of which is a very welcome change to hear from somebody not biased one way or another but look at it all as it relates to the current law of our land.

All we have to do now is wait for Justice Owen to give us his verdict that he said he hopes to deliver around the 10th of February.

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