A new group launched its plans to redraw the face of politics in Cayman at a crowded rally in George Town last month.
It had all the trappings of a political rally with its free T-shirts, an elevated stage with a colourful backdrop and catchy slogan, free food for attendees, a speaker’s podium and a row of seats at the back of the stage where the next speakers awaited their turn to address the crowd.
However, the Coalition for Cayman, which held its first public meeting on Monday, 19 November, in front of an audience of hundreds of people at the car park of AL Thompson’s, insists it is not a political party, but rather an “advocacy and public education” group that wants to shake up the political arena.
The Coalition’s members who spoke at the meeting spent some time describing both what the organisation was and also what it wasn’t.
The group is not fielding candidates, but instead will identify, support and endorse independent nominees to run for election, speakers at the meeting said.
Blaming the political party system for the country’s economic woes, the group said it would push for the “right” independent candidates who could make Cayman into a place of propriety, innovation and transparency.
The group did not name any candidates it planned to support, although several individuals who are expected to stand for election as independents in the May general election next year were in attendance among the large crowd.
In the 2009 election, a large slate of independents who ran for office lost out to members of the two established political parties, with only one independent legislator – North Side’s Ezzard Miller – winning a seat in the Legislative Assembly.
In that election, 22 independent candidates ran head to head with 21 nomimees from among the political parties, but received only just over a quarter of the total number of votes cast – taking 10,366 of the 39,740 votes submitted on 12,204 ballots.
Following that election, several of the independents put their defeat down the fact that they did not have the money or resources to go up against the United Democratic Party and the People’s Progressive Movement and that it was clear, at the time, that the people of Cayman were opting for party politics rather than independents.
Now, three and a half years later, the Coalition has been set up in reaction to what it describes on its website as the frustration of the people of Cayman with “party politics, government overspending, debt, crime and economic uncertainty”.
The Coalition for Cayman says it now plans to ensure the next leaders to be elected in Cayman are “honest, proven, independent” individuals who put Cayman before all other interests, adhering to the group’s slogan “Country First”.
The speakers repeatedly harked back to a time in Cayman’s history – prior to the establishment of the current political parties about 12 years ago – when elected lawmakers belonged to no official party and “the country thrived”.
Despite the nearly two-hour meeting, many came away from the gathering not much wiser than when they arrived. While the message of the group’s intention to try to dismantle Cayman’s political party system came across loud and clear, exactly how that was to be achieved was less defined.
Effectively saying “watch this space”, the Coalition speakers said the meeting was just the jumping off point and more details about how they planned to go forward would be released later.
In the meantime, they urged Caymanians to get the ball rolling by making sure they registered to vote. Anyone who has not registered by 2 January will not be eligible to vote in the 22 May general election.
The speakers at the meeting were Jude Scott, Tara Rivers, Johann Moxam, Jacqueline Haynes and Mervin Smith, with Rooster radio talkshow host Austin Harris, as the emcee.
The group’s members said it would set up issue analysis subcommittees to focus discussion on the matters impacting Cayman and to develop “objective, effective and workable solutions” that they would encourage politicians to adopt.
Jude Scott told the audience that Cayman’s people could “no longer sit on the sidelines” and that if no action was taken to redirect Cayman from the route it was on, “there will be nothing left to change”.
“There has to be a better way of running the country,” he insisted.
Scott described the Coalition as “concerned citizens” who want to put an end to the divisiveness caused by partisan politic and to reunite the Cayman Islands under independent leaders who do not have to toe party lines.
While the group did not specifically target or criticise any individual or any party, it left the audience in no doubt that it believed the political party system was at the core of challenging issues Cayman faces.
“Since the introduction of political parties, we are now divided to an unprecedented level, more than we have ever been before,” speaker Tara Rivers told the audience, adding that the Coalition was not “anti-UDP members” or “anti-PPM members”, but was “pro-Cayman”.