June 12, 2019
(CMR) A historical moment was captured today as the Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) Cayman group handed over several bundles worth of petition signatures on the proposed cruise berthing facility to the Elections Supervisor, Mr Wesley Howell and Matthew Forbes, Head of the Governor's Office.
The handover marks a significant first step meant to trigger a people's initiated referendum pursuant to Section 70 of the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009. Today's 2:00 pm petition submission ceremony was attended by various members of the CPR group as well as media representatives and a small group of supporters.
Howell appears poised to take on the verification process immediately as he announced that he will be stepping down from his official duties as Chief Officer of the Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration to focus full time on the task at hand. He will be assisted by by Deputy Supervisors – Suzanne Bothwell and Sheena Glasgow. He also noted that a team of about 100 will be pooled to assist with the door to door process.
Michelle Lockwood, a CPR representative, first handed Howell a certified copy of the original Petition document, consisting of Part One and Part Two, totals 622 signature pages; followed by Forbes receiving a copy on behalf of the Governor. Forbes verbally acknowledged receipt of the document and tendered apologies for the governor who is currently off island.
Additionally, there were a number of questions posed by those in attendance including some members of the CPR group. There appears to be some serious concerns as many admitted these are uncharted territories with acknowledgements on both sides that this precedent setting exercise will be a learning experience for all.
The elections office, for their part, have acknowledge that they will need to verify every individual signature on the petition and are strongly urging any persons who signed the petition to make sure to contact them; especially in the event that their address electoral details are not updated on the official elector's list.
Some CPR supports appear skeptical of the elections office to act independently of the elected government. Billy Adams asked several times what would the steps taken to track down persons who may have since changed their addresses and how much effort would be put into tracking them down. Howell make assurances that their stellar record in the past of contacting electors should provide them comfort that no stone will left unturned in this regard.
For his part, Forbes assured those in attendance that the process would be transparent and the option to always have the legal arm intercede in the matter is a real possibility that should keep the process transparent and above board.
Kenneth Bryan, the only elected official in attendance, wondered if the governor's office would be encouraging the Unity Government to establish the legislative framework for the process going forward. Whilst Forbes didn't appear comfortable giving that assurance; he did rely on the encouraging words of local attorney Karen Thompson who had earlier shared her understanding of the legal framework that will operate as guidance for the process.