Thursday 20 February, 2020

Premier insists he won't allow Cruise Port Referendum to be derailed

The Premier has once again hit out at the Cayman Port Referendum (CPR) group and accused it of trying to derail the cruise port and cargo port project "by any means possible".

After the CPR group on Saturday issued a legal opinion to the media, Premier Alden McLaughlin replied, insisting: “The Government has taken legal advice on the conduct of this matter from our customary noted constitutional counsel in London and we are more than satisfied that the process being followed is fair and proper in every respect.

"What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that CPR is not really interested in holding a referendum, presumably because they think they will likely lose, but are simply intent on derailing the cruise port and cargo port project by any means possible, including frustrating it by delay.

"The Government will not allow that to occur - we intend to provide the country with a referendum that is fair to all sides. If CPR really believes it has a legitimate challenge to the process being followed by the Government, it should immediately apply to the court for leave for judicial review and have the matter adjudicated by the court rather than debated in the media.”   

In a statement on October 3, the Premier provided a summary as to the process followed by Cabinet in determining the question. While no guidance is given in the Constitution on how Cabinet should go about settling the wording of the referendum, Government has insisted that, as far as possible, it followed several common sense and natural justice principles.

These were that the question should be:

• clear and simple, easy to understand and written in plain language; 

• to the point, that is directed at the core issue in contention;  

• definitive and not ambiguous or open to a variety of interpretations; and  

• neutral, which means the wording should not create any encouragement for voters to consider one response more favourably than another and should not mislead voters.    

It was also stressed that Cabinet sought to ensure that the referendum question reflected the intention of the petitioners, specifically CPR. But the Premier argued that the wording of the CPR referendum petition did not readily help to determine a question that met the criteria above as it isn't written in plain language, nor does it set out any definitive proposition.

Rather it simply asks that “the proposed cruise berthing facility……be decided solely by referendum”. 

CPR’s initial referendum website offered two rationales for the petition that people were being asked to sign. First, it states: “The purpose of the Petition is….to bring about a people-initiated referendum in which registered voters can vote through ballot ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on whether the country should proceed with the proposed Cruise Berthing Facility.”

Secondly, it states: “The aim of this petition is…to start a people-initiated referendum…on whether the country should move forward with the proposed Cruise Berthing Facility.” These statements make clear the underpinning rationale for the CPR petition and, Government has argued, can be relied upon to represent what it was people were signing up for.

Whilst the petitioners have focused solely on cruise berthing, an enhanced cargo port has always been an intrinsic part of the Government’s plans to provide for a long-needed, modern port facility that includes cruise berthing and an enhanced cargo port, Premier McLaughlin added.

He also stressed once again that Government has at all times acted in good faith and will ensure that the referendum process is completed timely and in a manner that is fair to all sides.   

The Referendum (People-Initiated Referendum Regarding the Port) Bill, 2019 will be debated in the Legislative Assembly today.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: