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Leaders opt out of final national debate

Cayman is five days away from elections and last night (18 May) leaders of the two major political parties dodged the final Cayman 27 National debate before voters head to the polls.

Leaving independent candidates Chris Saunders, Kent McTaggart and the CDP’s Jonathan Piercy to duke it out at the ARC in Camana Bay, but with no Progressives candidate in the mix the debate the incumbents got a thrashing.

The sixth and final Cayman 27 debate before elections started off tame with candidates Chris Saunders, Kent McTaggart and the CDP’s Jonathan Piercy weighing in on restructuring immigration.

“The biggest problem we had is really the enforcement of existing laws. Creating new laws to stick under a new department is not going to be the solution,” Mr Saunders argued.

“It is time for us to have a human resources authority that is going to deal with all things labour, including pension,” countered Mr Piercy.

As for Mr McTaggart, “We need some type of clearing house to actually meld the needs of and the local ability to meet those needs.”

But that was the calm before the Progressives whipping storm and it was Mr Saunders who addressed the elephant in the room, the absence of Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin or a member of his team to defend their manifesto record.

“They believe that people will not read it and did not, cannot come here and defend it. It is actually insulting to the Caymanian people. I want to ask the Premier where is his leadership tonight, sorry I just had to get that off of my chest,” Mr Saunders said.

Moderator Tammi Sulliman had to rein the discussion in after that comment, it was the first of several times she would have to do that.

Premier McLaughlin and his deputy Moses Kirkconnell were originally scheduled to face Opposition Leader Hon. McKeeva Bush, Mr Piercy, as well as, Mr Saunders and Mr McTaggart. But Mr Bush withdrew last week. Mr Mclaughlin, in a statement to Cayman 27 on his absence after Mr Bush’s withdrawal, said, “Consequently, Moses (Kirkconnell) and I as leader and deputy leader of the Progressives were being invited to debate with the candidates who appeared last night. We declined. I would have been delighted and am still prepared to participate in a leaders debate.”

Financial Services minister Hon. Wayne Panton was also listed as a participant in the final lineup, but later dropped out citing personal reasons.

Nonetheless the debate continued broaching topics like Caymanian unemployment and cheap labour. But it was the withdrawal of the contentious Legal Practitioners Bill that generated passionate and some what emotive discussion.

“The fact that there were 60 to 80 amendments just on the government side shows a complete lack of confidence and inability as far as I am concerned,” Mr McTaggart said.

As for Mr Piercy, “They should have passed the code of conduct separate and apart because that is absolutely necessary. And then they should have dealt with the other aspects of it.”

Mr Saunders had a message for the attorneys aided by the bill being withdrawn, “Remember it was the regular people off the streets that lobbied to kill this bill to help you. Remember that the next time when people are losing their homes. Go out with your legal degrees and help the people.”

The question of term limits was addressed with all three agreeing to the concept in varied forms.

The Opposition leader told organisers he would not attend the debate because he was unhappy with a recent segment on the Crosstalk morning radio talk show on Rooster 101. Rooster and Cayman 27 are both owned by Hurleys Media.

And we want to hear your thoughts on all things election. Use the hashtag #Caymanvotes  when posting on social media.

About the author

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath is a Trinidadian journalist with 16 years media experience with a strong background in print with her most recent stint at The Cayman Reporter. She has a BA in Mass Communications, as well as, an Associate degree in Journalism and Public Relations.

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