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Online debating, Cayman-style

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For too many years Bermudians have been fed with the narrative that we need to become more like the Cayman Islands, specifically with regard to work-permit and status issues.

Kathy Ebanks-Wilks debates incumbent Captain Eugene Ebanks during the Cayman Chamber of Commerce Forum

Realistically, it is hard to argue with things like budget surpluses and increased foreign investment. Yet, on the other hand, when we read about the social issues experienced by Caymanians, one has to ask: where is the balance?

Sandra Hill, of top news site Cayman Marl Road

To be fair, the present government, led by Alden McLaughlin Jr, has steered them through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Johann Moxham takes on incumbent Joey Hew during the Cayman Crosstalk debates

On April 14, the people of our sister Overseas Territory — inclusive of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac — will be going to the polls to cast their ballots.

Exactly 50 candidates will be vying to become, or in some cases remain as, Members of Parliament.

On Thursday on Motion to Adjourn on Power 95, we will be having an in-depth analysis of what is going on in Cayman Islands and some election predictions.

Our special guests will be James Whittaker, a journalist based in Cayman, and Caymanian author and historian Professor Roy Bodden, a former MP and president of the University College of Cayman Islands.

Issues

Roughly 23,600 registered voters will be eligible to choose who they wish to represent them in 19 constituencies. Some 600 have already voted via “mobile ballots” for those who have mobility issues. Another 300 are able to vote from abroad with postal ballots”.

What is unique is that of the 50 candidates, 42 are independents.

Over the past few weeks, the electoral climate has heated up with clearly defined issues from the voters, the top issues being cost of living, lack of affordable housing, the state of public education, immigration, overdevelopment of open land space, and lack of jobs for native Caymanians.

Many of these issues should come as a surprise to Bermudians, as for years we have been told that life for native Caymanians had improved with liberal immigration policies.

Media masters

The above issues have been deliberated at length in the public owing to the vigilance of several media houses in the Cayman Islands.

Local websites Loop Cayman and Cayman News Service have dedicated entire sections of their respective websites to highlighting different aspects of the upcoming elections.

Cayman Compass has hosted early-morning online debates via its radio show, Cayman Crosstalk. Candidates from each respective constituency are given the opportunity to answer questions compiled by radio host Barrie Quappé, and journalists James Whittaker, Andrel Harris, Kevin Morales, Reshma Ragoonath and Caroline James.

Additionally, Cayman Compass has dedicated a separate website, votecayman.ky, to highlight every aspect of the election, including candidate profiles on video, voters issues and videos of all forums held on Crosstalk.

The Cayman Islands’ top news source, Cayman Marl Road, in conjunction with the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, has also hosted online evening-time forums/debates broadcasted on Facebook, Radio Cayman and other outlets.

These forums/debates have been the exact same format for all candidates, with 20 questions compiled from public surveys. Each candidate is given two minutes respond. At times the candidates take the opportunity to rebut something another candidate had stated.

In the early mornings, CMR has an online show titled The Cold Hard Truth hosted by Sandra Hill, which offers an animated recap of the forum/debate held the night before.

Transparency

With such media scrutiny, most of the candidates have had to up their game with knowledge of the topics at hand.

The electorate have had an opportunity to watch their candidates articulate their views on subjects such as raising the minimum wage above $6 per hour.

Without the benefit of a party apparatus to run their campaigns, these 42 independent candidates have had to take advantage of every media opportunity presented.

Caymanian politics is Darwinian in the sense of “survival of the fittest” versus the two-party duopoly enjoyed by candidates in other Overseas Territories.

Without a doubt, after watching the forums/debates, many have made up their mind who they will be voting for.

These online forums are something that can work in other Overseas Territories.

Hint, hint.

Christopher Famous is the Government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

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Published April 03, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 02, 2021 at 11:55 am)

Online debating, Cayman-style

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