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Stimulating Talks

Stimulating Talks

There was more in-depth discussion than I expected, and the issues raised are very relevant

—Electoral Boundary Commission Chairman Carl Dundas.

"There was more in-depth discussion than I expected, and the issues raised are very relevant," said Electoral Boundary Commission (EBC) chairman Mr. Carl Dundas.

Speaking following the first two EBC district meetings, held in George Town and West Bay on Monday and Tuesday evenings, the Commissioner added, "We'll now look beyond what we've been contemplating so farů we look forward to very stimulating discussions and recommendations in other districts."

The meetings began with introductions of the three Commission members: Mr. Dundas, Mr. Norman Bodden, OBE, JP, and Ms Adriannie Webb, JP.

The EBC's information-gathering exercise is based on the new Cayman Islands Constitution, which offers the introduction of three more electoral areas throughout the districts. This would result in a total of 18 constituencies.

Mr. Dundas outlined that one of the pillars of the boundaries review will be an examination of the demographic make-up of the respective communities, with a view to achieving similar numbers of voters in the different areas.

The EBC will also make a recommendation on the kind of constituencies the Cayman Islands will have. There are three possibilities: single-member constituencies (SMCs); multi-member constituencies (MMCs); or a combination of both.

Speaking of the delicate nature of the topics covered, Mr. Bodden added, "There are concerns that some systems can be divisive, but there are also benefits on both sides."

Ms Webb pointed out that "accountability is at the heart of SMC's, and does facilitate aggrieved stakeholders."

The Commissioners noted that there are several principles relating to electoral boundary-making: the process should be fair to all stakeholders; it should be transparent and participatory; and it should take into account various concerns as well as the traditional community boundaries.

Although each district meeting was attended by about two dozen residents, the two-hour meetings touched on a range of issues.

The EBC's work is non-political and bi-partisan, and included in Monday's audience were several current, and former, George Town Members of the Legislative Assembly. They commented that is difficult for only four MLAs to effectively cater to their 6,000 voters and 30,000 residents.

The politicians also divulged that, because of factors such as the balance of ethnicities and socio-economic status of residents, smaller consistencies might result in more inclusive, flexible and integrated representation.

Other popular topics of conversation were the issue of 'one-man, one-vote', which is thought will result from SMCs, and the financial implications associated with adding three MLAs.

Citizens in the audience also pointed out that it might be difficult to make changes to the boundaries without also changing the electoral process.

Noting that in 2003 the previous EBC found many people did not want any change, some attendees in both districts commented that the issue may require future referenda, and even possible constitutional changes.

There will be two rounds of EBC meetings in West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and one each in the other districts.

At the end of the public consultation process, the Commissioners' recommendations will be sent to His Excellency the Governor, who will forward them to the Premier, and then they will be considered in the Legislative Assembly.

The schedule of meetings is being announced in the media. For further information on the EBC's work, contact the Elections Office at 949-8047.

For further information contact: Lennon Christian