Today’s Editorial: Constitution Day

Monday is a public holiday in the Cayman Islands.

Not because it’s a holiday in the US, where Americans will be celebrating their Independence Day.

Not because of a civic day like Canada, or a bank holiday as in the UK or other parts of Europe.

In Cayman, the first Monday in July is observed as Constitution Day.

It marks the coming into effect of Cayman’s first written Constitution – on 4 July 1959.

We are governed under the provisions of its successor, The Cayman Islands (Constitution) Order of 1972.

But the document has not been static for the last 33 years: it has been amended six times.

Each amending order has marked a significant stage in the development of these Islands, both politically and socially.

In 1984, for example, the Constitution was amended to give Cayman its own Court of Appeal.

Before then, appeals had been heard by the Court of Appeal for Jamaica.

Also in 1984 and again in 1987, there were amendments to provide that voters and candidates for election to the Legislative Assembly would have closer ties with Cayman than had been required previously.

In 1992, the number of persons to be elected as Members of the Legislative Assembly was increased from 12 to 15.

Numerous changes came the following year.

Executive Council, now known as Cabinet, grew from four elected members to five.

The Grand Court was entrenched in the Constitution.

The positions of Auditor General and Attorney General were strengthened and the post of Complaints Commissioner created.

In June 2003, the Constitution was amended to provide for an Electoral Boundary Commission.

Its function was to recommend boundaries for 17 electoral constituencies, with a view to each constituency electing one Member of the Legislative Assembly.

The commissioners were appointed and they made their report.

The fact that Cayman does not now have 17 single member constituencies illustrates the social and political dynamics of these Islands.

That same 2003 amending order also established the positions of Leader of Government Business and Leader of the Opposition.

The most recent amendment, in 2004, highlighted the complex question of citizenship.

The Constitution had to be amended so that a British Overseas Territories citizen who was also a British citizen would not be disqualified for election to the Legislative Assembly.

What happens next is a question that will surely be debated in the near future.

But not on Monday. That’s a day for appreciating what we have so far.

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