Despite all the political manoeuvring and conflicting news reports, the process of bringing Cayman a modern Constitution began again this week.
Although the productiveness of the exploratory talks with a U.K. Constitutional Review Team varied depending on who you asked, the Constitution is once again on the forefront of the minds of many residents of the Cayman Islands.
This week’s talks weren’t formal negotiations. They were intended only to get the ball rolling again by recalling where the negotiations were when they stalled in early 2004, and by defining the process forward.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts would not specify a precise timeline yet, but he said Government was committed to seeing the process through on a timely basis.
The first step, however, is public consultation.
In the lead-up to what it thought would be negotiations with the UK’s team this week, the Opposition United Democratic Party started its consultation process, meeting with members of the clergy Monday.
It turns out the clergy has a major problem with one of the Governing People’s Progressive Movement’s campaign manifesto undertakings: to support a constitutionally enshrined Bill of Rights.
One of the reasons Mr. Tibbetts said the issue had to go back to the public before negotiations could re-commence was that there have been some changes of thinking – even within the PPM – over time because of Cayman’s past experiences. Whether he was talking about the Bill of Rights issue, we don’t know, yet.
In addition, there is some question whether the majority of Caymanians really understand the implications of all of the Constitutional issues.
Some of the public meetings held in 2003 and previously on the subject were not very well attended. However, if the matter is ultimately to be decided in a national referendum – as the PPM says it will – it is important that more people understand what’s at stake with the new Constitution, and how it is likely to affect their daily lives.
Mr. Tibbetts said the time and effort that was put into the process previously will not be wasted, and that it will be used as a starting point going forward.
Now that the initial meetings with the U.K. are completed, Mr. Tibbetts has also said he will come to the country with timelines. It’s almost a year into the PPM’s term, and the Government has had a lot of issues to deal with, but the country now needs to move ahead with modernising the constitution.
We look forward to extensive public consultation by both the Government and the Opposition in the weeks and months ahead.