Constitution expert in Cayman

When it comes to tackling a big job like constitutional reform, help is always welcome.

So it is no surprise that on Friday, 4 May, members of non-governmental organization People for Referendum and Constitution Renewal Secretariat Chief Suzanne Bothwell embraced the chance to meet with a key member of Anguilla’s constitutional and electoral reform commission, Don Mitchell.

A lawyer and former judge, Mr. Mitchell was on-Island on other business and generously took time out of his busy schedule for the informal information session to discuss the Anguillan experience.

‘You must keep in mind that every island is different, that the issues people find important and the challenges that you face within the culture are different,’ he said.

He applauded the efforts of the Cayman Islands government to set up the secretariat, but warned that politics should not interfere with the process.

He also advised that despite their hopes to contrary, the secretariat should expect and not be disappointed by challenges in obtaining feedback from the public on the matter.

‘It is a rather dry subject, to be fair,’ he said.

‘All you can do is to ensure that people have full access to what is being done and the opportunity for input throughout the process. It gives the people who feel strongly about something the chance to be heard.’

He stressed the importance of being open and courteous when it comes to fielding questions from the public to encourage participation.

‘Finding out what matters to people and listening to all their questions is key to letting people know you want to include them,’ he said.

He also advised not to expect a perfect document to emerge, as it is impossible to please everyone. Allowing for concessions to be made should be something the country should be prepared for, in return for attaining some other points that matter more to them.

‘The best thing to do is to take what you like from other constitutions, including sections of various bills of rights, to come up with one that suits Cayman the best,’ he said.

He says the Anguillan commission’s aim was to democratize certain aspects of society.

‘In our case, one priority was to include more checks and balances for the role of the governor with regard to our local institutions,’ he said.

‘It’s now up to Cayman to decide where they see improvements can be made.’