CNN editorial shows ignorance

To the editor of

Your editorial on ‘CARICOM and the Cayman Islands’ stating that CARICOM is somehow interfering in Cayman Islands constitutional development suggests an insufficient awareness of the role of the United Nations in the process of political development.

At the UN each year, national or regional statements are made by most countries on the status of political and constitutional advancement in the remaining 16 territories, pursuant to the UN Charter. Neither the CARICOM statement, nor any of the statements from Europe, Asia, Africa of the Pacific, seek to force independence on the Cayman Islands, as the editorial somehow concluded.

The UN, including its 14 CARICOM member states, reviews the decolonisation process in all 16 territories in accordance with the international mandate of the UN Charter. Since seven of the 16 territories are in the Caribbean, and most of them belong to CARICOM institutions, it would be odd if CARICOM did not speak on the issue. The 2007 CARICOM statement did not portend to ‘speak for the Cayman Islands,’ no more than any of the other statements from Europe, Asia, Africa or elsewhere. But, since the decolonisation of all territories, including the Caymans, is a UN agenda item, UN member states have the obligation to examine the situation in each territory on the UN list of non self-governing territories.

Self-governance in the UK, US or French administered territories is discussed by the countries of the UN precisely because these territories were placed on the UN list by these same administering states. If constitutional modernisation results in a level of self government sufficient to meet basic minimum standards of self-governance, then these new arrangements should be submitted for UN assessment, as per standard practice in place since the 1950s. None of the three new UKOT constitutions have been submitted for review thus far, however, and the retention of provisions on the exercise of unilateral authority through reserved and other powers might be a factor. The option of free association, which many CARICOM states previously enjoyed before deciding on independence, provided for a political relationship of mutual consent which meets the criteria for self-government.

Unilateral authority does not meet such criteria, as it is difficult to fathom how an un-elected representative can have the final say over the elected representatives of the people – at least in a democracy.

There are many association models for small island countries presently in play, and should be explored, rather than simply dismissed as no longer available. It is not in the interest of democratic governance for non self-governing arrangements to be projected as self-governing if they are not, and the UN will, no doubt, continue to exercise their mandate. Nothing prevents the Cayman Islands or any territory from speaking before the Fourth Committee. The Gibraltar Chief Minister addresses the UN each year.

The Cayman Islands is presently proceeding with its programme of constitutional review, which should serve as a model for similar processes elsewhere. It is difficult to fathom, however, how such misleading editorials, as the one on CARICOM and the Cayman Islands, can be anything but unhelpful to constitutional modernisation.

C.G. Corbin

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