View photos of this event here.
If a Saturday event at Pedro St. James is any indication, people in Cayman are taking a new constitutional reform proposal seriously.
At 9.30 Saturday morning, before the music by the North Side Kitchen Band started, before food was served, before conch shells were sounded or catboats sailed by, the line around the information booth on the Pedro grounds was about 20 people deep. Acting Governor George McCarthy was among those in the queue.
Those waiting for a copy of the government’s plan included everyone from Caymanians who’ve lived on island for more than seven decades, to a few youngsters who won’t even be old enough to vote in May.
‘We need to make a start somewhere,’ said Margaret Reed, who was among the hundreds in attendance. ‘I’m going to read as much as I can read and get as up to date as I can because this is my country, and I’ve got to be a part of it.’
Most, like Mrs. Reed, hadn’t much of a chance by the end of Saturday’s event to look over and digest all of the changes suggested in the reform proposal by the People’s Progressive Movement government.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts urged all of them to do so in the coming days and weeks, essentially pleading with Cayman’s registered voters to get involved in the process.
‘Nothing is more important to the welfare of the Cayman Islands than getting this right,’ Mr. Tibbetts said during a 15 minute speech at the event, which was hosted by the Constitutional Review Secretariat.
Mr. Tibbetts did not go into great detail about the government’s plans during the address. Rather, he asked voters to have a look for themselves and submit comments to the secretariat or attend public meetings on the subject, which will begin this month.
Some in attendance Saturday doubted that four months would be enough time to affect change on the government’s initial constitutional modernisation proposal.
‘We can’t rush it,’ said former member of the Legislative Assembly Heather Bodden. ‘Four months is not long enough.’
‘If people drop other things in their lives we could probably do it,’ said Dennie Warren of the People for Referendum group. ‘I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but I think it’s going to be a real challenge.’
Others said the issue had been dragging on for too long, and that final decisions needed to be made.
‘This is something that’s been going on for the last six years,’ said Christopher White, referring to constitutional reform efforts earlier this decade. ‘This is just a chance for further input. We have enough time.’
The government got an unexpected vote of confidence on its plan from former MLA Roy Bodden, who’s been a critic of the People’s Progressive Movement in the past.
‘I have always said that the Cayman Islands need to get on track to prepare itself for eventual independence,’ Mr. Bodden said. ‘So, the embarkation towards greater self-determination is an important step.’
However, Mr. Bodden cautioned government on the celebratory atmosphere Saturday’s event seemed to take on.
‘I think that food, music and the catboats sailing by, with all due respect to our culture, is really a distraction,’ he said. ‘You can’t have a celebration yet because we are just embarking on the journey.’
Law school student Phillip Tatum disagreed. He said the entertainment added excitement and flavour to the event. Mr. Tatum also applauded the government’s decision to include a bill of rights in the constitutional reform plan.
‘Let’s establish these rights and allow each man to be equal on the island,’ he said.
Others voiced concern that a bill of rights might force Cayman to accept same sex marriages, though Mr. Tibbetts has previously said his government would oppose legalising same sex marriages and civil unions.