Today’s Editorial January 18: Be heard on bill of rights

No matter which side of the bill of rights issue you lean toward, it is pretty evident that the Cayman Islands will eventually get such a document.

But there is much debate and discussion to be had before such a bill – in any form – sees the light of day.

As Thomas Jefferson said in 1787 ‘A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

Today the Cayman Islands finds itself in a similar position the fledgling American colonies were in back in the 1700s.

The American Bill of Rights is an historical product of a particular time and place.

Any bill of rights we adopt will too be an historical product of the time and place we now find ourselves in.

The American Bill of Rights arose out of a long British tradition of enumerated rights within the British legal system that governed the American colonies.

If we don’t adopt our own constitution and eventually a bill of rights, whether it is embedded in the constitution or a separate document, we will find ourselves in the position we are in now; looking toward the UK to solve issues of human rights and giving broad powers to Her Majesty’s representative, the Governor.

In a constitutional reform proposal from the People’s Progressive Movement there are several rights aimed at protecting the dignity of individuals, including the right to religion, to marriage between members of the opposite sex, to family life and privacy of one’s home and correspondence, the right to life, the right to property, the right to a fair trial, the right to not be subject to cruel or degrading treatment including slavery, the right to free speech and the right to lawful and peaceful demonstration.

While some of those rights are absolute others will be limited, such as the right to free speech, which does not permit pornography or defamation.

The PPM proposal says that by adopting our own bill of rights we will be Caymanizing those rights, which will be based on our own aspirations, such as respect for our heritage and environment the right to government information, the right to be treated fairly by all public officials and the rights of children to not be exploited.

It is expected that the bill of rights issue will be the most contentious in the constitutional reform process.

That’s why all of us need to educate ourselves as much as possible on just what government has proposed and be able to intelligently debate and discuss those proposals so that we can come up with a document that is good for the country now and carries us into the future.