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Constitutional review

The government’s proposed constitutional reform would create a six-person committee known as a National Security Council to advise the Cayman Islands governor on police matters.

Under the plan, the governor, the attorney general, the police commissioner, the new premier, and two government ministers would form the council.

The People’s Progressive Movement government has said the governor’s office would officially maintain control over the police and appoint the commissioner. However, the elected government said it is seeking greater accountability and coordination from the governor’s office on internal security.

Right now, the police commissioner is not required to provide regular security briefings to the elected government and the governor is not required to consult with Cabinet members on decisions regarding security.

The issue caused some consternation in April when Royal Cayman Islands Police officers allowed a group of Cuban migrants to protest in the streets of George Town with the understanding the Cubans would return to the immigration detention centre afterward.

Cabinet ministers were furious when they were not informed about the protest and threatened to withhold funding from the police budget. The governor’s office later said it would attempt to keep ministers better informed about police activities, but said more significant changes would have to wait for constitutional modernisation.

‘This is one of the reasons we need constitutional change,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said in April. ‘We continue to be almost entirely excluded from matters that deal with security.’

‘Either they involve the elected government or they will have a crisis,’ he said.

Under the PPM government’s plan, the commissioner of police would provide the National Security Council with regular briefings. The council would then give its views on how various matters should be handled.

The constitutional review document produced by the government states: ‘The governor should act in accordance with this advice unless he considers it would be contrary to Her Majesty’s interests.’

That statement was cause for concern among members of the opposition party at a public meeting in West Bay last week.

‘Give them (the PPM) the power to tell police what to do and you better not even come out of your house,’ said Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush. ‘The protection offered from arbitrary arrest and victimisation by the present system of having a governor who maintains the independence of certain arms of government wouldn’t be available under their proposal.’

Government ministers have accused Mr. Bush of trying to delay and derail constitutional advancement by attempting to make the upcoming May vote a referendum on the PPM government.

‘The more hype that is set on it — certainly adds fuel to the fire,’ said Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts. ‘It is not only irresponsible, it is wrong.’

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