Independence not considered

The possibility of independence for the Cayman Islands will not be considered in the constitutional modernisation process, according to government ministers.

‘The government’s read — of the attitude of the majority of people in this country is that that is not something we want to consider at this time,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said during a constitutional review meeting in West Bay last week. ‘As a government, we haven’t spent any time talking about the ramifications of independence because — nothing indicates to us that that is a road down which we should travel right now.’

None of the roughly 80 residents at the public meeting said they were in favour of the independence option. But a few questioned why the government wasn’t attempting to educate voters about it before heading to the United Kingdom to negotiate a new governing document.

‘We’re assuming that most people do not want to go independent, but are you prepared to give details about that option?’ asked resident Stacy Eden Hurlston. ‘I know most people don’t want to speak about it, but it’s like death I guess; we know most likely it’s going to happen.’

Mr. McLaughlin said UK officials have stated many times that they would consider Caymanian independence if they are satisfied the people who live here want it.

However, he said he doesn’t believe that will happen in the near future.

‘We (the government) don’t believe we are ready as a country and as a people,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘I suppose some of the more obvious ramifications are that we’d have to assume all responsibility for the affairs of this country including — responsibility for external affairs, relationships with other countries, the creation of a defence force, embassies.

‘I suppose, ultimately, independence is — inevitable. But I don’t see it anytime soon.’

The referendum, which is to be held sometime in May, will be a straight up or down vote. In other words, voters must decide only whether to support or oppose the government’s proposal in broad terms.

Officials have said they will make changes to the proposal being debated now after determining the general sentiment through a series of public meetings. That altered document is what voters will see at the polls in May.

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush has previously said the current government’s proposal is seeking independence ‘through the backdoor.’ Mr. Bush has said the plan seeks to strip the governor of many of his powers and open all of his decisions up to judicial review. He has publicly urged Caymanians to oppose the referendum.

Government ministers have slammed Mr. Bush’s statements about seeking independence as ‘irresponsible, wrong and nonsense.’

Previously, the ruling People’s Progressive Movement party has said it would only go to the UK to negotiate changes in the constitution with the mandate of the people. If the constitutional proposals are voted down in May, government ministers said the entire process would have to be started again; likely after the May 2009 general elections.