Political eligibility changes dead

A government proposal that would allow first generation Caymanians to seek political office will likely not be a part of final constitutional reform plans.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said last week that while native residents seem to agree naturalised Caymanian status-holders should get to vote, they have so far overwhelmingly opposed allowing those people to run for office.

‘The indication is that people prefer for any new constitution to contain provisions which would only allow second generation Caymanians to stand for election,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

Mr. Tibbetts said a final proposal on constitutional reform would await feedback from a series of public meetings, which are scheduled to be held through April. But he said at this point, there has been very little public support for allowing first generation Caymanians into the Legislative Assembly.

As it stands now, someone seeking office in Cayman has to meet all domicile, residency and status requirements, and must have at least one parent or grandparent who is Caymanian.

The People’s Progressive Movement government’s proposal would have changed the parentage requirements to allow those with a Caymanian parent to run for office after they have lived here for five out of the last seven years. Those status-holders with no Caymanian parents would have to live on island for 20 out of 25 years before seeking office.

For instance, if a 25-year-old expatriate worker moved to Cayman, obtained permanent residency, and then received Caymanian status at age 40; they would be eligible to seek office at age 65 if they had spent 20 of the last 25 years living in Cayman.

In another example, a non-Caymanian child whose parents moved here when he was one year old would be allowed to run for office under the government’s constitutional reform plan, if that child received status and stayed on island 20 of the next 25 years after receiving that status.

The idea, according to Education Minister Alden McLaughlin, was to prevent the exclusion of an entire generation of people from representing what had become their country.

‘You’re saying ‘because you’re parents weren’t Caymanian born, you’re not as Caymanian as I am,” Mr. McLaughlin told a group of West Bay residents last month. ‘We’re creating classes of Caymanians.’

At that meeting, Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said it was possible for the child of two Caymanian parents to leave the country when they were 12 or 13 to seek secondary and tertiary education in England, and work there for decades without returning to Cayman. Mr. Manderson said that person would not lose their status in this country.

Under the current law, Mr. Manderson said that person could return to Cayman at age 40, stay here for the required few years and run for election, while the person who was born here to non-Caymanian parents and who had lived here their entire life would not be eligible to do so.

Opponents of the government’s proposal have argued that the issue is one of opening the Legislative Assembly, the highest office in Cayman, to those who are not of Caymanian descent.

‘We say no, we cannot accept that,’ Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin told a meeting held in West Bay last month. ‘Every country in this world jealously protects their highest office, and yet we see this nonsense coming forward.’