More than a dozen members of Cayman’s clergy attended a meeting organised by the United Democratic Party concerning the constitutional changes proposed by the People’s Progressive Movement.
Of particular concern to the clergy in the proposed changes is having a Bill of Rights enshrined in the new Constitution and the constitutional establishment of a Human Rights Commission.
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush opened the meeting, saying the proposed changes would have significant ramifications on the way people practice their faith.
‘The Bill of Rights in particular is going to seriously affect the Christian church and Christian schools and private schools,’ he said.
West Bay MLA Cline Glidden said that PPM Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin had signed Cayman on to United Nations Conventions for Human Rights without any consultation with the public. However, he pointed out that because those provisions are not codified in law, there were only advisory in nature.
‘Under the current situation, they are not binding on our local courts,’ he said, adding that the PPM’s proposed changes would allow the local courts to enforce the UN Conventions on Human Rights in Cayman.’
Mr. Glidden said there were two ways Cayman could codify the UN Conventions on Human Rights; either through local legislation or by enshrining a Bill of Rights in the new Constitution. He pointed out that the Constitution would be much more difficult to change if the people of the Cayman Islands ever decided they wanted to change some aspect of the Bill of Rights.
Reverend Nicholas Sykes spoke about his concerns about the formation of a Human Rights Commission, the provision for which is proposed by the PPM to be included in the new constitution.
Mr. Sykes said the proposed Bill of Rights and its related quasi-legal structures ‘are likely to affect us at the deepest levels of our lives’.
Referring to page 13 of the PPM’s Explanatory Notes to the Summary of Proposals with regard to the constitution changes, Mr, Sykes noted document states the new Human Rights Commission would, in addition to seeking to ensure that human rights are respected, ‘also help individuals with credible complaints about breaches of human rights by mediating those disputes or, if necessary, help them bring their complaints to the courts or other appropriate bodies.’
Mr. Sykes drew attention to the ‘other appropriate bodies’ part of the statement and said he would give examples of the workings of other appropriate bodies and particular Human Rights Commission elsewhere in the western world.
‘I can assure you that justice in the eyes of these newly-conceived bodies has been quite unlike the justice to which we are accustomed,’ he said. ‘I suspect, though we are not told, that chief among the other appropriate bodies being referred to in the [Explanatory] Notes would be an arm of the new Human Rights Commission itself. That is the way it works elsewhere.’
In addition to calling the stated proposed purpose of the Human Rights Commission – ‘to ensure that human rights are being respected’- a utopian measure that seeks to conform to international treaties and to the Bill of Rights, Mr. Sykes said the system would be one-sided.
‘The function of the commission and any related appropriate bodies is to assist the complainant, to assist the bringing of complaints, to help individuals with credible complaints about breaches of human rights,’ he said. ‘What about the other side of the issue? The literature given to us does not dignify the one being complained against with a description. Let me call him the defendant. All the assistance goes to the complainant, but where is the assistance given to the defendant?
‘The system is one-sided, and in this matter alone, is offensive to a reasonable person’s sense of justice.’
Mr. Sykes noted that that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Cabinet Minister Jack Straw have both spoken at length on the need in Britain for what they are calling a Bill of Rights and Duties.
‘This is particularly significant because it arguably shows they have come to recognise that what has occurred in Britain under the international agreements and the Human Rights Act has done harm to Britain, and broadly speaking, the Human Rights Act is similar in concept to what the Foreign Office would like to see in place here as a Bill of Rights.
‘Personally, I would go further and say that the social experiment in human rights that Britain and the European countries have engaged in has been an unparalleled disaster for them.’
Mr. Sykes detailed several cases taken on by the Canadian Human Rights Commissions.
‘In [Human Rights Commission] the defendant’s right to due process is withdrawn. They reach judgments on the basis of no fixed law and by simply agreeing to hear a case, they tie up the defendant in bureaucracy and paperwork, and bleed him for the cost of lawyers, while the person who brings the complaint, however frivolous, stands to lose nothing.’
Mr. Sykes said over half all of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions ‘hate crime’ cases have been brought by one person who was a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Meeting attendee Douglas Calder rose to speak and related the recent story about the Anglican bishop of Hereford, who was fined £47,345 and ordered to take equal opportunities training after he refused to hire an active homosexual for a youth officer position in the diocese.
‘This is the sort of madness you’ll face in Cayman if [the Bill of Rights] comes,’ he said.
Pastor Alson Ebanks also spoke and outlined what he called a conflict of culture between post-modernist thinking and the way most Caymanians think.
‘We believe in absolutes; black and white; right and wrong,’ he said. ‘That’s not the way it is with post-modernists, who have a relativistic way of looking at things and do not believe in absolute right or wrong,’
Mr. Ebanks warned that many of the judges and other who would interpret a Bill of Rights in Cayman would be coming from countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, where post-modern thinking is widely accepted.
‘Their interpretive process is going to be different from the way we have been taught as Christians,’ he said.
Pastor Laten Bush said he was concerned with the speed of the constitution modernisation process.
‘We always tell our young people that speed kills,’ he said. ‘This is going to kill us as a country, as a people, and it’s going to have serious spiritual repercussions. We need to slow down and take more time.’