Long-time Caymanian attorney Orren Merren pointed out in a public meeting Monday night that the People’s Progressive Movement’s proposed method for constitutional modernisation has changed from what it suggested in 2006.
The meeting at the Family Life Centre in George Town was arranged by the United Democratic Party specifically to discuss the possible impacts of a new constitution for the benefit of Cayman’s clergy members and Christians.
Mr. Merren, who was one of the programme’s speakers, discussed the legal various legal implications of the new constitution, but he started by saying the process was not really being driven by the people.
‘If you think it derives from the people of the Cayman Islands, I think we need to disabuse you of that mistaken notion,’ he said, adding that although people have been invited to attend public meetings on the constitution, they will not have much say in the final wording of the final document. He also said the PPM had changed its position on the method of constitutional reform.
Reading from the Official Hansard Report of what Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said during Legislative Assembly proceedings on 23 March, 2006, Mr. Merren pointed out the difference in methods.
‘Mr. Tibbetts said, ‘Once the negotiation stage is successfully completed, we intend that the resulting draft consultation will be published and widely discussed. Then in due course a referendum will be held to determine whether it is acceptable to the people of the Cayman Islands’,’ he said.
‘Now it is different’
Mr. Merren explained the PPM is holding public consultation on a list of suggested proposals that are not the actual constitution. It will then hold a referendum to see if the voters agree with the general proposals and use a positive result in that referendum as a mandate from the people to negotiate the new constitution with the United Kingdom. The new constitution would then come into effect without there being another referendum.
‘I don’t think that will be in the best interest of the Cayman Islands, personally,’ he said. ‘It would be better to have a document that has been negotiated and then bring it back to the people.
‘People are now being asked to give their approval to something they haven’t had a chance to see.’
Mr. Merren said a yes or no vote on the proposals was also troublesome.
‘There is still a lot of confusion about this,’ he said. ‘People are still not understanding what this is all about.’
Mr. Merren also discussed the possible consequences of enshrining a bill of rights in the new constitution, particularly when it came to the way Caymanians practice Christianity. He said United Nations Conventions on Human Rights espoused a ‘secular humanist agenda’ where people are their own gods.
He drew the parallel to the United States Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade which gave women the right to be their own god when it comes to the life of an unborn baby. Mr. Merren does not think such decisions were what America’s founding fathers had in mind when they drafted the Bill of Rights.
‘Things that were thought to be good in the Bill of Rights were turned on their head,’ he said, warning that a judge could do the same thing in Cayman if a bill of rights is enshrined in the constitution.
‘It could lead down the road to unexpected and undesired results,’ he said. ‘It might not be what is intended, but it could be where you drift if you get on the road that leads there.’
Douglas Calder, who was a member of the audience, said he did not believe Cayman should even be discussing a bill of rights with the UK and that his advice was for the government to say it did not want a bill of rights.
‘What is going on at the moment is what we call in England a snow-job,’ he said, adding that the UK was trying to ‘railroad’ the Cayman Islands into a bill of rights.
‘The UK is under pressure to pass these bills of rights for all its overseas territories.’
Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush urged the clergymen in attendance to report to their congregations what they had heard at the meeting.
‘With the enactment of the proposals for the bill of rights, life in Cayman will be changed,’ he said. ‘You can sit back and do nothing, or you can tell the members what you heard here tonight.
‘Do not just say it’s not going to happen. It will only not happen if you help it not happen.’