Recently, Cabinet ministers have been saying that they are concerned that the 1972 Constitutional Order in Counsel precludes them from having responsibility over certain matters of government policy that affect their constituents.
One such matter of concern is that the Cabinet ministers are constitutionally barred from responsibility for policy on the policing of our communities and the safety of our home land borders.
Under the 1972 Constitutional Order in Council, a police commissioner is not answerable to the Cabinet ministers. A police commissioner is only answerable to a governor: the governor who happens to be appointed at any given time to administer the Cayman Islands.
The incident, which triggered the cabinet ministers to have their concern, was the incident of undocumented Cuban migrants who were detained by the immigration officials.
The Cuban migrants were not given legal entry after entering the Cayman Islands. They were under immigration detention whilst awaiting their re-patriation to Cuba.
Cabinet ministers were surprised when the detained Cubans appeared on downtown George Town streets marching with placards. They had gotten permission to stage a protest march from the police.
Elected Cabinet ministers were not consulted nor were they briefed about the migrant Cubans being released from immigration detention and given permission for the protest march.
The elected Cabinet ministers were bombarded with constituents’ questions concerning the incident. Unfortunately, the elected Cabinet ministers have no constitutional responsibility over the matter notwithstanding that they are answerable for it.
The constitutional arrangement is a commissioner of police is answerable only to a governor in the absence of elected Cabinet ministers raises a serious constitutional difficulty that must not be allowed to continue.
Elected Cabinet ministers are responsible for raising money through the Legislative Assembly and ultimately from the people for policing and homeland border protection. It should follow constitutionally that elected Cabinet ministers should have responsibility because they have accountability to the people.
So what does this accountability but no responsibility mean?
It would seem that the drafters of the 1959 Order in Council and the 1972 Order in Council respectively did not believe at that time that the elected members and elected ministers were responsible enough to be responsible for policing, safety and homeland border control.
That era of lack of responsibility but fettered with accountability began some 49 years ago when some of the present elected Cabinet ministers were probably just starting to walk.
Today they are walking the walk and doing the talk. It is now time that they be given the responsibility of oversight of the policing of this country. It seems to me that as long as we are constitutionally dominated by others we continue to leave our responsibility at their door. That is a significant difficulty to constitutional modernisation.
The Waddington Commission emphasised that ‘the responsibility to be placed on ministers shoulders must be real. When ministers are not brought in at the planning and consultative stages of planning there will be hostility’.
It must never be forgotten that at this stage in our constitutional evolution that an elected minister is a political servant and member of the government Cabinet whereas the head of a department is a civil servant and employee of a governor.
Where in any other modern part of the world with constitutional parliamentary democracy is a civil servant superior to an elected Cabinet minister?
This is one of the glaring colonial constitutional difficulties that some people seem to be afraid to tackle. What seems to be the prohibition against some politicians standing up and becoming statesmen instead of grovelling on their knees is that once they are out of power they soon forget that it is the Legislative Assembly that provides the elected Cabinet; that the government is formed by the majority being successful at the polls.
Statesmen are men who when their country is in a moment of crisis stand up and fight the difficulty until the crisis is over. Statesmen are men who when their country is seeking conscience on matters of constitutional importance join the debate constructively until an amicable consensus is reached.
The modernisation process of our constitution has fostered resentment and demagoguery in some people and innovators of others. But it will be the electors whom will determine who are the statesmen and who are the demagogues.