Constitution clergy

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts says he and his fellow ministers are formally inviting members of the Cayman Ministers Association to meet with them today in an effort to allay their concerns about the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in Cayman’s new Constitution.

‘We are hoping to have a frank exchange of views and ideas on Constitutional Modernization and answer any concerns they have,’ said Mr. Tibbetts Thursday.

Mr. Tibbetts said the decision to hold the meeting had arisen following media reports that church leaders fear a bill of rights will undermine the traditional Caymanian value system, commenting that it appeared the Opposition was in part fuelling this perception.

He said he hoped the presence at the meeting of Government’s adviser and a recognized authority on Constitutional issues, Professor Jeffrey Jowell, would aid in providing answers to any questions the attendees might have.

Mr Tibbetts said he hoped the meeting would provide an opportunity for church leaders to become better informed and improve their understanding of what is involved so they would be able to share the information with their congregations.

‘We have not come with a done deal on constitutional Modernisation, presented as if it were the Gospel, and then attempted to ram it down people’s throats. All we have done so far is to publish a set of proposals for the purpose of kick-starting the debate,’ said Mr. Tibbetts.

Mr. Tibbetts remarked that assuming there is a yes vote on the referendum, it will inform Government’s approach to negotiations with the United Kingdom.

‘It was the UK, which called for its overseas territories to adopt modern constitutions. We are responding to this request,’ said Mr. Tibbetts.

He emphasised that it is London which insists that a Bill of Rights must be included in any new Constitution.

‘London says it is non-negotiable, therefore we have to decide what to include,’ said Mr. Tibbetts.

He emphasised that constitutional guarantees of human rights are standard practice.

‘Such guarantees improve national governance, empower citizens, contribute to improving their quality of life, and make governments more accountable,’ he said.

He underscored the need for a speedy resolution to the issue, saying Cayman now lags behind other territories.

‘If we continue to drag our feet on this vital matter, the UK Government may lose patience with us and impose a constitution of their determination on the Cayman Islands,’ said Mr. Tibbetts.

He noted the Bill of Rights would be very similar to that contained in the 2003 draft constitution prepared by the previous government.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin further elaborated, saying that fears of particular groups in society being granted concessions in other jurisdictions have arisen out of non-discrimination legislation and not out of a Bill of Rights itself.

‘The danger for Cayman is not that we have a bill of rights based on the European Convention on Human rights,’ he said.

He said the danger is the evolution of the concept of human rights, which has a basis in legislation.

He said the UK might feel it might need to extend that kind of legislation to the Cayman Islands if the new constitution does not specifically make provisions to prevent that from happening.

‘Human rights are there to protect the individual from the abuses of the state,’ he said.

‘We need to protect our financial services sector, and to protect our Caymanian values, and to do this we need to place restraints against the UK.’

He commented that Cayman has many jurisdictions within the commonwealth to look to, for example South Africa and Gibraltar, which can provide useful templates for Cayman.