Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin strenuously complained Thursday about the lack of authority of the elected government in matters pertaining to the police and civil service, two matters under the responsibility of the Governor.
‘What we have now is ostensible responsibility without any authority,’ he said at the Cabinet press briefing. ‘The governor tells us what he thinks we ought to hear; we get no role in the decision making.’
The comments were made in the wake of the what Mr. McLaughlin called ‘the helicopter fiasco’ and Governor Jack’s announcing Wednesday that Police Commission Stuart Kernohan – who is under investigation for misconduct in public office – has not complied with official requests to return to the Cayman Islands.
‘There is an attempt by some… to place responsibility on the elected government for matters pertaining to the police,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘Constitutionally, we have no responsibility and we have no authority.
Mr. McLaughlin said the situation was impossible for government.
‘It is in large part a result of the constitutional arrangement we have and a principle reason why we have been pushing, and will continue to push, for constitutional advancement.
‘Quite frankly, if this country is to continue to move forward and not wind up with some serious, serious problems in relation to governance, the arrangement has to change. The elected governor must have more involvement in policy matters in relation to the police.’
Mr. McLaughlin pointed out that Governor Jack has pushed for good governance and even called for the Commission of Enquiry into the actions of Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford for reasons of good governance.
‘Ironically, in this term… the two areas where there have been the biggest governance issues are matters which fall under [Governor Jack’s] constitutional responsibility; the police and civil service.’
In mentioning the civil service, Mr. McLaughlin said he was referring to the recent report of the auditor general concerning the failure of government to submit its financial reporting on time.
‘Again, some members of the media… and the broader community insist this is a matter that the elected government should take responsibility for,’ he said. ‘How we take responsibility for matters of which we have no authority is something we have been working on ourselves.’
Although the civil service does not answer to the elected government, Mr. McLaughlin said they do answer to the governor.
‘The governor is able to summon any civil servant and say ‘you’re not doing your job; get on with it’.’
Although it has no authority in matters of the police and civil service, Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged the elected government can influence decisions.
‘No doubt the position the Leader [of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts] and Minister [Arden] McLean took last week and the discussion we had in Cabinet on Tuesday has had some influence on what the governor has decided to do in relation to Commissioner Kernohan and the helicopter situation,’ he said. ‘So I’m not saying we don’t have some influence. But we have no authority.’
Mr. McLaughlin said there was ‘undue deference’ paid to the office of governor while the elected government members were ‘sitting targets’.
‘There’s a tendency in the media generally to be much quicker to criticise the elected government for whatever appears to be not right,’ he said, adding that he thought that approach was very unhealthy.
‘The decisions of the governor ought to be able to stand up to the same scrutiny to which our decisions are subjected.’
Mr. McLaughlin said the overall constitutional arrangement concerning the police and civil service represented ‘serious governance issues that will not be sorted out unless there is a better framework for the government of the Cayman Islands to operate in’.
‘We have made the strongest possible representations that the present [constitutional] arrangement is unsatisfactory as it relates to the overall policy making and management of the police services and that the elected government has a role to play in that,’ he said, adding that the UK’s National Audit Office agreed with that contention.
‘This absolutely must change for the best interests of government and good governance in the Cayman Islands. This is not about the PPM… this is about what is best for the Cayman Islands.’