Bush: Open Constitution talks

Constitutional review talks between Government and the Opposition should be open to the public as both sides prepare for the visit of Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives on 29 September.

That opinion was expressed on Thursday night by Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush during a public meeting in North Side.

He said the Opposition had proposed the week of 22 September for discussions with Government and Non-Government Organisations on Cayman’s negotiating team. He suggested the talks be held in the Assembly Building Monday through Wednesday, 22-24 September.

‘The public can be in the gallery and listen to what is going on,’ Mr. Bush said.

That proposal would give everyone Thursday through Saturday to get their position document together for the meetings with the FCO.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts announced the 29 September date for talks between the Cayman delegation and the FCO at a Cabinet press briefing on 7 August

Mr. Tibbetts said the delegation would comprise up to four Government MLAs and up to four Opposition MLAs plus one representative each from the Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Ministers Association and CI Mission of Seventh-Day Adventists.

Mr. Bush had said previously he wanted a final round of meetings to gauge public sentiment.

The North Side meeting, held at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre, was the first.

Meetings continue tonight at East End United Church Hall, Tuesday at Bodden Town United Church Hall. Wednesday the group moves to the Mary Miller Hall for George Town residents. Friday the meeting is in Cayman Brac at the Heritage House. The final meeting is in West Bay at the John A. Cumber School Hall.

All meetings have been called for 7pm.

Mr. Bush said the thought processes and approaches of the Opposition United Democratic Party were completely different from those of the People’s Progressive Movement Government.

The PPM Government released its proposed positions for a new constitution in January. The UDP launched its constitutional discussion paper in April.

On Thursday, West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin reviewed some of the UDP positions, first noting that the Opposition had asked Government for about $60,000 to help distribute it. The request was ignored, although Government will spend $1.5 million on the constitutional review process.

Mr. Anglin indicated that lack of funding was unfortunate because the Constitution affects the interests of all people: ‘Everyone should have equal access to resources that are out there.’

Some 400-500 UDP discussion papers have been printed and circulated -‘what we could afford,’ Mr. Bush said. Copies have been placed in all post offices for reference and the Constitutional Review Secretariat has placed the paper on its website www.constitution.gov.ky

North Sider Cromwell Ebanks raised the question of independence. Mr. Bush said the UDP was not supporting any moves toward independence.

He reminded his audience that the PPM wanted to move the Attorney General out of the Legislative Assembly. He warned that the UK had already said when you do that you must set a date for independence.

Mr. Dennie Warren Jr. said he wished the Constitution could be changed to allow multiple questions on a referendum because it would be simpler for people to read and respond. The ballot that had been proposed for a referendum on the Constitution was complicated because only one question could be asked.

‘Would you support a change to allow more than one question?’ he asked.

Mr. Anglin pointed out that such a change would have to be made before May if it were to affect the referendum scheduled for then. Mr. Bush said they would have to give it more consideration and hear input from other meetings.

Someone in the audience asked if there were any likelihood of reaching a consensus between Government and the Opposition on issues where there is presently disagreement.

Mr. Bush replied ‘Only two people can’t change their mind – a dead man and a fool.’

Other UDP members at the head table were MLAs Cline Glidden and Capt. Eugene Ebanks along with Mr. Billy Reid, chairman.

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