There is a clear national consensus on certain issues, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said Monday night in East End. ‘People want us to retain our relationship with the UK.’
Mr. Bush, together with fellow West Bay MLAs Rolston Anglin and Cline Glidden, spoke with East End residents in their last round of district meetings before representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are due in Cayman to discuss constitutional modernisation.
The three men, members of the United Democratic Party, mentioned topics on which they agreed with the People’s Progressive Movement, which has formed the current Government.
Mr. Bush noted that the PPM also said it wanted to retain the UK relationship, but it is raising issues involving powers and responsibilities that belong to the Governor. ‘I think that traverses on a constitutional point,’ he commented.
The controversy involving the police helicopter was an example he used. If members of Cabinet were briefed about it and didn’t do due diligence, no constitutional change could rectify that.
Referring to his seven years in Executive Council (before it became Cabinet), he said, ‘I happen to know when something is happening in the country, the elected ministers tell the Governor to bring in the Commissioner to brief them.’ He charged present Ministers with wanting to create friction because they want power.
‘I want to see if the Commissioner is charged. I think it will be a sad day in the history of the country if we give them control over the police. I know what happened in other Caribbean countries when politicians have power over police.’
He suggested the constitution Cayman has is working – ‘Nobody can say we haven’t done well as a country’ – and suggested the maxim, ‘When it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’
‘I am not prepared to tell the public we must have control over the police. I am not going to do that. They might blame me for status, but they are not going to blame me for destroying the country through independence.’
After the meeting, Mr. Bush asked to add to his comment about the mass grants of status by Cabinet in 2003 when he was in Government.
‘I got the blame, but everybody in the PPM had their list – PPM and Official Members. Thank God we don’t have to go through that again. We have a good Immigration Law, except where Government amended it and took it out of whack.’
He pointed to another topic on which UDP and PPM agreed – having district councils. These would not be full-fledged local governments, but would give government feedback on any policy that affected their lives.
Mr. McFarlane Conolly asked how the meetings with the FCO were likely to go.
Mr. Glidden suggested the FCO would be happy to deal with relatively minor matters, such as whether the Speaker should be from inside or outside the Legislative Assembly and not concentrate on the real issues.
One real issue is how to protect Cayman’s economy regarding the UK’s various treaty obligations.
Mr. Bush said he was willing to sit down to hear how far the FCO was willing to let Cayman go. ‘I believe the FCO is ready to listen. They can’t just dump a constitution on us. They can’t say ‘we don’t want you as a territory.’ They’re going to do what is best for them; we know that.’
Mr. Anglin pointed out that the UK has obligations within the United Nations to its territories. He said the FCO will want to hear reasons for Cayman’s positions and what support there was for those positions.
Mr. Glidden said the UK had not told Cayman we must have a bill of rights. What they had said was, if you’re having modernisation, you have to have a chapter of rights.
That led to another question from the audience – ‘If we decide against modernisation now, how long will it be before they force us?’
Mr. Bush said he did not believe the UK would force Cayman unless officials there thought it would impact on their international obligations.
He wondered if the constitution needed that much changing and said it should not be rushed. ‘If it takes five years to fine tune the constitution, then it takes that long.’
The meeting took place at the William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre, where attendees accepted an invitation to draw their chairs around the head table for discussion.