Constitutional review discussions under way

The Constitutional review discussions got underway Monday between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom amidst an appeal from the Opposition that the talks be held in public.

UK delegation

The UK delegation, from left, Ms Sarah Latham, desk officer for the Cayman Islands in the FCO Overseas Territories Directorate; Ms Helen Nellthorp, deputy head of the FCO Overseas Territories Directorate; Mr. Ian Hendry, chair of the UK delegation; Ms Susan Dickson, legal counsellor at the FCO; Mr. Michael Bradley, constitutional advisor to the FCO Overseas Territories Directorate. Photo: Cliodhna Doherty

In his opening remarks during the talks at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said that in the interests of transparency the public should be permitted to listen in.

‘I believe that since you are here they should be open or else they might as well have been in the United Kingdom,’ he said.

But Head of the UK delegation, Mr. Ian Hendry said that the talks would not be held in public because he had no authority to agree to that.

Furthermore, he said he did not believe it would be a sensible way of proceeding.

‘If these discussions took place throughout in public I know, I don’t just think, I know that we would not reach a conclusion. This is a negotiation . . . and in a negotiation the key is forbearance and compromise and persuasion and a result, which is the acceptance of both sides – the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom.

‘And I know from bitter experience . . . that if negotiations are held in private they were more likely to get acceptance, forbearance and tolerance.’

He added that at the end of the four days of talks he would be prepared to answer to a press briefing on the proceedings.

Mr. Hendry also noted that while the United Kingdom negotiating team approach constitutional review with no preconceived agenda, the United Kingdom team would wish to discuss some changes to the current Constitution.

He stated that the United Kingdom has a strong interest in the inclusion of an up-to-date fundamental rights chapter in the Cayman Islands Constitution.

Mr. Hendry noted that the FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories had previously said in a letter to the Leader of Government Business:

‘The British Government would not agree to a new Cayman Islands Constitution that did not include an up-to-date human rights chapter. . .’

Mr. Hendry said that in the light of experience with other overseas territories, the process of constitutional review may well require more than one round of discussion, if necessary with a final round in London with the responsible UK Minister to try to resolve the most difficult outstanding issues.

But in all respects, he said, the United Kingdom team will be striving for the best possible outcome for the Cayman Islands that is consistent with the United Kingdom’s continuing responsibilities for the Cayman Islands.

‘These responsibilities include ensuring good governance, a non-political civil service and police force, the independence of the judiciary, the maintenance of law and order, the fulfilment of international obligations, and the minimisation of contingent liabilities.’

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts spoke about the talks being a golden opportunity to refine the system of government and make it relevant to the times and for the future.

‘It’s not so much about our future but that of our children and grandchildren. Let’s give them a legacy of which they can be proud,’ he said.

Mr. Bush noted that the talks are not about the UDP or the PPM but about all the people of these islands.

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