Today’s Editorial October 06: Different versions of truth

In a short letter to the editor today, Dennie Warren Jr. comments about the closed-door nature of last week’s constitutional modernisation negotiations between representatives from Cayman Islands and a delegation from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Mr. Warren suggests that because those negotiations were not held in public, Caymanian voters – who will either approve or disapprove of the proposed new constitution in a referendum next May – can only choose which version of the truth to believe.

We assume Mr. Warren was referring to the differing versions of the truth that will come from Cayman’s two political parties, the sitting People’s Progressive Movement and the opposition United Democratic Party, but he also could have been referring to a third version of the truth, that which could come from the FCO.

Almost prophetically though, Cayman’s two political parties made statements Friday about what had transpired during the four days of negotiations that couldn’t have been more different. In a nutshell, the PPM blamed the UDP for the major sticking points during the talks and the UDP said it was the FCO that rejected outright some of the government’s key proposals.

When parties on opposite sides of an issue make seemingly contradictory statements, many people simply assume one side is lying, but that isn’t necessarily correct. Often, sides will tell selective versions of the truth and ‘spin’ the situation in a way that supports their views. It is also possible for two parties to view the same thing from different perspectives – an ideological parallax if you will – and come away with varying perceptions.

Whatever the case was with last week’s talks with the FCO, the conflicting versions of the truth are doing exactly what both parties said they didn’t want: they are politicising the constitution modernisation process.

Ian Hendry, the head of the UK delegation in the negotiations, said in the broadcasted opening of the talks, that holding them in public would have made them unlikely to produce any real results because of the political posturing and grandstanding that would have assuredly occurred. Although we understand the reasoning behind the decision to hold the talks behind closed doors, we must side with Mr. Warren’s argument the unedited voice recordings of the negotiations – or at the very least verbatim transcripts – should be made available to the public.

Political leaders on both sides have constantly reminded us the constitutional modernisation process is not about the PPM, the UDP or any of the individuals involved. The process is about getting a new constitution that is acceptable to the clear majority of Caymanians. Why then should the public be kept in the dark about any of the process, especially in a political climate where they don’t know who to believe?