At the Cabinet press briefing Friday, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts called the government’s proposals for a new constitution ‘the people’s proposals’.
He based this on the premise that prior to putting forth the revised proposals, there were nationwide consultations on constitution modernisation.
We know there was a series of meetings that took place earlier this year. We know the government has spent or will spend up to $2.3 million for the Constitutional Review Secretariat to educate the Caymanian public on the issues surrounding the constitutional modernisation process. And we know that based on public feedback the government received on its original proposals, it revised them.
What we don’t really know is if the new proposals could rightfully be called ‘the people’s proposals’.
Staff members of the Caymanian Compass attended every one of the meetings held by the Constitutional Review Secretariat. We don’t believe they can accurately be referred to as consultations.
Instead, they were more like lectures followed by questions or statements from the audience. Some audience members commented, but most said nothing.
During the first meeting held by the Secretariat in George Town, attendees were asked to fill out a survey asking them their views on each of the government’s proposals. To our knowledge, the survey never surfaced again after that first meeting.
What’s more, the meetings were generally not well attended – only a couple attracted at least 100 people – and because of their long length, many attendees left early.
These meetings should not be considered a thorough consultation with the 14,000 electors of this country.
We can appreciate the government’s position that it did what it felt it needed to do to educate the people of this country about constitutional modernisation, and that it is not at fault so few people showed up to the meetings. However, we cannot agree that because they did not show up, their unknown views have by default become the ‘people’s proposals’.
The fact of the matter is we won’t have any idea whether the government’s proposals really reflect the views of the majority of the electorate of this country until next May, when voters are asked to approve a new constitution in a referendum.
It’s too bad that at a cost of $2.3 million a more engaging public education and consultation programme couldn’t have been implemented, one that would have left the country with less doubt about which way voters will sway on the issue next May.
As it is, we’re not so sure the people will agree that the new constitution represents their proposals at all in the referendum, and if that is the case, a lot of money will have been wasted.