Constitution talks still closed

The second round of constitutional negotiations between Cayman and the United Kingdom will again be closed to public observers, with the exception of today’s opening session and closing proceedings on Friday.

‘(This is) as per the wishes of the UK contingent,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.

Mr. Tibbetts said the opening day of the talks will include a set of speeches made by all parties involved in the negotiations. Those include representatives from Cayman’s ruling government; the opposition; the Cayman Islands Ministers Association; the Cayman Islands Mission of Seventh-day Adventists; the Chamber of Commerce; the Human Rights Committee; and the UK.

After the speech-making, the parties will go behind closed doors for the rest of the negotiations. A Friday wrap-up session will be held in public. All the talks, public and private, will be held at the Westin Casuarina Resort on West Bay Road.

A third round of talks has tentatively been scheduled for February in London.

Since the beginning of 2008, Cayman Islands lawmakers have embarked on a lengthy public debate over changes to the governing agreement between their country and its colonial ruler. Cayman is one of just 16 Overseas Territories left in the world, according to the United Nations.

Changes proposed by the ruling People’s Progressive Movement government generally seek to provide locally elected government more control over administrative issues, including those with police and national security.

According to a working draft of the new constitution released last month, earlier proposals which would have significantly reduced the powers of the Cayman Islands governor have largely been eliminated from the plan. However, government leaders have said the working draft should not be considered a final plan.

If the upcoming talks with the UK are successful, a final draft of the constitution will be presented to the public and a referendum on the issue will be held 20 May, the same date as the next general election. Legislative Assembly members would also have to vote on the proposed changes before the referendum.

There’s no guarantee that will happen. Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has previously said this week’s talks represent a ‘do-or-die’ situation for constitutional reform in the Cayman Islands.