Constitutional agreement reached

Cayman Islands negotiators and the United Kingdom reached an agreement Thursday afternoon on a new draft constitution.

new draft constitution

(from left) UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Undersecretary of State Gillian Merron, Cayman Islands Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, and the UK’s chief negotiator Ian Hendry talk things over
in London. Photo: Government Information Services

The actual draft of the document is not expected to be ready until next week, but Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said agreement was reached following the third day of talks in London.

“It’s a historic day for Cayman,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We have a draft constitution.”

Not all parties involved in the talks fully agreed on every proposal. Representatives for the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee called the resolve an “apparent agreement for practical purposes” and disagreed with several items that were left in the proposed bill of rights.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said he was satisfied that all the issues had been fully ventilated, but that there were some items he simply would not agree with.

“I don’t think we’ve got what would have been the best for Cayman,” Mr. Bush said.

All parties agreed that the biggest hurdle throughout this week’s talks continued to be the bill of rights, the first to be proposed in Cayman’s history.

There was a qualified non-discrimination clause left in the bill of rights which limits the protection against discrimination only to those specific issues identified in the bill of rights. For instance, since the rights to housing and health care are not included in the draft bill of rights document, discrimination would be allowed by government in those areas.

“(The bill of rights) meets and in most respects exceeds…the UK’s international obligations,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Negotiators also ended up leaving out a section in the bill which would have set the ground rules for Cayman’s “self-determination,” in other words, if the country decided to go independent from the UK in the future.

The current constitution does not contain any proposal for independence.

Also removed in the 11th hour round of talks was a plan to prevent senior civil servants from seeking elected office within a year of resigning their government posts. The Cayman Islands Civil Service Association had lobbied heavily against this proposal in recent days.

Other issues regarding the powers given to the UK-appointed governor and the elected government were also worked out in the talks, but specifics of those were not immediately disclosed.

The draft proposal will have to be considered in the Legislative Assembly, and is expected to come before the voters in a 20 May referendum for final approval.

Read more about the draft constitution in next week’s editions of the Caymanian Compass….