More details on draft constitution

Further details of the Cayman Islands draft constitution have been released following an agreement between local negotiators and the United Kingdom.

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 UKs 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 an accord 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 assented to 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.

According to government officials, the draft constitution requires the UK to consult with the Cayman Islands before making orders in council, but it does not require consultation on the UK’s choice of governor.

Minister McLaughlin said a National Security Council formed by the draft document will have some power to direct the governor in the administration and oversight of police. However, in matters that directly affect the UK’s interests, the governor would have the final word.

Future changes to the constitution would have to be agreed upon via a referendum.

The country’s leader, called the Premier under the new proposal, would be limited to a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.

The constitution also does not determine a fixed percentage for the amount of public debt any government can incur.

The draft proposal will 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….