It appears the debate will continue on whether the constitution negotiated by the Cayman Islands Government and agreed to by United Kingdom represents the best deal that can be reached for these islands.
We welcome that debate.
The proposed constitution is not something that needs a simple ‘rubber stamp’ of the people of these islands, but something that needs thoughtful consideration of every eligible voter.
Through the active debate between the government and the Human Rights Committee, voters are learning about some of the possible benefits or ramifications of voting in favour or against the proposed constitution in the referendum scheduled for 20 May.
As expected, the bill of rights remains the most controversial aspect of the constitution. The HRC believes the proposed bill of rights does not go far enough to protect the rights of many of Cayman’s most vulnerable groups, including women, the elderly, children, the mentally ill, physically and mentally disabled people, homosexuals and others.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and the PPM Government believe that despite any perceived shortcomings, the proposed bill of rights significantly advances human rights protection in the Cayman Islands. As a metaphor to the situation, Mr. Tibbetts has said a half a loaf of bread is better than no bread at all.
Whether the people should be happy with a half a loaf of bread is an issue for the voters of this country.
It is, however, disappointing that the government has chosen to respond to the Human Rights Committee so harshly. It was, after all, the government that invited the HRC to take part in this process and it seems vastly unfair that the government would now treat the HRC and its members as unpatriotic for ultimately disagreeing with its position on the bill or rights,
Rather than revile the HRC members for their disagreement, we should commend them as patriots who have fought the good fight against the government and the clergy based on their convictions.
At stake in May will be whether Cayman’s voters believe the bill of rights, as it is proposed, is not only best for the country now, but for the future as well. While it might represent the values of the majority as of today, it could be that this bill of rights represents the values of the minority in just a decade or so.
Civilised history shows ideas of values and morality change with time. For instance, few people still condone cohabitation between unmarried couples as ‘living in sin’.
If a future generation decides the bill of rights no longer applies to the majority of the people here, it could prove very difficult to change. We really don’t want a situation where a future generation believes ‘no bread at all’ would have been a better choice.