Still no Referendum Bill

Despite repeated assertions that a referendum on the proposed constitution will take place on 20 May, the Legislative Assembly has yet to consider a bill that would provide the necessary legal framework for it.

On Monday afternoon, lawmakers passed up another chance to debate the issue.

Following a 40-minute late start, a discussion draft of the new Sex Offenders Registry Bill was placed before LA members by Health Minister Anthony Eden. Legislators then called it quits for the day.

‘Why are we not having more than just this item for business today?’ Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked. ‘We are cutting ourselves short in relation to certain business that should be done before the house is dissolved.’

According to Cayman Islands law, the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly must occur within a certain time before a general election. Legally, elected members of the house are acknowledged to be holding their positions only until the house is dissolved by the governor. They must be elected again to continue to serve in that position.

The dissolution of the LA is currently set for 24 March.

Elections Supervisor Kearney Gomez said government technically has until 24 March to approve a Referendum Law. However, he said any extra preparation time legislators could provide would be welcomed.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said that a draft of the Referendum Bill was set to come before Cabinet yesterday. He also mentioned several other items the house must consider before the end of its current meeting.

‘There are several bills which have not been put on a business paper; they are awaiting completion,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘There are a few bills which are on a business paper, but not ready to be delivered.’

Mr. Tibbetts said the LA would resume meeting on Friday morning, at which time a Referendum Bill and other matters could be considered.

‘Is there intention by government to work late on Friday?’ Mr. Bush asked.

Although Cayman’s ruling government has agreed to hold a referendum on 20 May, the same date as the islands’ general elections, some of the specifics of that vote have not yet been decided.

It is generally assumed that passage by a simple majority of voters would be sufficient to make the draft constitution the law of the land, pending approval by the United Kingdom’s Privy Council. However, there has been no indication of whether a certain percentage of voters must turn out to make that referendum binding.

If there were not a minimum required percentage of votes for the constitution referendum to be binding, a minority of eligible voters could approve it.

For instance, if only 40 per cent of Cayman’s approximately 15,000 electors cast votes in the referendum, then only approximately 3,000 would have to vote yes for the referendum to pass, unless the Referendum Law requires a higher percentage of voter turnout.

Ruling People’s Progressive Movement lawmakers have proposed making the referendum a straight yes-or-no vote. A referendum law would decide the wording of that ballot language.

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee has asked for a third question regarding the anti-discrimination clause in the proposed bill of rights to be added to the ballot. Legislators gave no indication that they intended to consider that alternative language, however.