Members of the clergy and government painted a bleak picture of what the Cayman Islands would have looked like had it agreed to free-standing rights against discrimination in the constitution.
The original draft of the constitution included a free-standing right against discrimination, but it was negotiated out of Section 16 of the document. The removal, however, also eliminated some other human rights protections, causing the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee to strenuously object to the change of Section 16.
Pastor Al Ebanks, representing the Cayman Ministers’ Association and Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin justified their reasons for agreeing to the removal of the free-standing right against discrimination at a public meeting about the proposed constitution last Thursday at the Family Life Centre.
Mr. Ebanks spoke about why his group always wanted to see Section 16 of the draft constitution changed so that it was not a free-standing right.
‘The CMA has always argued against this position, because considerable research has shown it will ultimately lead us down a disastrous path of losing control of our own destiny as a people; jeopardize job security, advancement and employment for Caymanians; cause Caymanians to completely lose control of their ability to legitimately and fairly maintain control of our immigration system; allow unelected judges to meddle in the political affairs of the country; tie the hands of law enforcement unnecessarily; and empower and embolden criminals to manipulate the legal system in inappropriate ways,’ he said.
‘The fact is that abuses against human rights have been made in the name of human rights; abuses that offend against common sense and common decency.’
Only 16 countries have free standing rights against discrimination, he said.
‘And they’re all communist, except for one or two.’
Mr. Ebanks said that in some instances of what he called human rights abuses, the UK has had to pay 10 million pounds for the last 10 years in legal aid to defend convicted terrorists and criminals because of the constitutional guarantee of legal aid.
‘The call for a free-standing discrimination clause would, in our opinion, be a disaster not waiting to happen, but one invited or welcomed… [and] be a death blow to traditional Caymanian values.’
Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin said that allowing a free-standing right against discrimination would fundamentally change Cayman. He also said the costs of doing so would lead to ‘a different kind of taxation’ for Cayman.
‘There are reasons why government needs to discriminate in certain circumstances.’
As one example, he said free education in Cayman is currently limited to Caymanian students, but if there were a free-standing right against discrimination in the constitution, the government would have to offer education to expatriate children as well because not doing so would be discriminatory.
‘We could also not discriminate on health care,’ he said, saying that the government often subsidises healthcare costs for Caymanians who need to seek treatment overseas and they would have to do the same for everyone if they could not discriminate.
‘The bill of rights does not just apply to Caymanians; it applies to everyone,’ he said. ‘National origin is one of the bases on which we can not discriminate.’
Other examples cited by Mr. McLaughlin of programmes the government would have to either cease or open to everyone included the Government Guaranteed Home Assistance Programme and its college scholarship programme.
‘I could go on and on,’ he said.