Legislators have recommended bullet-proof glass be installed inside the Legislative Assembly as part of an overall security upgrade.
In a report tabled last week, the Standing House Committee, a group of government and opposition lawmakers, also called for extra security guards and policemen to be stationed at Cayman’s national legislature.
‘We are simply trying to be proactive,’ said Committee Chairman and George Town MLA Alfonso Wright.
‘Parliament being parliament, we thought we should look a little more closely at the issue of security,’ he said. ‘Having one security guard that is unarmed might not be enough.’
While lawmakers from both sides of the house signed off on the report, there seems little chance of bullet-proof glass going up around the assembly’s public gallery any time soon.
Leader of the Opposition and committee member McKeeva Bush sought to distance himself from the proposal when contacted by the Caymanian Compass this week and lawmakers are likely to find themselves with more pressing concerns before the legislature is dissolved next Tuesday.
In fact, legislators did not pause to debate the report when it was tabled last week and Mr. Wright conceded ‘It may not happen, especially in these tough economic times.’
Mr. Bush said he signed off on the report because it contained a number of other good ideas, including making the rear of the house wheelchair accessible and raising electrical outlets so they aren’t damaged by flooding in storms.
But asked whether bullet-proof glass is needed to protect members from threats in the public gallery, Mr. Bush said ‘of course not.’
‘We don’t have money to help people in social services. We don’t know what the country is running on because they don’t have audited accounts,’ he said. ‘It’s a pile of nonsense.’
Mr. Wright emphasised there have been no recent threats to legislators and none have raised any concerns with him about their security.
‘We have taken a lot of things for granted over the years,’ he said. ‘It is better to deal with potential problems before they arise than to have to act once we have a crisis on our hands.’
The report calls for tempered glass to be installed in other areas of the house that could be exposed to threats from the public gallery.
The committee also suggested that four full-time security guards be employed, to ensure there is always one guard protecting the legislature.
Two police officers should also be on hand when the house is in session, in the same way special constables are deployed every day to the nearby courthouse, the committee said.
‘There are enough important documents down there and the building is important enough that you want to have security on hand around the clock,’ Mr. Wright said.
Fellow committee member and government backbencher Osbourne Bodden said few national legislatures have such a relaxed attitude to security as Cayman’s.
‘If you go to parliaments anywhere in the world, you can’t just walk in and out freely like you can here,’ he said.
‘If someone wanted to do something to harm someone, we don’t really have a lot of protection on the premises.
‘It’s just a case of us not wanting to take any unnecessary risks.’
Mr. Bodden noted there was a time in Cayman when doors and windows were routinely left unlocked. ‘They have to be locked now,’ he said. ‘It’s no different to that.’
The five-member committee, which also includes government backbencher Lucille Seymour and opposition MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks, also looked at a number of other maintenance and security issues facing the house.
Lighting is being improved in front of the assembly to increase security, Mr. Wright noted and the committee has called for security cameras to be upgraded.
They also asked that more parking be made available for the assembly, possibly at the old Tower Building site. Parking is a particular problem during Finance Committee meetings, Mr. Wright explained, when various government employees come to the assembly to help ministers or official members answer questions.
The assembly’s security system will be upgraded so members have 24-hour access to the building. Presently, the access system changes at 7pm and members that step outside after then have to call someone to let them back in.
The system will also be set up so it can record an audit trial of people entering and leaving the building at different times.