As Premier McKeeva Bush recently commented, independence for the Cayman Islands is inevitable.
This does not mean it is imminent. In fact, it might take many, many years before it happens. Cayman’s new Constitution can therefore be seen as an important first step in a journey of unknown length.
Right now, the new Constitution is untried and not understood well, and only by living it will the people of the Cayman Islands truly understand what it means in their journey toward self-determination.
Few in the Cayman Islands would argue that the new Constitution is perfect. Be that as it may, few would argue Cayman did not have a serious need for some kind of constitutional advancement.
Despite the document’s shortcomings, constitutional expert Professor Jeffrey Jowell believes Cayman now has the most progressive of all the new constitutions in the Overseas Territories. He believes the Cayman Islands got more autonomy from the British Government – without being independent – than any other Overseas Territories.
Cayman now has more autonomy, yes, but the UK still pulls the strings.
With greater power comes greater responsibility. Just like teenagers are often given the use of their parent’s car, the parents can easily suspend that privilege if the teenagers don’t use it responsibly.
There are some teenagers who are content to live with their parents well into adulthood, even if they have to live under their parent’s sometimes harsh rules. Similarly, the UK has indicated it is fine if the Cayman Islands wants to remain an Overseas Territory; however, there are certain rules, like them or not, that must be obeyed.
Certainly, there are many advantages to being a British Overseas Territory, including protection and the stability of a G7 country as the administering power. Both of these things have undoubtedly played a major role in Cayman’s rise as an offshore financial centre.
Conversely, there are also some disadvantages to being a British Overseas Territory, including the fact that the UK has dictated some things against the will of the elected government. In addition, one only has to look at some of the incidents of the past decade to see that the UK doesn’t always act with the best interests of the Cayman Islands in mind. But then, who should really expect the UK to protect Cayman’s interests above its own?
Ultimately, the speed at which the Cayman Islands attains independence is entirely up the citizens of this territory. However, the commencement of the new constitution is akin to Cayman becoming a teenager, an age when many people begin enjoying more independence and an age when people start thinking about a future on their own.
Cayman might not want independence right now, but it now has to start having that eventually become part of its national consciousness.