Today’s Editorial for March 08: Human rights off to bad start

We were saddened, but not
particularly surprised, to note newly appointed Human Rights Commission
Chairman Richard Coles had not been informed by government regarding the
specifics of a proposal being voted on in the Legislative Assembly – one of two
bills passed last week that could have a significant impact on the development
of human rights in Cayman.

Mr. Coles said he would ask, in the
future, that the commission be notified by government when bills potentially
affecting human rights issues come before the Legislative Assembly.

The Criminal Evidence (Witness
Anonymity) Bill, 2010 and the Bail (Amendment) Bill, 2010 had been publicly
discussed – in general terms – well before the LA members voted. But the
specifics of both proposals weren’t made public until just a few days before
lawmakers took up the matters.

This is not good in a country that
is supposed to be a democracy; supportive of the rights of all.

During the LA debate on the two
measures, which occurred 1 March, opposition member Alden McLaughlin and
Premier McKeeva Bush both argued separate viewpoints of civil rights and legal
aid issues quite eloquently and poignantly. The trouble is, by that time,
everyone has already made up their minds.

One of the constitutional purposes
of the Human Rights Commission is to inform and educate the public on issues
regarding human rights.

The public can then approach the
legislators who are supposed to represent their views on those issues from an
informed position.

However, if the government is not
to notify the commission on these issues, it may have a difficult time
performing its constitutional duty. If the commission is unable or not allowed
to perform that duty due to lack of support, one might indeed ask what is the
point of having it.

In our view, the Human Rights
Commission and its government support network have yet to properly answer that
question.

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