Commission to examine election issues

Governance issues that arose in the
run-up to last year’s general elections will be examined by the newly-formed
Cayman Islands Constitutional Commission.

Pastor Al Ebanks, chairman of the
three person group that also includes Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau and attorney
Julene Banks, said the commission’s first priority will be educating the public
on constitutional issues.

However, there are specific matters
the commission may study and address in reports to government from time to
time. Pastor Ebanks identified a few of those on Monday.

“We are aware of the conflict that
existed in Bodden
Town…as to who was responsible
to mount a challenge in relationship to the conflict there,” he said.

It was revealed before the May 2009
general elections that two candidates in Bodden Town – Mark Scotland and
Dewayne Seymour – had not filed proper documents declaring any interests they
held in government contracts prior to the legally mandated deadline.

Neither then-Governor Stuart Jack,
nor Attorney General Sam Bulgin brought a legal challenge against either
candidate in the matter. Eventually, a group of Bodden Town
residents brought the challenge.

Both candidates were found not to be in breach of the
law when the case against them was thrown out of court by Chief Justice Anthony
Smellie on 3 August, 2009.

The Chief Justice ruled that the challenge was brought
too late and that what was filed was not in the form of an election petition.

“It was mooted that the AG was responsible, that the
governor was responsible, and in the end the people became responsible,” Mr.
Ebanks said. “Based on the public debate that surrounded that, it is obvious
that is an issue that needs to be looked at, clarified…to avoid any doubt or
avoidance of responsibility in that matter.”

The challenge was brought under the former 1972 Cayman
Islands Constitution, but Mr. Ebanks said the same vague wording in the governing
document may need to be cleared up in the redrafted document approved by Cayman Islands voters last year.

He said the commission would also focus on the
implementation of the voter-initiated referendum section in the new Constitution.

As it stands now, Cayman residents would be able to
present a referendum to the government, which would then have to be considered
by members of the Legislative Assembly if it had the proper number of
signatures from registered voters.

A referendum law is created separately in each
instance the public vote is to be held. One such law had to be created for the
May 2009 referendum that led to the passage of the new Constitution – although
that referendum was initiated by government.

“I think the current process is that, if someone
wanted to move a referendum on a particular issue, they would need a motion in
the house approving that particular item,” he said. “Whether you want to go
through that process every time, or whether you want to have an overarching law
that allows for the referendum – it’s something we’re going to be looking at.”

Public education

All three commission members agreed that a more
user-friendly summary of the 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution needed to be
published to assist with public education and understanding of the new law of
the land.

Pastor Ebanks said the goal would not be to rewrite
the legal document, but to break it down into terms that are more understandable
for laymen or even schoolchildren.

The commission is still trying to determine how
precisely its organisation will function, the board just having been appointed
in mid-January.

Shortly after the organisation process is complete,
Mr. Ebanks said a public education and consultation phase will be started to
inform residents about the commission and accept feed-back on constitutional issues.

Those comments and concerns will be presented to
government in an advisory report, Mr. Ebanks said.

“Among our top priorities is education and simplification
to promote understanding and awareness of the Constitution,” he said.

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