Constitution transcripts ordered released

 The
Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert has ordered the Cabinet Office to
release transcripts of talks that led to the establishment of the new constitution.

The order
follows the refusal by the Cabinet Office to allow an applicant access to the
transcripts of the three rounds of constitutional negotiation talks that took
place between September 2008 and February 2009. 

Mrs. Dilbert,
in a ruling dated 20 May, ordered the Cabinet Office to provide the applicant
with a copy of the meetings’ transcripts within 45 days. The Cabinet Office has
until 4 July to appeal the decision in the form of a judicial review before the
Grand Court.

The applicant
had asked on 6 March for access to the records through a Freedom of Information
request.

During three
separate meetings, representatives from the Cayman Islands met with the United
Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss what should be included in the
new constitution. 

Delegates from
Cayman included representatives from the government, the Ministers Association,
the Seventh Day Adventists and the Human Rights Committee.  Feedback from public consultations were also discussed.

In a
referendum, the public voted to accept the draft constitution, drawn up as a
result of the meetings, on the same day as the government election on 20 May,
2009, and nearly 63 per cent of voters agreed to the new constitution. It came
into effect on 6 November last year.

The Cabinet
Office originally withheld the release of the transcripts on four grounds of
exemption – that its disclosure would prejudice international relations; that
the information was communicated in confidence; that its disclosure would
inhibit free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation; and
its disclosure would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. 

Mrs. Dilbert
rejected all four grounds and ordered the release of the transcripts.

In her ruling,
Mrs. Dilbert said it took a “considerable amount of
time for this matter to come before me… due in part to delays by the public authority
in dealing with the request,” adding that it took more than 100 days before an
internal review of the request by the Cabinet Office was completed.

Section 34 of the Freedom of
Information Law states that an internal review of a decision by the
chief/principal officer of the public authority, which in this case was the cabinet
secretary, should be made within 30 calendar days.

After the Cabinet Office turned
down the request for access to the information, the applicant requested an
internal review but did not get a response, so went on to appeal to the information
commissioner.

In her ruling, Mrs. Dilbert
revealed that the Cabinet Office advised that in November last year, the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office had told the governor of the Cayman Islands, at
the time Stuart Jack, that it no longer objected to the release of the
transcripts.

Despite this, the Cabinet Office
argued that the disclosure of the requested records will affect the Islands’
“ability to access information of a confidential nature from other governments and
international organisations”.

However, Mrs. Dilbert pointed out
that the Cabinet Office had not succeeded in “indicating how, or why, this would
occur. It has also failed to draw any correlation between the release of these records
and any type of prejudice.

“The only foreign government or
international organisation involved is the FCO and they have since advised that
they have no objection to the release of the record.”

The Cabinet Office also declined to
release the information because it would “inhibit free and frank exchange of
views” and that participants in the talks took part on the basis that their
views would remain confidential.

But the information commissioner,
in her ruling, said she saw no evidence that participants had been told their
discussions would be confidential and that the Cabinet Office had “not provided
me with even anecdotal evidence to indicate how the disclosure at this point in
time, of the transcripts of the constitutional talks, would or would be likely
to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberations.”

In her ruling, she added: “The
talks were recorded and transcribed and they should therefore be a part of the
public history of the CaymanIslands.”.

She said the Cabinet Office had also failed
to persuade her that the disclosure of the transcript could prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs.

This is the
fourth decision made under the Freedom of
Information Law, 2007, by Mrs. Dilbert.

If the Cabinet
Office does not release the transcript by the deadline, and does not appeal to
the courts by the 4 July, the information commissioner
said she would certify in writing to the Grand Court the failure to comply with
her decision and the court may consider this under the rules relating to contempt
of court.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I am glad the FOI made the request!

    I think it was PPM at the time which came up with this behind close door deal! I mean such an important document for the people of these Islands and "you" would choose to have your talks behind closed doors??? Dissappointed in the Government!

    First it was Mckeeva and his attacks on the media and FOI – now it appears to look like the PPM, but indirectly. What is wrong with this Government?

    Why is the government so scared of people from knowing too much??? That’s the question

    From these talks we will know who is who! We will know who was and is behind the words, the clauses, and the sections of this new Constitution 2009. We will even know the UK’s views about us as a people. How they see us as a people to be respected and governed. We may even see who stood up for Independence and who stood up for being a Free Associated state. Thanks to the FOI law

    And what bothers me the most out of this entire process, "they," these same ones, expected the people of the Cayman Islands to ratify the Constitution on the same day of our 4-year’ Elections!

    lol… I personally believe from talking to people that many Caymanians still don’t know what they ratified. The entire ratification process was prejudiced by a party-base election that all happened on the same day. Moreover, the part in the Constitution mentioning the powers of the Governor were problematic, yet people were so charged up about their party, they voted in the document.

    It makes me wonder

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  2. Alas!

    Let us see those who channeled the constitutional talks in such a way as to undermine the "democratic representation" of the people of the Cayman Islands

    Let us see those who fully agreed to the insertion of certain clauses in OUR Constitution 2009, Part II, section 33 that wrongfully made the powers of the UK’ Governor on behalf of her Majesty’s interest to disregard altogether the country’s Cabinet – elected for and by the people of the Cayman Islands whenever "they" choose to do so

    Let us see those who had the intentions of shaping the Constitution into a Christian document instead without acknowledging the many diverse faiths on the Island. Those who would love to see their own religious laws enforced upon the people

    Let us see those who were behind an Indepedence agenda for the Cayman Islands. Independence would ruin us!

    Let us see those who wanted to rush the process and keep all the Constitutional meetings under the rug until election day when the many UNINFORMED would vote for the document’s ratification into the law of the land

    Let us see those who opposed the FOI

    Let us see!

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