New awards that will honour
individuals for their contributions to Cayman society came under fire in the
Legislative Assembly on Monday as opposition members questioned why the premier
appeared to have so much sway over who received the honours.
Opposition member Alden McLaughlin
said that while he supported the implementation of a Cayman awards system, he
feared the bestowing of honours by the premier would be politicised or could be
perceived as being so.
“The legislation is fraught with
the possibility of politicisation of the entire awards scheme which it proposes
to establish,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The bill was passed by 10 votes in
favour and two abstentions (Mr. McLaughlin and the MLA for East End Arden
McLean). It creates a law to establish a society of honour known as the Order
of the Cayman Islands, consisting of living holders of awards, including a
Medal of Honour, in the classes of Commander, Officer and Member, for people
who have “rendered eminent service of national importance to the Islands or who
has performed an outstanding, brave or humane act to a national of the Islands
or other country”.
It also provides for a Medal of
Merit in gold or silver for services in the arts, sciences, literature or other
fields, and a Long Service Award for people who have served diligently and with
exemplary conduct for 20 years or more in the public service, except for police
offices, special constables, a prison officer or an officer of the Fire Brigade.
An advisory committee, known as the
National Honours and Awards Committee, comprising a chairman and four other
members appointed by the premier after consultation with the leader of the opposition
will make recommendations to the premier, who will then grant awards he
“The premier is the chancellor of
the society; the premier, by himself having only consulted with the leader of
the opposition, appoints the committee, and then… on receipt of the
committee’s recommendation, the premier shall, having regard to the recommendation
of the committee, grant such awards as the premier considers appropriate. So
the premier does it all,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
“This could be renamed the Premier’s
National Honours and Awards Bill, because he is king – it’s his royal honours
awards scheme. That… is a fundamental flaw in the structure of this scheme,”
he added, saying it would inevitably be perceived as a system whereby individuals
would be rewarded for their political allegiances.
Mr. McLaughlin urged the government
to reword the bill before voting on it.
Although he voted in support of the
bill, independent member for North Side Ezzard Miller said he hoped the
criteria for the awarding of honours would be transparent. He believes the
awards should be given only to Caymanians, rather than to residents of the
Cayman Islands, as set out in the bill. “I would really like to see it for
Caymanians only,” he said.
Arden McLean, in his comments on
the bill, said he also has concerns about the awarding of honours to
non-Caymanians. “I believe that we must distinguish ourselves as a people,” he
He also raised concerns about the
clause that allows the premier to revoke the membership of the advisory committee,
saying criteria needed to be set down to determine why a person is removed from
Premier McKeeva Bush expressed his
disappointment that members of the opposition did not support the bill, and he
denied that he alone would determine the honourees.
“One person decides nothing in this
bill, so they can conjure up any duppy they want, but we are not children, we
are old enough and ugly enough, knowledgeable enough, to know what we are doing
and we are doing it with the best intentions for the people of this country,”
the premier said.
“The premier cannot do anything by
himself… After the committee makes the nominations, somebody has to take the
nominations to Cabinet. How else are they going to be done except through the
premier by order in Cabinet,” he asked.
He also dismissed concerns over the
awarding on honours only to non-Caymanians, saying others living in Cayman may
also deserve the awards, for example, if they performed an act of bravery or humane
act, such as saving a child from drowning.
Mr. Bush said members of the
Legislative Assembly had had several months to make submissions on the bill
since it was laid before the House earlier this year, but none had been received.
The Cabinet Office has ordered 10
medals for each new award and honour, designed by Charles Gilman, who works in
the Government Information Service.
The first awards will be handed out
on National Heroes Day next year.