Why?

The National Conservation Bill was
first drafted when I was about 10 years old. That tells you two things: how
young I am, and how old the bill is.

But when a bill like the National Honours
and Awards Bill can be passed in one sitting, why has the National Conservation
Bill still not appeared before the Legislative Assembly after eight years?

According to Frank Balderamos,
general manager of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, it is not because
members of the public are in opposition.

“I would say that 95 per cent of
the feedback the Trust has received from the public has been in support of the
law. I would go even further to say that of the 5 per cent in opposition, many
of them have changed their minds once we’ve had a chance to address their
concerns,” he says. “That leaves the politicians then, I guess.”

Early counts of votes on the
Caymanian Compass online poll, which asked voters to rank their support of the
National Conservation Bill, supported Balderamos’ statement: Only 13 per cent of
voters did not support the bill at all, while over 70 per cent supported most
or all of the bill.

“Basically it’s been an
unwillingness on the part of legislators to discuss or debate the law,” says Balderamos.
“They will not even acknowledge the need for such a Law.”

John Bothwell, Department of
Environment senior research officer, acknowledges that there was some public
resistance to the bill in the beginning.

“However, most of the community do
recognise the importance of this type of legislation,” he says. “Now, most of
the concerns are focused on technical aspects of the proposed law.”

As public consultations resume,
many are hopeful that as public concerns are identified and addressed, the bill
will come that much closer to being passed.

“The goal is to achieve a law that
is as balanced as possible so that as few people as possible object to it,”
Bothwell says. “We feel we have now gotten close.”

“If there are concerns with the law
they need to be aired,” says Balderamos. “It has been my experience that, once
concerns are known, they are addressed fairly simply.”

However, this is not the first
round of public consultations that the bill has been subject to, and, according
to Bothwell, the fate of the bill is still very much in the hands of the
legislators.

“The draft National Conservation
Law will still not be passed if it appears to the legislators that the number
of people objecting to the law is significant compared to the number of people
voicing their support,” he explains.

The Minister for Environment,
Mark Scotland, recently decided to extend the public consultation period for
another six weeks, making it unlikely that the bill will go before legislation
in September as Mr. Scotland had been asserting.

Who
knows, if the community is vocal enough in their support, maybe the bill will
be passed by the time I turn 20.

 

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