Constitution fight brewing

Premier wants 6th minister, opposition may not

Members of Cayman’s opposition
party met Friday to prepare a response to Premier McKeeva Bush’s proposal that
seeks to increase the size of government’s Cabinet.

Premier Bush has indicated his
desire to add a sixth Cabinet minister within government, without increasing
the total number of lawmakers in the country’s governing body.

Mr. Bush has referred to the issue
as a minor change which could simply be agreed amongst both political parties
and the UK. However, opposition member Alden McLaughlin said last week that
he’s not so sure.

“If one views an increase in the
size of Cabinet as a minor or inconsequential change, I’m not sure what you
could argue wouldn’t be minor or inconsequential,” George Town MLA McLaughlin
said.

There are now five elected
ministers serving in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly and in the Cabinet
and 15 elected members serving in the LA.

In a letter sent to Opposition
Leader Kurt Tibbetts last week, Mr. Bush wrote that Cayman’s new Constitution
allows 2/5ths of house representatives to hold ministerial positions within
government. Two-fifths, or 40 per cent, of the number of lawmakers within the
house would equal six.

Mr. Bush said this item was one of
the issues of governance that arose during budget discussions with British
Overseas Territories minister Henry Bellingham earlier this year.

“The issue of less members of
Cabinet, which created more strain and governance issues were discussed,” Mr.
Bush wrote to Mr. Tibbetts.

But the process of adding a sixth
minister to government isn’t as simple as it seems.

“For some reason there was a
stipulation that no additional ministers could be appointed until after the
house was next prorogued [meaning its term had finished just before the next
scheduled general elections],” Mr. Bush wrote.

Mr. Bush said Mr. Bellingham had
confirmed “his willingness to allow a minor change to [Cayman’s] Constitution
by a UK Order in Council,” but that he would like to have consensus of Cayman’s
Legislative Assembly before doing so.

“We have not clarified whether [Mr.
Bellingham] requires unanimous agreement or simply a majority (of LA members),”
Mr. Bush wrote.

Cayman’s Constitution, just
approved by the voters last year in an historic referendum, requires that a
separate referendum be held before any changes of national importance to the
document are made. However, there is a loophole contained in Letters of Entrustment
attached to the document.

“In giving this political
undertaking to use its best endeavours to honour this referendum requirement,
the United Kingdom continues to reserve the right to amend the Cayman Islands
Constitution if there are exceptional circumstances where it is not possible or
appropriate to do otherwise.”

The documents state that
constitutional changes can also be made if those changes are declared as minor
or uncontroversial by the premier, opposition leader and the UK government.

The opposition party said it would
write to Mr. Bush sometime this week with a formal response to his proposal to
add a sixth minister to the LA.

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1 COMMENT

  1. "The United Kingdom continues to reserve the right to amend the Cayman Islands Constitution if there are exceptional circumstances where it is not possible or appropriate to do otherwise."

    Scary!

    And I thought Caymanians were safe from amendments and laws that could be legislated against the wishes of the minority or majority. Of course, the UK have the final say because of our commonwealth status; however, what happens when we say NAY and they say YEA, or we say YEA and they say NAY.

    Talk about Democracy and Representation!

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