Letters to the Editor: Cayman’s constitution a mess

Freedom of information is an
important topic. We believe that it is good and some of the problems of delays
will be improved. However if some of the Government ministries or departments
are not keeping it or do not have the information then the law does not work.

The most important information for
the public is the annual consolidated audits of Government accounts, which
should be published annually and are under another law and not the Freedom of
Information Law. Without these accounts we do not have a true picture of how
much money has been spent or wasted or where there has been overspending or
what the overall financial position of the Cayman Islands really is or why
Government needs to increase taxes.

There have been no published
consolidated audited accounts for about six years, even though some departments
and authorities do have some audits. This is disastrous for any Government (or
large private business). Blame has been given to a new accrual accounting
system implemented by the last PPM Government, which like most of their
policies (and the new constitution) was not staged or phased but rushed in at
one time. The system gave more power over spending to the Ministers without the
guarantee of the control and discipline of current audits within six months of
the financial year end.

Before political parties,
Governments had independent minded ministers who did not have to follow party
policies and Government was on a cash system—no cash no spending – audits
annually–good discipline! The accrual accounting system is a good modern and
widely used system but even this the PPM could not get right!

We commend the PPM government for
introducing the Freedom of Information law but they should not have left out
freedom of information on themselves and other politic parties and MLAs. The
public needs to know eg. when government contracts are granted whether the contractor
was a contributor to the ruling party or a party member and the amount of
contribution or support for the party. Political parties should welcome this as
it is good for the party’s governance.

The freedom of information law does
not allow the public to get some of the most important information it needs on
political parties and Members of the Legislative Assembly. The register of
interests law does not cover disclosure of year-round contributions to
political parties nor does the elections law.

In the UK and Canada and other
countries, political parties must file detailed returns including the names of
eligible contributors and the amounts paid to parties and how their money is
spent and accounts and audits must be made available. The public has access to
this information. In Canada, only citizens and permanent residents may
contribute no more than $1,100 to each party annually. Cash contributions are
limited to $20, receipts must be given and accounts kept and reported.

In Canada, trade unions,
corporations and associations cannot make contributions!

Why were similar provisions not put
in the Freedom of Information Law or part 111 of the Election Law, which deals
with political parties or the Register of interests’ law so amended? The
constitution (section 117) provides for a Commission for Standards in Public
Life and sets out its functions to deal with some of these matters but sadly it
gives no disciplinary power to them.

Most politicians cannot be left to
pass laws to discipline themselves so the new constitution should have made it
mandatory that provisions similar to freedom of information apply to political
parties and politicians and put disciplinary powers in the above Commission.

The Turks and Caicos 2006
constitution is substantially the same and word for word in many sections as
Caymans new constitution. The Commission of Enquiry report 2009 on the Turks and
Caicos Government wrote at para. 4 of the summary of their findings:

They found “lack of effective
constitutional checks and balances in the system of governance to protect the
public purse, the inefficient from scrutiny, the dishonest from discovery and
the vulnerable from abuse”. This is what we have been telling the public for
years about Cayman’s new constitution.

They recommended “amendment of the
2006 {T&C} constitution or with a view to a new constitution, reform of the
franchise and removal or reduction of constitutional imbalances and weaknesses…”

Sadly, the PPM with the help of the
Cayman Ministers Association has pushed through our new constitution with
similar defects. Hopefully the UK will correct Cayman’s constitution when they
correct the Turk & Caicos’ constitution.

 

Truman Bodden

John McLean

3 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Sirs,

    Why didn’t you come forward with more presence and voice with these important ommisions when the Constitution was being negotiated ????

    Your voices should been the loudest in questioning this entire process when it was declared ‘closed’ and not open for public scrutiny, which was something that should have raised alarms bell then.

    The ‘bully voices’ will always win when intelligent people like yourselves show less committment than the ‘other lot’ and this time, they won.

    If you’re suggesting necesary amendments, make some concrete suggestions; leaving things to the UK Government to sort anything out is asking for what has happened to the T & C, to happen to Cayman.

    If Cayman’s population accept that there are constitutional flaws that need fixing, the public will not be able to stay ‘silent’ and expect to not pay the consequences, as has already happened.

    People will have to speak up.

  2. We are getting up, getting in and getting on.

    This means focusing our attention on THE POSITIVE and not the negative.
    Cayman now has a constitution that can be amended as needed. Not to be abused by the extreme liberalist.

    Bottomline, focusing on amending as necessary and not focusing on the negative t tha same as the US constitution. Rome was not built in A DAY!
    No need to try to confuse everyone just becasue everyone does not think as you do.
    Lets play this out with some soundness.

  3. Defining the problem is the first step in fixing it. Truman Bodden and John McLean have done an outstanding job in showing us the errors we as a country made by not paying more attention to the writing of our constitution. Now the loopholes and lack of due diligence on our part has come back to haunt us and cause serious harm to this country. It is time to begin the process of amending this broken constitution. Protests, shouting and anger are not the solution. Anyone who does not agree with the content as laid out by Mr. Bodden and Mr. McLean is part of the problem and should step aside. The vast majority of Caymanians will surely agree that we need to amend the constitution to keep our leaders and elected officials from running amuk at our expense. We must not wait for the UK to take action as in Turks & Caicos. People like Mr. Bodden and Mr. McLean are knowlegeable and quite capable of acting as leaders on this issue. They have an army of support in us as Caymanians who will gladly take the steps they suggest in order to make the amendments we now need. This mess is our own fault. We must come together and take the bull by the horns. I as a Caymanian hereby pledge my full support in any way needed to bring about the proposed amendments to our contitution. I invite all of my fellow citizens to pledge their support as well. Together we are an army that can do great things. We lack leadership and knowlege on this matter and greatly need and request that Truman Bodden and John McLean take a leadership role in guiding us through the necessary steps. You don’t have to be an elected politician to be a leader. I hope my fellow Caymanians can shrug off the negative attitude this one time and take the chance that by coming together we can and will make the difference we so desperately need. WE ARE THE CHANGE THAT WE NEED.

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