A commission set up to advise on
the implementation of the new constitution says the government is acting
unconstitutionally by rushing bills through the Legislative Assembly.
The three-member body is
recommending that the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly be rewritten
as soon as possible to reflect provisions in the constitution which state that
a bill must be published at least 21 days before the start of the meeting at
which the draft law is due to be introduced.
The commission’s chairman, Pastor
Al Ebanks, described as “unconstitutional” the Legislative Assembly’s practice
of introducing bills on short notice.
Although the Legislative Assembly
is required to give 21 days’ notice before debating a bill, it can suspend
Standing Orders to bring the introduction of bills forward.
“That is one key area to be
included, to ensure the Standing Orders and procedures of the Legislative
Assembly have that requirement,” commission member Wil Pineau said at a press
briefing when the report was released on Monday, 18 October.
Commission members acknowledged
that even if the Standing Orders were revised, the Legislative Assembly could
still suspend them to enable an earlier debate on bills in the event of an “emergency”.
Section 77(2) of the Constitution
states that Standing Orders shall require the 21-day notice, except in the case
“What is an emergency? What would
make it an emergency that we should suspend Standing Orders for that
publication?” said committee member Julene Banks. “Do we have to help them
define what an emergency is?”
Mr. Ebanks said the commission
considered the matter of bringing bills before the House in less than 21 days
as an important issue that merited attention.
“While the old constitution may not
have spelled out some of these things in the same way, the new constitution,
which is the highest law of the land, requires these things to take place. What
we’re saying is, we have a new constitution and let’s not do things simply
because we’ve done them that way previously,” he said.
“How can we say we’re using this
document (the constitution) as a ruling document and ignore it when it’s
convenient? If it’s the highest law of the land, then let’s have everybody in
the land – from the law enforcement officers to those who are passing these
laws – abide by the constitution,” Mr. Ebanks said.
The commission also recommended
that the Guide to Operations of the Cabinet be updated to reflect the new
Constitution’s contents, including procedures for appointing the premier and
other ministers and for calling Cabinet meetings.
Its report also called for the
governor to appoint a director of public prosecutions “as a matter of priority”.
The attorney general currently carries out that function.
“These are key provisions for good
governance and it’s imperative that our legislators act on these provisions,”
Mr. Pineau said.
The commission report also calls
attention to “gaps” in the constitution that could lead to legal liabilities.
In addition, the panel identified
as a priority the need to introduce legislation and procedures that would
enable parts of the constitution, the implementation of which has been delayed
until 6 November, 2012, to meet that deadline.
In its report, the commission
pointed out that legislators had not yet enacted a law to enable a referendum
initiated by the public. The only referendum mandated under the constitution is
one relating to independence for the Cayman Islands.
“At a minimum, this legislation
must prescribe the processes that are followed by the Cabinet when determining
the wording of the referendum question(s) and determining the date that the
referendum is held,” the report stated.
It also looked at the issue of
advisory district councils and whether they should be appointed or elected.
The commission members said it is
vital that the public be informed and educated about the constitution, and to
ensure that their voices are heard.
With this in mind, it is producing
information about public referendums and advisory district councils to be
posted on the commission’s website when it launches next year.
A series of public meetings will
also be held, following which a report on feedback received will be submitted
to the Legislative Assembly.
Commission members are also talking
to local artists about creating a series of educational booklets on