Panel says gov’t acting unconstitutionally


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
of emergency.

“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
constitutional matters.


Members of the Con-stitutional Committee, from left, Julene Ebanks, Pastor Al Ebanks and Wil Pineau, at a press conference to release its first report since being appointed in January.
Photo: Norma Connolly


  1. Duuuuhhh !

    Tell us something we don’t already know.

    It’s now for this Constitutional Commission and the Human Rights Commission to take up their responsibility to ensure that this UDP government fulfills all requirements called for in this new Constitution.

    For the people out there claiming that there is any Bill of Rights in this Consitutuion, they need to re-educate themselves on this issue and quit misleading vulnerable people, as they have done and continue to do.

    There is a ‘provision’ for a Bill of Rights; local legislation and regulations must be enacted by the Caymanian Government to fulfill this provision and bring any Bill of Rights into effect.

    The date of Nov. 6, 2012 is almost exactly 2 years away, quite enough time to fulfill any outstanding conditions but….

    With the words and actions of the current Premier, McKeeva Bush, can anyone really say with confidence that he is showing any signs or inclination to fulfill his Constitutional responsibilities ?

    I would rather say, quite the opposite.

    I have no doubt that those who agitated for this Constitution did so in good faith but are now finding out that giving more power to any individual who is determined to abuse it only creates dictatorship.

    Caymanian society needs to stand up as one voice and demand that this UDP government complete the outstanding legislation as soon as possible or face a public call for early elections.

    This is the only way that Cayman will be able to guarantee the freedoms that this Constitution still guarantees.

  2. Fiery,
    I agree with you. and don’t forget the original draft by the concerned citizens included a provision for a Premier or LOGB to serve only TWO TERMS to protect the people from the threat of dictatorship. The PPM are to take some of the blame for allowing 5,000 dalmations (including the Ministers Association) to tamper with the draft handed to the Constitution Commissioners in 2001 it was just fine.

    However it pleases me that Pastor Al is on the opposing side of the fence this time and not patting them on the back in their wrong doing.

  3. Tiger

    I don’t think any of the well-meaning people who pushed this through was aware of the ‘wolves in sheeps clothing’ lurking in the shadows.

    Pastor Al and his commission is on top of things but they will need the support of the public to do their job.

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