Panel urges Bill of Rights compliance now

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The government should not wait until the Bill of Rights
comes into effect in 2012 to implement laws and practices required under that
part of the new constitution, the Constitutional Commission has said.

The three-member commission said legislation and policies
could be put in place now to lay the groundwork for the Bill of Rights due to
be introduced in November 2012.

The commission was established to advise on the
introduction of Cayman’s new constitution, which came into effect in November

In its first report, released on 19 October, the
commission said the Bill of Rights was not implemented with the rest of the
constitution because more time was needed to build the necessary
infrastructure. It is recommending that laws, regulations and practices that
can be put in place before the Bill of Rights is introduced should be done so
as quickly as possible.

“One of the reasons why the Bill of Rights did not come
into effect as the same time as the constitution is because it was both
recognised and acknowledged that there are a number of things that need to be
more closely scrutinised in the Cayman Islands… If you brought the Bill of
Rights into effect, for instance, without proper training for law enforcement
officers and immigration officers and various government departments, you could
end up with a situation where you open yourself up to huge legal challenges,”
said commission chairman Pastor Al Ebanks.

He said the United Kingdom spent 40 million pounds
training public officers, including judges, when it introduced its Human Rights
Act in 1998.

“Among the concerns we have is, during this period before
the human rights aspect of the constitution comes into full effect, is that
there is action taken to make sure that training is taking place for the relevant
parties so that we will operate in a compliant manner with the requirement of
the Bill of Rights,” Mr. Ebanks said.

All new laws will have to comply with the constitution
and the Bill of Rights, and therefore training of legal draftsmen and legislators
should also be undertaken to ensure that this is complied with, Mr. Ebanks

“That is one area of significant concern, to make sure
that we are training the necessary personnel to understand that we are going to
be operating in a new environment when the Bill of Rights… takes effect,” he

He compared the Bill of Rights with the Freedom of
Information Law in one respect:

“The government is going to be required to operate in a
completely different way. Like the Freedom of Information Law, there are
certain requirements that are made in regard to how you now operate, and it may
not be a matter of people wanting to ignore proper process of procedure – the
fact is we are creatures of habit and, if we’re used to doing things a
particular way, we usually resort to the way we are accustomed to doing it,” he

He cited a nondiscrimination law for the disabled as an
example of legislation required under the Bill of Rights.

“An enormous amount of work has been done, including by
family members who are directly impacted by the absence of this law,” said Mr.
Ebanks. “ … While that section (of the constitution) has not come into
effect, the reality is we should be living and working and acting as if what we
have said is good for the country, do we need to pass it in law before we start
putting it into practice? We want to suggest that if the work has been done,
the consultations have been made and processes have been followed, it would be
good to see that enacted and put into practice for the benefit of the disabled
and their families,” he said.

A comprehensive report by the Legal Sub-committee for
Persons with Disabilities was completed in February 2009 and presented to the
Legislative Assembly. “Where is stands now… none of us know,” said Mr. Ebanks.

“Something will have to be done by the deadline of the
Bill of Rights coming into full force,” said commission member Wil Pineau, to
which Mr. Ebanks added: “We’re saying there’s no need to wait for that.”

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