What’s in a name? Control of the country

Monday’s Legislative Assembly session started with a simple request to clarify a legal definition and ended with lawmakers questioning who has fundamental control of Cayman Islands government policy under the new Constitution.

Attorney General Sam Bulgin said he intended to have a clarification on the point Thursday when the assembly meeting resumes.

Independent MLA Ezzard Miller began the debate by asking a question about the use of the word ‘governor’ in the tax concessions bill. Mr. Miller said the definition in the bill referred to ‘governor in council’; the council referring to the Executive Council – a forerunner to the Cabinet. The Executive Council no longer exists.

Mr. Miller said he was concerned that, under the country’s 2009 Constitution, ‘governor’ might be construed to mean the UK-appointed governor acting in his sole discretion.

“The original legislation for this tax concession certainly envisages Cabinet…giving [the concession] and not the governor in his reserved powers,” Mr. Miller said.

Premier McKeeva Bush said it was his understanding that council and Cabinet were interchangeable under the law, and that he was happy to switch the word in the bill.

That’s where it got complicated.

“This is not just a matter of semantics,” opposition MLA Alden McLaughlin said. “This issue, it is a fundamental issue…and one with which we did much battle with the United Kingdom because it required a ceding of authority from the governor to the elected government.”

“To continue with the colonial vestige of governor-in-Cabinet is to move the country back to where we were before.”

Mr. McLaughlin said the previous 1972 Constitution gave the Cayman Islands Governor the sole discretion to make policy and essentially treated elected Cabinet members as advisors. Currently there are five elected members in Cabinet, but the new constitution envisages seven members when new electoral districts are added.

Section 44 (3) of the new constitution states: “Cabinet shall have responsibility for the formulation of policy”.

“The concept of governor-in-Cabinet or governor-in-council no longer exists in our constitutional law,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We need to ensure the necessary changes are made.”

Mr. Bulgin did not agree with the opposition member’s take on what the 2009 Constitution requires.

“What was probably intended or hoped is not what is reflected in the constitution itself,” Mr. Bulgin said. “The Cabinet itself cannot formulate policy unless the governor approves it.” The attorney general said whether the phrase governor-in-council or governor-in-Cabinet is used doesn’t make much difference from a legal standpoint, but said he would research the point further.

From practical experience, Premier Bush said what occurs now is that the governor chairs Cabinet and when he is not there the deputy governor sits in the chairman’s position.

Mr. McLaughlin said that was not correct under the 2009 Constitution. “The governor cannot delegate responsibility of chairmanship to the deputy governor,” he said. “It is the premier, in the absence of the governor who chairs Cabinet.”

Mr. Bush said he rather liked the opposition member’s interpretation of the constitution.

“A lot of things would have been moving ahead much faster if I never had to do all of this,” the premier said.

The debate held up passage of the Tax Concessions (Amendment) Bill, 2010. The house is expected to complete passage of the measure Thursday 
in any case.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. So the ‘cat’s out of the bag’ now.

    This interpretation of the powers of the Governor vs the elected Cabinet in the new Constitution by a senior opposition MLA clearly shows the intention of the politicians who formulated and negotiated this new Constitution.

    Did the people of the Cayman Islands vote for and ‘Independence’ constitution ?

    If they didn’t, this is certainly what they got anyway.

    From Mr. McLaughlin’s interpretation, a referendum is not needed to have the Cayman Islands technically independent from the UK.

    All it needs is for the Attorney General, Mr. Bulgin to come back with a legal interpretaion that agrees with Mr. McLaughlin and of course, Premier McKeeva Bush.

    The people of the Cayman Islands have been stitched up good and proper by the PPM and UDP politicians.

    Those who don’t wish to live in an independent Cayman Islands had better begin to pack their bags and find new pastures.

    As some of us have already wisely done.

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  2. Be carfeul what you wish for Firery. Dont be so quick to cast aside the life raft you have right now with the UK. It cant hurt you. Have a look at history sir and comment with your brain and not your heart.Look where the last two to break away are now.

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  3. Firey,

    I am tickled to life with the term you just used "Stiched Up Good"

    That’s really a British sounding term to use and quite Far out!

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  4. Dear Jack

    If you read the last two paragraphs in my post, you’ll see that you’ve misinterpreted me.

    My last post spells out my understanding of what this decision on the power and auhtority of the Governor in Cayman’s new Constitution means.

    The question itself is before the Attorney General of the Cayman Islands to interpret and bring back an answer to the Legislative Assembly.

    This decision/answer by the AG will determine who has the predominant power to govern the Cayman Islands; Britan’s appointed Governor or the Premiere and his locally-elected Government.

    This creates a political situation that the new Constitution does not answer to but creates the opeining for; this is the fundamental issue upon which the actuality of independence is based.

    I don’t believe that this was the intention of the majority of Caymanians who voted for this new Constitution and the question has never arose before now in Cayman’s history.

    It might not need a referendum on the independence issue if the AG interprets and answers this Constitutional question in favour of the local government.

    Obviously, my own opinion on the point of Cayman’s independence is spelled out in the last bits of my last post; please read them again and thanks for your response.

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  5. Formulate law, and enact law is not the same. One may formulate a business plan, but the CEO must approve it. Government may put together (Formulate) law but the Governor must approve it. Wither the Governor is in Cabinet, or in Counsel,or on a stay-cation I believe the Cayman people wants him to approve on behalf of the UK and with our blessing, Policy and law. Neither the UK or our politicians has the right to change our longstanding relationship with an interpretation so vague that we don’t know about it.

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  6. Tiger

    LOL !

    I’m cracking up right now !

    I’m sure you know what the term means; its common English.

    Would ‘conned’, ‘tricked’, ‘hoodwinked’ sound less
    ‘British’ to you ?

    They’re all common terms for being deceived…

    And btw, this is ‘written’ with a Caymanian accent ha ha ha.

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