Editorial for December 16: Meetings should be opened to all

In a
lengthy missive to an online news service Tuesday, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller
stated the following:

“There are
those who say that the select committee could decide to hold its deliberations
in public by suspending Standing Orders. This is not so. A select committee
cannot suspend any Standing Orders; only the Legislative Assembly when sitting
can suspend Standing Orders by majority vote.”

In reality
what our Monday editorial actually said was: “Lawmakers can easily suspend
Standing Orders to make the meetings public. As a matter of practice, lawmakers
vote to suspend Standing Orders fairly frequently. The real question now is,
will they in this case?”

The
Legislative Assembly can suspend Standing Orders. Evidently, its members saw
fit to do so on 9 December when they took up a matter to recommend the
prosecution of this newspaper.

They did
not take the same opportunity during a day-long debate on a newspaper article
to decide whether the same Standing Orders should be suspended to hold open
meetings of the subcommittee and select committee of the whole house that will
review the FOI Law.

So what is
the ultimate message in this vote?

Holding
open meetings in a democracy should be lower priority than prosecuting a media
organisation that has ticked off some lawmakers?

An emailed
statement sent to the Caymanian Compass by Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence
last week indicated that the opportunity to hold open meetings for the FOI Law
review is indeed possible.

“Madam
speaker is a member of the sub committee. The whole committee will have to make
the decisions to have the meetings held in public,” read the statement sent on
behalf of Madam Speaker by Clerk of the LA Zena Merren-Chin.

So then, we
return to our original question.

Will the
Legislative Assembly take a vote to hold these subcommittee and select
committee meetings in public? If they do, we will then know who truly supports
open government,and who does not.

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