Compass motion labelled ‘chilling’

A diverse international group of
lawyers, human rights activists and freedom of information advocates have
called on the Legislative Assembly’s Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence to
repeal a motion that asked for the prosecution of the Caymanian Compass and one
of its journalists.

In an open letter to the Speaker,
the group also called the Speaker to use her influence “to ensure that
legislative discussions about reform of the Freedom of Information Law are held
in public, absent clear grounds for secrecy”.

At a meeting of the Legislative
Assembly on 9 December, Mrs. Lawrence suspended reporter Brent Fuller’s press
privileges for a day and called on him and the Caymanian Compass to apologise
for an article and editorial about a legislative subcommittee meeting to review
the Freedom of Information Law in private. At the same meeting, a majority of
legislators voted to support a motion by independent member Ezzard Miller to
ask Attorney General Sam Bulgin to prosecute Mr. Fuller and the Compass under
the Legislative Assembly (Immunities, Powers and Privileges) Law (1999
Revision) and to cancel the reporter’s press privileges in the House.

Mr. Bulgin this week announced
there would be no prosecution.

The group said that its welcomed
the Attorney General’s decision not to prosecute, but said that the motion
passed by the Legislative Assembly was still likely to exert “a chilling effect
on local coverage of this important public body”.

The letter to the Speaker of the
House from 19 civil society organisations across the globe read: “We believe
that both the revocation of privileges and the call for prosecution represent a
breach of Fuller’s right to freedom of expression as protected under both
international law (see, for example, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights) and section 11 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009.

“The articles consist of legitimate
comment on the Legislative Assembly, a key public body in the Cayman Islands.
We believe that the right to engage in criticism of elected bodies, even of a
trenchant or unreasonable nature, is central to a democracy.”

The organisations added that, as
advocates of openness, they believed it was inappropriate for the legislature
to conduct discussions regarding reform of an access to information law in
secret.

“International good practice
dictates that such meetings should be conducted in the open and that any
committee reviewing such a law should provide as much opportunity as possible
for public input. Secrecy would have to be justified with specific reasons by
the chairman of such a committee,” the letter read.

Mrs. Lawrence and legislators have
argued that the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly state that
legislative committee meetings shall be held in private and that proceedings
shall not be published until after the committee has presented its report to
the House.

The open letter came from
organisations in Europe, Africa, Canada, the Middle East, the Caribbean and
South America, as well as individual lawyers, journalists and information right
campaigners.

Toby Mendel of the Centre for Law
and Democracy in Canada, one of the signatories of the letter, said that the organisations
had decided to write to the Speaker because they felt the Legislative Assembly
had made an “egregious” effort to stifle freedom of expression.

“I think the attempt by the
Legislative Assembly to fire a shot across the bow of the Caymanian Compass was
quite illegitimate. What the Caymanian Compass published, in my opinion as a
long-standing freedom of expression campaigner, was quite uncontroversial. I
didn’t see anything in it to warrant an angry response from the legislature,
much less a threat of the sort that was issued,” he said.

He added that the assertion that
reporting on the legislature is a privilege, rather than a right, as stated by
Mrs. Lawrence on 9 December, was “contrary to international law”.

Under the Legislative Assembly’s
Standing Orders, the presiding officer – the Speaker – “may grant a general
permission” to media representatives to attend meetings of the House and can
revoke that permission if rules made by the presiding officer are contravened.

A request for comment from Mrs.
Lawrence regarding the letter was not answered by publication time.

 

Read the letter in full.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Even those with the very best of intentions at the time must by now, realise what a drastic mistake they made in agitating and voting for the 2009 Constitution without the Bill of Rights being immediately immplementable and enforcable in the Caymanian courts and justice system.

    Those well-meaning intentions have now been taken advantage of by the very people a Bill of Rights is meant for; people in power who abuse other peoples inalienable rights without hesitation or conscience.

    The Cayman Islands has a large percentage of such people, as the evidence now shows.

    If this Bill of Rights had been included in the Constitution, it would have forced Caymans ruling politicians to enact the underpinning legislation to fulfill constitutional law; they would have had no choice.

    Now, it looks like it will take the force of the international community to bring this CI Government to the table to start the process of creating this local legislation; something it is clear and obvious that they have no intention of doing voluntarily.

    With the referee,the Speaker of the House being as biased in favour of human rights violations as she is proving to be, this is a very serious situation for the citizens of Cayman; her job is to protect democracy, not threaten it.

    If the current UDP-led CI government thinks that the major human rights organizations will not now bring the Cayman Islands before the European Court of Human Rights if this Bill of Rights and local legislation is delayed or further undermined, let them think again.

    All human rights eyes are on them now.

    Its a pity that the international community has to stand up for Caymanians rights when they are doing very little on their own behalf but…

    As long as the job is completed, that is really all that matters.

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  2. Firey,

    It is very disappointing that you would act selfishly as an opportunist to make another attempt to MISLEAD Caymanians regarding their constitution enacted in 2009.

    Shall I point out the letter written by the l9 advocates groups from around the globe addressed to the Speaker of the Cayman Islands House of Assembly? Yes it was addressing the affects of the motion to prosecute Mr. Brent Fuller,Please read, this time with the understanding and no distortions of the truth about what they are really saying to us.

    The International Advocates being a group of lawyers, and civil rights activists statement RULES OUT WHAT YOU ARE NOW SAYING The advocates statement reads:-

    We believe that both the revocation of privileges and the call for prosecution represent a breach of Fullers right to freedom of expression as protected under both international law (see, for example, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and section 11 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009.

    Mr.Firey, you are the same individual that has taken it upon yourself to oppose the constitution for PERSONAL AND SELFISH REASONS unexplained to those of us still waiting for your answer!

    However, I will not sit idly by and have you cite the recent constitution enacted in 2009 as being deranged in any way shape or form.
    You have deliberately ignored that the group of advocates is indeed ACKNOWLEDGING THAT THE 2009 CAYMAN ISLANDS CONSTITUTION IN FACT HAS MADE PROVISIONS FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS AND THAT THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE INCLUDING MR. BRENT Fullers right to freedom of expression as protected under both international law IN Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ALSO IN SECTION 11 OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS CONSTITUTION ORDER 2009!.

    Do not jump into this forum telling out right lies intending to mislead people they have enough problems already.

    SPEAK THE TRUTH, PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR THE TRUTH, THEY HAVE BEEN DECEIVED BY MANY ITS TIME SOMEONE SPEAK UP SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

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  3. Tiger

    You have a serious blind spot when it comes to any question regarding this Constitution.

    If you read my comments carefully you will note that the terms immediately immplementable is the definitive term used in relation to this Bill of Rights clause being referred to in the article.

    Can you honestly say that any Bill of Rights clause that has been included in the 2009 Constitution is immediately immplementable in the Cayman Islands at this current moment in time ?

    You obviously fly into a rage when any questions regarding your baby, the Constitution is raised by anyone, whether you actually have figured out whether they are opposing your views or not.

    It does not matter what our views are, whether for or against; it is our prerogative to hold and express those views…

    Does your rage have anything to do with the fact that a majority of people (33/3) actually understand and agree with what my comments are saying…

    We are all intelligent and competent people and we certainly dont depend on you for information on matters in which we are more than a little knowledgeable…

    Take a chill pill and go sip some rum punch on the 7-Mile Beach…

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  4. Tiger

    Below is the first paragraph of my comments that has raised your ire; read them again very carefully, as the other forumites who have responded with 36 positives have done.

    Even those with the very best of intentions at the time
    must by now, realise what a drastic mistake they made in agitating and voting for the 2009 Constitution without the Bill of Rights being immediately immplementable and enforcable in the Caymanian courts and justice system.

    After having read them, maybe you can enlighten me as to when the local legislation that spells out the offenses for breach of this Bill of Rights was passed and what their penalties are ?

    Maybe you can tell me when the Legislative Assembly passed the local laws that brings this Bill of Rights into effect in the Cayman Islands ?

    Maybe you can tell me what redress Brent Fuller has in the courts of the Cayman Islands to these violations of his fundamental right of free expression ?

    Not everyone posting on this or any other media forum has a political agenda, as you seem to do.

    This forum is for discussion and sharing of opinions and yours certainly carries no more weight than any others expressed here, including mine.

    You are no Constitutional authority or any other authority, in my opinion and your continuing personal attacks on people who you choose to disagree with speaks volumes.

    My advice to you is to take your political campaign to the streets of Cayman, form your own political party and contest the next general elections.

    This or any other news forum is no place to bully or harangue the reading public with your political views or agenda.

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Comments are closed.