I write in response to the editorial for 11 March titled ‘Commissions get second-class’.
As background, I am the manager of the Commissions Secretariat, which is the office analytically and administratively supporting four of the constitutionally created commissions.
Your editorial gave several examples of ways that evidence the commissions ‘being irrelevant’ and some of those examples have confused me slightly. For instance, I am not sure in which circumstances the Human Rights Commission has “been bypassed for advice on certain legal changes” as the Government does not have a constitutional requirement to ask the HRC for legal advice on any issue, whether that issue is one concerning human rights or not.
Additionally, while the Commission for Standards in Public Life has not yet received enabling legislation “to give it the teeth required to prevent the possibility of public corruption”, this is no fault of the Government. The CSPL along with the Secretariat and the Legal Department has spent close to 300 hours working on drafting this legislation by attempting to gain an understanding of the constitutional mandate of the CSPL, researching best practices for monitoring a register of interests, exploring similar work being conducted in other jurisdictions, analysing aspects such as how this law will work in tandem with the Registers of Interest Law (1996), deciding who should be subject to this law, etc.
When the requirement of enabling legislation was brought to the attention of the governor and attorney general they both fully supported the creation of such legislation and the CSPL expects that this will continue once properly researched and justified legislation is drafted and presented to the Cabinet.
Another area of your editorial that confused me was the reference to the reports and recommendations of these appointed bodies sitting on a shelf somewhere.
As manager of the Commissions Secretariat, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that the reports of the constitutionally created commissions are completed and submitted as mandated by the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009.
To date the Commission for Standards in Public Life and the Human Rights Commission have fulfilled their constitutional requirements to report their work. The Commission for Standards in Public Life has now submitted two reports – one in August 2010, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly shortly thereafter and made available to the public via their website www.standardsinpubliclifecommission.ky. The second report has been submitted and will be tabled in the LA in the next few days. Once it has been tabled, it too will be made available to the public via their website.
The Human Rights Commission submitted its 2010 annual report in January 2011, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly shortly thereafter and made available to the public via its website www.humanrightscommission.ky or via its Facebook page.
Also available on the Human Rights website are copies of the responses to draft legislation and enquiries as well as other areas of interest of the commission.
The Constitutional Commission, which has no constitutionally mandated time frame in which to publish reports, released its first report directly to the public in October 2010 and is also available to the public via its website www.knowyourconstitution.ky.
The commissions have spent their first year in existence working hard to gain an understanding and appreciation of the scope their respective constitutional remits, establishing policies and procedures, building relationships with the Cayman Islands Government and establishing their identity within the community as a whole. The 2009 Constitution Order is changing the lives of the people of the Cayman Islands in more ways than one and it is going to take time for everyone to get used to and become comfortable with these changes. The secretariat realises that there are going to be growing pains along the way and sees these as all being a part of the implementation process.
We welcome members of the public to get involved, ask questions, make useful suggestions, give constructive feedback and help us to create an atmosphere of change and growth in the Cayman Islands as prescribed by the 2009 Constitution.
The secretariat can be contacted at 244-3685 or via e-mail at [email protected]
Manager, Commissions Secretariat