Constitutional education

Educating oneself about the inner workings of government probably does not top the list of most Cayman Islands residents’ – or the residents of anywhere else for that matter – list of fun things to do.

However, as the French philosopher Joseph de Maistre once said “Every nation has the government it deserves” which has been adapted in more modern times (it is uncertain by whom) to the saying: “in a democracy, people get the government they deserve”.

The idea behind the quotation is that if you don’t pay attention to governance/political issues you will get a government you probably won’t like, if you do pay attention and participate you will get one more to your liking.

Plato said it this way: “The penalty for not participating in government is to be governed by your inferiors.”

The governance debate in the Cayman Islands has been going on for roughly the last decade and ended with the adoption – by a large majority of voters – of the 2009 Constitution Order. The new constitution brings the Cayman Islands closer to full internal self-governance then it has ever been, but it also retains the territory’s status and gives the UK ultimate responsibility for law and order and management of the civil service.

As far as anyone has been able to determine, the Cayman Islands wish to remain a territory of the United Kingdom, rather than seek full independence. And those are the only two options being offered by the UK.

But there are other options available, according to the United Nations. The options include integration and free association which the UK has not accepted, but which UN officials still believe residents of the overseas territories should be educated on.

It begs the question, how many people would have voted for the 2009 Constitution knowing that other options might have been pursued or at least considered? Granted, it seems unlikely that Cayman Islands residents would wish to integrate with the UK, but certainly free association with the former colonial power might be considered positive option. If, as Dr. Carlyle Corbin says, there is little risk of contingent liabilities in such an arrangement, what would be the opposition to it?

How ever this debate plays out, it behoves the people of this country to educate themselves regarding all of the governance options available. There is enough information out there to make self-education possible, even without the cooperation of the former colonial powers.