Cabinet is inviting the public to weigh in with opinions on the relationship the Cayman Islands has with the United Kingdom.
The Cabinet Office announced Friday it had set up a website to invite public comment on Cayman’s relationship as a British Overseas Territory with the UK, as part of an ongoing public consultation exercise.
The United Kingdom is reviewing its relationship with its overseas territories and aims to release a white paper next year outlining a new strategy in dealing with them. It released an earlier white paper on the subject in 1999.
“I urge every member of the public to take this opportunity the UK has provided and speak up. Do visit the webpage and learn for yourselves what the UK is proposing with the new White Paper 2012. It will define the relationship with each of the overseas territories since one size cannot fit all,” said Premier McKeeva Bush.
Mr. Bush will deliver the input received from the public as part of a position paper he will present at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London in late November.
The night before the announcement was made, Premier Bush told members of the Constitution Commission at a public meeting in West Bay that independence for Cayman was an “inevitable step” and urged the commission to make educating the public about the pros and cons of independence a priority in its work.
He cautioned he was not calling for independence, but instead wanted the commission to fulfil its role to let people know the consequences of an independent Cayman.
The Constitutional Commission has drawn up a research paper on people-initiated referendums and is also inviting public comment on the subject.
Commission member Julene Banks said Cayman was the only a British Overseas Territory with a constitution allowing a referendum to be initiated by the people on matters of national importance. The only mandatory referendum mentioned in the constitution is one concerning independence for the Cayman Islands, a referendum that could be brought by elected members of government.
Prior to the new constitution being implemented in 2009, only the majority of elected members of government could initiate a referendum.
Ms Banks said the Constitutional Commission was in the process of drawing up a paper on self-determination options. Mr. Bush said the original intent in setting up a Constitutional Commission was it would “not [be] in the hands of the governor, but in the hands of the elected officials, that could and would be able to push and educate and probably agitate for the time when we would need to get closer to having an independent Cayman Islands”.
He asked commission members at the meeting, Ms Banks and Wil Pineau, “to pay closer attention to the education, the pros and the cons of an independent Cayman Islands, whether it is 15 or 20 or 30 years from now. At least, our children needs to know what it entails and … I do believe they are not going to be as tolerant as we have been to the administering powers.”
He said the UK had already stated if Cayman wanted to become independent, it would allow it. He said the “goal posts have shifted” and perhaps there were now more safeguards as, in the past, the arrangement was that if a party won an election on the platform of independence, the UK government would allow independence, but now, under the new constitution, a referendum was needed.
Mr. Pineau responded that one of the Constitutional Commission’s next projects would be to determine “if people supported any of the options for advancement [and] what would it really mean in terms of economic consequences, diplomatic consequences, political consequences, the governance structure, the citizenship, the relationship with the developed countries beyond the United Kingdom, the European Union and our trading partners”.
“We want to educate people to ensure that whatever step the public decides to take, they have all the information in front of them so that when that vote is taken, people understand what they are getting into,” he said.
The Cabinet Office website outlines a series of six questions for which the UK is seeking responses, which members of the public can respond to online at www.cabinetoffice.gov.ky.