UK-Cayman relations paper still seeking public input

Public consultations are continuing throughout Grand Cayman concerning the relationship between the United Kingdom and its British Overseas Territories, of which the Cayman Islands is one.

The UK government is in the process of drafting an updated parliamentary paper enunciating government policy toward its non-independent territories. Officials are asking the public for feedback as to what local residents deem important regarding an ongoing relationship between the metropole and the territories.

The new White Paper, which will update the original text presented in 1999, is expected to be completed next year and made public in 2012.

A public meeting is scheduled for West Bay residents at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 25 October, at the Shirley Kidd Memorial Hall in Sir John A. Cumber Primary School. Another meeting is scheduled for George Town and Bodden Town residents at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 26 October, at Mary Miller Hall in George Town.

The UK government will use feedback from people living in its Overseas Territories to prepare the position paper to outline its approach to its Overseas Territories. The strategy seeks to strengthen the engagement and interaction between the UK and the territories; work with territories to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning; and also improve the quality and range of support available to the territories.

The Overseas Territories are constitutionally not part of the UK. They have separate constitutions, and most Overseas Territories have elected governments with varying responsibilities for domestic matters. The governor, who is appointed by and represents Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, retains responsibility for external affairs, internal security, defence and civil service.

“Since we came to office in 2010, this government has worked hard to reinvigorate the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories,” said Henry Bellingham, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Overseas Territories. “This consultation is an important part of that approach as we move toward a new White Paper on the Overseas Territories next year. There are many people and groups who have an interest in the future of the Overseas Territories and can provide us with insight into how to develop the UK’s relationship with them. I look forward to receiving their ideas.”

A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used by governments and businesses to educate readers and help facilitate decision-making by presenting information from sources deemed expert and based on relevant research.

The 1999 White Paper, titled “Partnership for Progress and Prosperity, Britain and the Overseas Territories”, focused largely on citizenship, sustainable development, human rights, drug trafficking and financial accountability.

Public comments and responses for the upcoming paper may be made online, through email or by post to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Feedback may also be directed through the website of the governor of the Cayman Islands at www.ukincayman.fco.gov.uk.

The Cayman Islands Cabinet Office website outlines a series of six questions for which the UK is seeking responses, which members of the public may respond to online at www.cabinetoffice.gov.ky.

“I urge every member of the public to take this opportunity the UK has provided and speak up,” said Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush. “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.”

The input from the Cayman public will form part of a position paper Premier Bush plans to present at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London in late November.

The consultation runs until 31 December.

The 14 British Overseas Territories include Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn; Henderson; Ducie and Oeno Islands; St. Helena and St. Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha); South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia; and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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