Hopes for a public release of the United Kingdom’s ‘white paper’ on the evolving relationship with its remaining overseas territories were dashed on Monday by another delay.
Representatives of the Cayman Islands governor’s office said Monday that the UK Foreign Secretary was hoping to launch the review of the proposal via a statement in parliament, but a date for that release had still not been agreed upon.
A previous draft of the document was inadvertently put on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office’s website on Friday. However, a representative of Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor’s office said that was not the final document.
A final proposal is expected out later this week, said Steve Moore, head of the governor’s office in Cayman.
The “white paper” document was initially set to be revealed in UK Parliament in May, but “pressures on the parliamentary timetable” has required the date to be moved back, representatives of Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor’s office said.
The overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, have separate constitutions and most 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.
White papers are sometimes 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 UK 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.
An abbreviated public consultation process held last year resulted in a number of recommendations made by Caymanians and others regarding where the relationship with the UK should go.
Although Cayman’s most recent Constitution was only finalised in 2009, the last UK-led effort at modernising governance in its territories started in 1999 and Britain’s government is seeking again to “determine the priorities that will guide the revision and updating” of that relationship. The UK once hoped to have a new “white paper” proposal based partly on advice and suggestions it receives from the overseas territories in the early part of this year.
The new Constitution gives the locally elected government heretofore unseen decision-making and advisory powers related to security and international relations matters – as well as additional internal governance powers within the Cayman Islands Cabinet.
According to the chairman of the committee in charge of collecting and evaluating information gleaned from last year’s Cayman Islands public survey, the latest governance review does not set independence for the overseas territories as its goal. However, Lemuel Hurlston said it is doubtful Cayman will gain too many new governance concessions from the UK without taking that step.
“The British government has made it clear that this is the next step,” Mr. Hurlston told a group of about 20 people in the audience at West Bay’s Sir John Cumber Primary School in November. “They’ll tweak it [the Constitution], but they’re not going to advance it to any other stage.
“But as long as the Caymanian people express their wish to remain British, that’s an option. Independence is not going to be forced on anyone,” he said.