As journalists, we appreciate the motivational power of rush deadlines. That said, we’re creating daily news content that is consumed and then (alas) tossed in the bin – not deliberating upon laws that may shape the future course of the country.
Therefore, we can’t help but empathize with the anxiety expressed by several elected members in today’s newspaper over the sheer quantity of legislation the Progressives administration has crammed into the agenda of the new parliamentary session.
In total, lawmakers have been tasked with considering two dozen or more bills comprising hundreds and hundreds of pages of dense legalese on subjects as basic as construction and as esoteric as the economic regulatory function of the Water Authority-Cayman.
Trust us, there’s not a human being in the Cayman Islands (except for, perhaps, a couple of reporters and editors in the Compass newsroom) who possesses the time or the interest to delve deeply into the details of all of these bills.
Much of the proposed legislation concerns technical topics, or is written in such lawyerly argot that, in case a layperson actually makes an attempt to read it, the meaning of the bill may not be apparent upon first, second or subsequent perusal. Nevertheless, among those who have studied and do understand the individual pieces of legislation, there is considerable conflict.
For example, the Non-Profit Organisations Bill, depending on who you talk to, is either a vital component of a robust anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime – or (and this happens to be our opinion) a superfluous bureaucratic expansion that will solve no existing problem but will severely hinder the altruistic efforts of Cayman’s charitable agencies.
Then there’s the proposed Legal Practitioners Bill, which at 126 pages is by itself a veritable tome. The bill is the latest iteration of a long-running effort to modernize the regulation of the practice of Cayman law. The sprawling legislation touches on topics near and far, including the hiring and promotion of Caymanian attorneys, and extending across the globe to dictate how, where and who can practice Cayman law overseas.
We certainly could go on, but we don’t have the space on this editorial page even to begin to describe the volume of bills on the agenda.
Given the nature of the legislation under consideration, and the potential significance of its passage or rejection, we tend to see this session of the Legislative Assembly as an illustration of the maxim that you either trust your elected officials … or you don’t. There is no way, and no time, for the general public to develop informed views, collectively, on all of the government’s imminent decisions.
We, and even more so our politicians, are keenly aware that this session is occurring on the cusp of campaign season. The clock is ticking, more and more loudly, on this Progressives government. It is at this point in the election cycle that the temptation may present itself to incumbents to “get as much done” as possible – in order to campaign on those “accomplishments” … and in the case of freshly passed legislation, before the outcomes of what they have done have become apparent.
Whenever we are given an armload, or a wheelbarrow-load, of tasks to perform on short notice, our initial reaction is typically this: What will happen if, instead, we do nothing?
If, for example, our lawmakers do not amalgamate Cayman’s various public utilities regulators into one single oversight body, is there some societal ailment that will go uncured – or can it reasonably be delayed until a less-hectic date?
It is also important to realize that despite the sheer number and volume of bills lawmakers will debate this session, there isn’t any scheduled discussion on the following handful of topics which should be at the forefront of any conversation about governance in the Cayman Islands: public education, law and order, and the status of major public sector capital projects.