Calls for clarity on candidate eligibility

Constitutional amendments needed, says Bush

McKeeva Bush talks to reporters after registering his nomination as a candidate.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has called for amendments to the Constitution to clarify who can stand in Cayman Islands elections.

Mr. Bush said the ambiguities in the document need to be cleared up by politicians to avoid the court having to intervene to determine whether candidates could stand.

George Town independent Alric Lindsay, who survived a challenge to his eligibility last week, also wants to see changes to the Constitution and to the Elections Law to prevent well qualified candidates from being barred by technicalities.

Cayman Brac independent Nickolas DaCosta was blocked from running last week because he had acquired U.S. citizenship by descent, through his father, rather than by birth.

Candidate X, who the court ruled could not be named, was barred from running because of a spent conviction for a dishonesty offense.

Mr. Lindsay, a candidate for George Town South, was cleared to run after the chief justice ruled his absences from the island over the past seven years were not enough to disqualify him from standing.

In all three cases the supervisor of elections sought clarity from the courts where the wording and intent of the Constitution was unclear.

Mr. Bush believes politicians need to amend the document to ensure the rules around eligibility are crystal clear.

“I am going to ask for some clarifications to the Constitution,” he said. “I believe the Constitution should give very clear direction in these areas so there is no doubt, and it is not left to the court to interpret. It has to be clarified through the legislative process, not through the courts.”

In the case of alternate citizenship, for example, Mr. Bush said he had always understood that this provision was designed to disqualify anyone who actively acquired a foreign citizenship and, in doing so, swore allegiance to a foreign power.

Until last week’s decision in Mr. DaCosta’s case, he said, he did not believe the Constitution could be used to disqualify a Cayman Islands citizen who had dual citizenship through family ties.

He said he was not taking issue with the judge’s decision, but believes politicians now need to decide what they want the rules to be and to amend the Constitution.

Mr. Lindsay, who was cleared to stand in the election, also believes the Constitution should be more clear.

Mr. Lindsay’s candidacy was challenged on the basis that he was born outside the islands and that he had spent more than 400 days outside the country in the seven years before his nomination. The chief justice ruled that this should not prevent him from standing as he had maintained a home and business in the Cayman Islands during this time.

Education Minister Tara Rivers also survived a constitutional challenge after the 2013 election, on the basis that her work outside of the Cayman Islands for a law firm in the U.K. was part of her education.

Mr. Lindsay believes legislators need to look again at the eligibility rules for candidates, in particular the 400-day rule.

He said the rule could potentially be used to punish people who travel regularly on business or take work placements at foreign offices, as well as wealthy retirees who spent time overseas each year.

“I ask the people of the Cayman Islands and the next legislature to consider possible amendments to the Constitution and the Elections Law to meet the needs of Caymanian businesspersons and retirees in modern times and to enhance the constitutional rights of Caymanians in relevant, growing areas,” he said.

Mr. Bush said there were conflicts between what had been the general understanding of how the Constitution operates and the court’s decisions. He said the rules around a candidate’s eligibility had been part of the various iterations of Cayman’s Constitution since the 1950s.

Jim Bodden was blocked from being part of the Legislative Assembly in 1971 because of his U.S. citizenship, he said. He gave up the entitlement and ran again in the next election, going on to become one of the Cayman Islands’ most influential politicians.

In the aftermath of last week’s candidacy challenges, the chief justice asked the lawyers involved in the cases to help come up with guidelines for how the process of challenging eligibility is handled in future.

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  1. Mr. Bush is 100% right in saying that the Constitution and Elections Laws needs to be amended .
    I think that there’s not enough clarity in the Election Law as stated in the Constitution is why the supervisor of election couldn’t understand it , is why he had to go to the Juge for clarity .
    Were the Election Laws and the Constitution messed / changed about 5 to 6 years ago ?

  2. I do agree with Mr Bush on his thoughts and suggestions. This Law must be fine tweaked. My suggestion two cents, is that consideration should be given to Caymanians who want to run, must have both parents born Caymanians, irrespective that the want-t-be candidate was not born here but lived here all of their lives. This person should have both parents born Caymanians and live Cayman.