“The people of the Cayman Islands, recalling the events that have shaped their history and made them what they are, and acknowledging their distinct history, culture and Christian heritage and its enduring influence and contribution in shaping the spiritual, moral and social values that have guided their development and brought peace, prosperity and stability to those islands, through the vision, forbearance, and leadership of their people, who are loyal to Her Majesty the Queen;”
— The Constitution of the Cayman Islands
On this three-day weekend, amid family visits, barbecues and trips to the beach, we hope readers will make time for a few “higher-order” thoughts in honor of Constitution Day.
It has been eight years since the people of the Cayman Islands voted to adopt our modernized constitution. What does that have to do with you?
A constitution is a blueprint. It outlines, from floor to ceiling (from foundation to aspiration) a country’s values and its laws. It lays out the mechanics of government and enshrines the rights of its people. It is a declaration: This is how we want to function as a nation. This is what we stand for. This is who we are.
If you haven’t read Cayman’s constitution, give it a perusal this weekend. It is a description of “our house,” after all — the one we are building together.
It pays homage to culture and history and reaffirms the values that brought us here. It sets out a vision for an even more prosperous future. It is at times expansive and far reaching — a broad attempt to describe the “ideal state” for the Caymanian people, our government and our relations with each other and the world.
At other times, it can be overly specific, even “lawyerly.” We balk at some of the many subsections that attempt to anticipate legal scenarios that are unlikely or obscure. Then again, for every subsection’s subsection we find overly precise, there is another so vague as to lose nearly all meaning.
(Who would have guessed, for example, that an overseas law firm could come to be defined as an “educational establishment”?)
Imperfect at best, our constitution and the rights enumerated therein do not fully apply to half the islands’ population (the growing, non-Caymanian half).
Like democracy itself, our constitution is sometimes lofty, sometimes grindingly specific. At times, it can be difficult to understand, reading more like a contract full of cautions than a roadmap for the future. Perhaps without intending to, the document makes a compelling case for drafting legislation in “plain English,” as many people, including local consultant legislative counsel Bilika H. Simamba, have urged. After all, we demand clarity in instruction manuals and insurance policies, so why not constitutions — which, in their way, offer both instruction and insurance?
Even the Holy Bible has been through several revisions (remember King James?) to ensure congregations easily understand The Word.
But we digress.
For all its flaws, our constitution establishes our country as a viable, singular political entity. It is an assertion of our limited sovereignty and ultimate allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. By design, it is difficult to change and amend, so it’s up to us to study and make sense of it.
Even though Monday’s Constitution Day is uniquely Caymanian, it is fitting in such a multi-cultural territory — where residents hail from more than 100 countries — that the holiday happens to fall so near to Canada Day and American Independence Day.
During this long weekend, everyone in the Cayman Islands has something in common to celebrate: Our venerable constitution.