The Cayman Islands National Security Council, created under the territory’s 2009 Constitution Order, will meet Tuesday for the first time in about six months.
The last meeting, in October 2017, was only one of eight such meetings held since the Progressives-led government first took office in May 2013.
Except for several meetings held between late 2014 and early 2016, the council meetings were generally held about 10 months apart. They were held in September 2013, July 2014, November 2014, January 2015, November 2015, February 2016, January 2017 and October 2017, according to government records.
The advisory panel, created to participate in strategic decision-making with the U.K.-appointed governor, has fallen short of that stated role, according to Premier Alden McLaughlin.
“The [National Security Council] must be permitted to function as the constitution contemplated,” Mr. McLaughlin told the Legislative Assembly last month, adding that advice from the council should be advice that the “governor is obliged to take,” barring exceptional circumstances.
The Constitution Order in section 58 states that it should advise the governor on security matters with the exception of police operation and staffing, which are a matter for the commissioner of police.
“The governor shall be obliged to act in accordance with the advice of the council, unless he or she considers that giving effect to the advice would adversely affect Her Majesty’s interest [meaning the interest of the U.K. government] …,” the constitution reads.
This is not how the security council has operated during his government’s first, or so far second, term in office, Mr. McLaughlin said.
Opposition lawmakers have asked the premier if his government supports delegating some direct responsibility for law enforcement matters to an elected minister of government, rather than to the governor via the police commissioner. However, Mr. McLaughlin said that is not what his government is suggesting, nor is it what the constitution requires.
“The National Security Council should have regular, monthly meetings, and … some real say into non-operational policing matters,” the premier said in March. “The U.K. government needs to rethink the position of the governor having full responsibility for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.”
Governor Anwar Choudhury, who arrived in Cayman March 26, has said the National Security Council and other matters surrounding law enforcement and public safety will be his first and primary focus during his term in office.
In early public appearances, Mr. Choudhury has publicly supported statements by Mr. McLaughlin concerning the establishment of a Cayman Islands coast guard and the development of neighborhood-oriented policing. He has also seemed to support giving elected government ministers more say in police strategic development.
The new governor has also supported monthly council meetings.
“It won’t be a talk shop,” Mr. Choudhury said, stating his hope that the meeting agendas would be kept brief and to the point – no more than 90 minutes at a time. “[The security council] needs to work. It needs to be clear on the priority and needs to be action oriented.”
Governor Choudhury said gun crime and burglaries were already identified as areas of public concern. He also noted that the premier is leading certain law enforcement initiatives like the border control services merger and the proposed creation of an independent coast guard for Cayman – which the U.K. supports.
The governor said he was “encouraged” to see crime seemed to be a “national unity” issue in Cayman, rather than a political battleground. “That’s a real compliment to the politicians … and the people of the Cayman Islands,” he said.
The governor chairs the security council and the premier, two appointed government ministers and the opposition leader attend. Two members of civil society are also appointed, one by the premier and another by the opposition leader. The deputy governor, attorney general and police commissioner, or their designates, also attend as non-voting members.