Cayman Islands lawmakers have a busy schedule ahead in the next two weeks, with more than a dozen bills on the table affecting issues such as immigration, traffic rules, when and where liquor can be sold, and employees who report wrongdoing.
There are also a number of private members’ motions filed by lawmakers, including a highly controversial matter concerning whether a senior government manager should face perjury charges over answers she gave the Public Accounts Committee during a hearing last year.
Finance Minister Roy McTaggart has said there may also be an interim budget review considering any substantial changes government has made in its two-year spending plan since the start of this year.
The raft of legislation and additional matters up for consideration are in stark contrast to a brief legislative meeting held in March where just two bills were considered.
Proposed changes to Cayman’s Traffic Law contemplate the use of speed cameras, facilitate police seizures of illegally operated motorbikes and seek to fine drivers up to $10,000 for not using electronic license plates.
Among the changes, the bill seeks to put the onus on drivers who are caught out by devices like speed cameras or red-light cameras to prove their innocence, rather than having the typical presumption of innocence in favor of the defendant.
Cayman currently uses closed circuit television cameras to monitor certain public rights of way and included with those devices are automatic number plate readers or ANPR cameras. However, the territory has never implemented speed cameras, which capture speed limit violators, or devices that take pictures of motorists who run through red lights. The amendment bill would essentially set the legal groundwork for the use of such devices, and outlines an extensive set of rules for how data captured by those cameras must be used and stored.
Further proposed changes to the Traffic Law mandate that all legal drivers must have electronic license plates affixed to their vehicles. A driver using a vehicle without an electronic tag, or with a damaged tag, could be fined $10,000 upon conviction if the Traffic Law amendments are approved. The Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing is still in the process of replacing some 45,000 vehicle license plates with the new electronic tags.
Certain local residents who believed for years, even decades, that they were Caymanian – only to learn that they did not legally hold that status – will be allowed to apply to obtain it, regardless of their age or how long they have been in the territory.
If changes are approved by lawmakers, the so-called generation of “ghost Caymanians” will essentially be given a new lease on life. Lawmakers from all sides of the political aisle have previously indicated they would generally support such a change.
The problem is a complex legal one, rooted in the simple fact that being born within the Cayman Islands does not automatically grant a person citizenship rights.
A “ghost” Caymanian, as they are sometimes called in immigration circles, is a person who was born in Cayman to, or who came to Cayman as a child with, non-Caymanian parents who later received Caymanian status. Caymanian status is a legal designation similar to local citizenship that gives someone “the right to be Caymanian.”
Those children, under the current Immigration Law, are not automatically considered Caymanian by birth. When their parents receive their legal status, the children typically become Caymanian as well, via their parents. However, the law now requires those children, before they turn 18, to apply for Caymanian status in their own right. Hundreds, possibly even thousands, have not done so.
Legislation before the assembly during the next week seeks to resolve two long-standing issues within the local tourism and entertainment industry – the sale of alcohol on Sundays and hosting parties with live music on New Year’s Eve holidays that fall on a Sunday.
Amendment bills seeking to change the Liquor Licensing Law and the Music and Dancing Control Law would allow bars, nightclubs and promoters to permit live music on New Year’s Eve when it falls on a Sunday. Last year, venues were forced to wait until midnight – when the clocked changed to Monday, Jan. 1 – before they could get the party started.
Proposed changes to the Liquor Licensing Law would extend Sunday opening to package license holders, at the Liquor Licensing Board’s discretion, and clarify that retail licenses should be reserved for bars and other venues that sell alcohol on the premises.
Lawmakers have proposed a clarifying amendment to the Whistleblower Protection Law to reenforce the point that Cayman’s first legislation protecting those who report wrongdoing in the workplace will apply to all legal entities, both in the public and private sector.
The original legislation took effect earlier this year.
The amendment bill reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, this law applies to all employees and employers in the islands, including employees and employers or statutory authorities, government companies and private places of employment.”
The provisions of the current Whistleblower Protection Law (2015) took effect on Feb. 1, 2018 – about two and a half years after lawmakers passed the original bill – consolidating various earlier legislation that sought to offer similar protection but was largely viewed as ineffective.
A private members’ motion filed by Public Accounts Committee Chairman Ezzard Miller seeks to hold Health Ministry Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn in contempt of parliament for allegedly knowingly providing false answers to the committee in October 2017.
Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush said last week that he would allow the motion to proceed, as it fell within the rules of the assembly.
Mr. Miller, the North Side MLA, refers in his motion to last year’s PAC meeting at which he asked Ms. Ahearn about changes made to membership of licensing bodies such as the Medical and Dental Council.
Acting Governor Franz Manderson said recently that there was “no basis” for taking disciplinary action against Ms. Ahearn over Mr. Miller’s allegations.