Cayman Islands lawmakers want to take away the U.K.-appointed governor’s ability to disallow legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly in instances where the British Overseas Territory is not in breach of international legal and human rights standards.

At the moment, Cayman’s appointed governor can overrule any legislation approved by the elected assembly members if it is viewed to be contrary to the interests of Her Majesty’s government. In practice, that power has been used rarely, if ever, by successive governors.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the government was scheduling meetings with U.K. officials later this year to consider constitutional changes in Cayman that would state “where the Cayman Islands is not in breach of international standards, the power of internal self-governance is absolute and the power of disallowance with respect to legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands be removed as is the case with Gibraltar.”

During a lunchtime address to the Legislative Assembly Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin reiterated earlier statements that the local government wished to remove or significantly change the U.K. government’s ability to legislate directly for the territory.

This is now contained in section 125 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, which states: “There is reserved to Her Majesty full power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Cayman Islands.”

Mr. McLaughlin suggested Thursday that this section should be removed from the constitution, as was done in the Atlantic territory of Bermuda more than a decade ago. In the absence of removal, Mr. McLaughlin said the section should be clarified so that its power extends only to “serious matters” such as the breakdown of public order and endemic corruption in government, the judiciary or the legislature.

The proposed changes have been agreed upon with Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller. U.K. officials have at least seemed willing to consider them after the Theresa May-led coalition government in the U.K. bungled a May 1 vote in the House of Commons that British Overseas Territories’ leaders said unfairly singled them out on the issue of public beneficial ownership registers for companies and trusts.

The May 1 vote in the Commons approved amendments to the U.K. Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which require British Overseas Territories – but not Crown Dependencies – to implement a public register of company ownership by Dec. 31, 2020. If that is not done, the U.K. Secretary of State is required to draft orders in council to force the public register upon the territories.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has said any attempt to implement this public register in Cayman will be challenged in the local courts. However, the ultimate court of appeal for Cayman and the rest of the territories is the U.K. Privy Council in London.

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, who is the May government’s overseas territories minister, said that everyone should keep calm in the wake of the Commons vote – a vote that the current U.K. government administration did not agree with.

“This is a time for calmness to prevail,” he said. “You cannot say that parliament is sovereign and then not accept its decision. It was not something that we as the British government wanted, but at the same time the parliament has voted as such.”

Mr. McLaughlin said Thursday that the far greater concern for local officials is the U.K.’s ability to continue to legislate for Cayman “on a whim” if other controversial issues arise in the future.

“If the U.K. parliament, emboldened by what it has just done, comes to believe it can legislate for the territories anytime … it is not just our financial industry that is at risk, but really, our very existence,” he said.

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  1. I think that the Premier ambitions here is further than taking away the powers of the Governor , I believe that he wants it to be that the UK has nothing to do with the governance and legislation of laws of the Islands . I really think that before he does what he wants to do , he should hold some simple language townhall meetings so that the people of the Islands can better understand what is at stake here today .
    I would hate to think that he is after making the Islands independent . And that such a decision shouldn’t be made by him alone , but by referendum .

  2. Mr. Ebanks, I agree with you that public consultations should be held PRIOR to this being concluded.

    As the article is written, it remains unclear what legislation the governor can overrule where we are “not in breach of international legal and human rights standards.”

    But in breach of WHOSE international legal standards? The UK? The USA? Islamic countries? The United Nations?

    Some international legal standards in the UK and the USA are very different than ours in Cayman, like same-sex marriage which is legal there, but illegal here in Cayman.

    And religiously speaking, the Qur’an allows Muslim men to marry up to four women at one time, but Cayman’s current legislation already states that marriage in the Cayman Islands is reserved as being between one man and one woman.

    So if the Premier’s planned language states that our governor can overrule ANY legislation “where the Cayman Islands is in breach of INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS”, for avoidance of doubt, it should clearly state WHOSE international standards and WHAT international standards so that all loopholes are closed regarding such a polarising issues in our community.

    • Ms. Ebanks , I have to disagree with the last paragraph of your above comment . So if the Premier language states that our Governor can overrule ANY legislation , which hasn’t been done yet by no Governor of the Cayman Islands . I would think and should be the reason why we should have a Governor appointed by the Queen , so we shouldn’t be allowed to dictate /legislate to breach ANY INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS “until ” we are an independent Country . Can you imagine the Laws/Legislation that will come out of C.I LA , if there isn’t anyones guidelines /standards to follow ?

      I have to believe that the Premier and the other Politicians could’ve handled the UK actions on this issue differently, and what they are doing by trying to take away the Governor powers , is leading us into INDEPENDENCE .

  3. Ms. Ebanks , thanks for replying to my comments , and accepting my apology .
    I understand what you’re saying/opinion . I have to ask questions about our government and their representation for the Islands and the laws .
    Why can’t the politicians vigorously debate on laws and future legislation in the LA with the Governor ? Why does he/she Governor of the Islands have to be there like a fixture, no powers, no say ? Sound like bully and control to me .
    Then why were the Premier and all the other politicians sitting down quietly, while the UK drafted the legislation against us Cayman Islands ? I have to believe that they were fully aware of what England was doing at the time . I believe that some of the politicians wants to have it with no other choice , but INDEPENDENCE. S.A.D .

    Now back to the business plan and finding the $686 millions of yearly income . I think that if C.I became INDEPENDENT that kind of money would cause the politicians to become like drunken sailors , again look at Puerto Rico . And that money won’t get nothing done for the Islands and the people. Again look at the situation of the Islands today , criminals going wild , dump getting bigger , roads being neglected , corruption about out of control.

  4. I believed it is a good step to protect our financial industry. At the end of the day if that is forced on us, I believed money will disappear faster then you can say, “Cayman”. Other jurisdictions would be happy to take our business. If this new legislation goes through, the first to lose will be Civil Service. Obviously if we take in less revenue we have to trim the fat. Will we be able to pay our debt? Will UK offer to pay? We would lose our credit rating (less revenue) who would we get a loan from? Counting 1,2,3 ta-da our favorite hero. So lets give a little chance for out elected members to find a way to solve the problem.