While some Cayman Islanders are seeking to return absent Governor Anwar Choudhury from the U.K., others have launched a petition to install Deputy Governor Franz Manderson as the territory’s appointed leader.
Mr. Manderson, 52, is currently serving as acting governor, a role he has taken on previously during governors’ holidays or in transitional periods when the U.K.-appointed governors change.
The U.K. has never appointed a Caymanian as governor since the position was created in 1971. At the time, Athelstan Long, the territorial administrator of Cayman, was named governor and 12 more British-appointed governors were named after Mr. Long, including Mr. Choudhury as the 13th governor on March 26, 2018.
“We agree that Mr. Choudhury had taken swift steps towards making changes in the Cayman Islands government services, however, they should not overshadow Mr. Manderson’s ongoing efforts to groom and present a world-class civil service – a product that we, the people of the Cayman Islands, are proud of globally,” the petition launched on the website www.change.org states.
“Throughout decades of service, he has conducted himself with integrity and diligence and Mr. Manderson, in the exercise of his functions as acting governor and as deputy governor, has promoted good governance and acted in the best interests of the Cayman Islands and in accordance with the mandates given by the U.K. – he is unquestionably qualified for the post of governor of the Cayman Islands.”
Whether Mr. Manderson would wish to accept such a post, even if it were offered, is unclear. The West Bay district resident has often been rumored as a potential political candidate, once his civil service career ends, although he has recently denied that this is his desired career path.
There are also some significant difficulties with nominating a Caymanian as governor from a U.K. perspective, not least of which would be that the other remaining British Overseas Territories in the Atlantic and the Caribbean might want to be given the same option.
However, it was clear that, as far back as 2009 during the drafting of Cayman’s updated constitution, those involved in the process had an eye on eventually replacing the U.K.-appointed governor’s responsibilities to a great extent.
Then-Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks said he viewed the deputy governor’s role as one of preparing – in the long term – to ease certain responsibilities held by the governor.
“I don’t expect to see major changes in that for the remainder of my career,” Mr. Ebanks said in November 2009. “But certainly I have responsibility to conduct myself in such a way that I set the groundwork to those changes being seen as positive ones that should be made. At some point, we would expect there’s no longer going to be a governor. But there’s going to be what maybe in other jurisdictions is called a governor-general.
“What you have to establish, I believe, is the confidence in the community that we can referee our own league.”
The change.org petition stated that time now has come, nearly a decade later.
“For 47 years we have been governed by someone outside of our country,” it states. “We agree that, in the beginning years, it was necessary to have outside governance, but we submit that it is no longer necessary, as Mr. Manderson’s civil service career is only 10 years less than the overall governance of the Cayman Islands.”
The petition, which by midday Monday had obtained nearly 500 signatures, is addressed to the U.K.’s overseas territories minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon.
The current Cayman Islands government is seeking to obtain a number of changes to the 2009 Constitution Order, largely aiming to lessen the U.K.’s ability to legislate for its overseas territory.
Premier Alden McLaughlin is expected to take a number of the proposed changes to Lord Ahmad and U.K. leaders during the joint ministerial council meeting with the territories later this year.
Concerns about the U.K.’s ultimate power to force legislation upon Cayman and other territories never fully dissipated over the past few decades, but these were brought into sharp relief again following a May 1 vote in which the U.K. House of Commons approved a measure that is expected to have a significant impact on Cayman’s financial services industry.
The House approved amendments to the U.K. Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which require U.K. 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.
Cayman Islands lawmakers want to take away the 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.
Mr. McLaughlin also said Cayman would seek 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.”