Breaking: Lawmakers agree on constitutional changes

Letter dispatched to UK confirming consensus, no need for referendum

Legislators have accepted the United Kingdom’s constitutional changes proposal.

They have also agreed that there is no need for a referendum to move the process forward, opting instead to have a resolution in the Legislative Assembly to confirm the changes.

Read the full letter from Premier Alden McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Arden McLean here.

“I am delighted that as a parliament, members have been able to put partisan politics aside and act in the best interests of these beloved Cayman Islands,” Premier Alden McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass Wednesday night.

The comment came after he successfully negotiated the consensus needed from all members of the Legislative Assembly to push the highly sought reforms, McLaughlin had said were needed, to safeguard the Cayman Islands from UK interference.

Opposition Leader Arden McLean, commenting on the agreement Thursday, said he was pleased the process is moving forward.

“Any legislator in any country would want to more control over the destiny of his country that is the objective of being a legislator,” McLean told the Compass.

Former Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, who was part of the negotiating team that secured the changes, said he was not expecting Cayman to get as much as it did.

“I think it is one of the things I can look back, as I get older, and say that I contributed to this improvement in the governance of Cayman by Caymanians and there is a certain level of self-satisfaction in having been a part of that,” Miller said.

He commended the premier for his handling of the negotiations.

Letter dispatched

McLaughlin has dispatched a letter to United Kingdom Overseas Territories Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad advising him of the agreement.

In the letter, which has been signed by both McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Arden McLean, the premier has indicated that following discussions with members of the Legislative Assembly, they have agreed that although the changes proposed are “not minor, they are nonetheless uncontroversial.”

“In such circumstances and in accordance with your letter, we believe that a referendum is neither necessary nor appropriate and instead our agreement to the reforms will eventually be confirmed through a resolution in the Legislative Assembly,” the premier said in his letter to Ahmad.

This approach, he pointed out in his letter to the UK minister, was confirmed as acceptable to the United Kingdom government in a letter dated 10 June 2009 from the then Parliamentary Under Secretary Chris Bryant.

Last week the premier announced that the UK had agreed to make significant changes to the constitution, including a mandatory requirement for consultation on any proposed legislation or Orders in Council that will directly impact the Cayman Islands, the removal of key reserve powers from the governor to write legislation, disallow legislation and write standing orders for the LA.

The lawmakers, however, have agreed that the proposed addition of an eighth minister be deferred until the next term, i.e. after the 2021 general election.

The premier said Wednesday’s agreement was a great step for the country.

“This is massively important to future governance of this country and I have never been more proud to be an elected member,” McLaughlin told the Compass.

He said now that the letter has been dispatched, the UK government can proceed to take the necessary steps to have the Constitution Amendment Order made by the Privy Council.

“In the meantime, we will proceed by motion to debate the amendments in the House following the conclusion of Finance Committee,” McLaughlin said.

The premier, in his letter, said the relevant Hansard transcript of the resolution by the Legislative Assembly at the conclusion of the debate on the package of reforms will be provided to Ahmad.

“However, we consider that the consensus reached by us in confirming our agreement to the reforms is of such significance as to justify notifying you without further delay,” McLaughlin said in his letter to the UK minister.

Read the full story in Friday’s Cayman Compass.

Updated Thursday to include comments from the Opposition Leader Arden McLean and Former Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller.