Green light: Constitutional changes move ahead

Cayman’s legislators have given the green light for the UK to proceed with changing the Constitution.

Premier Alden McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Arden McLean agreed on the changes on Wednesday and have since dispatched a joint letter to UK Overseas Territories Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad indicating that there is no need for a referendum to move the process forward.

“I am absolutely delighted that we were able to reach consensus on these important changes and that members were able to put aside all issues of partisan politics and focus on what truly is in the national interest,” McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass in an interview Thursday.

The premier last week announced 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, and the removal of key reserve powers from the governor to write legislation, disallow legislation and write standing orders for the LA.

Consensus a good move

Both McLaughlin and McLean on Thursday welcomed the consensus they had achieved to push the changes forward.

“It makes me feel more satisfied of my tenure as a legislator and the people can rest assured, I am not going to do something to adversely affect the country, more to move it into a direction that they can dictate their destiny,” McLean said.

The premier said while there was quite a bit of pushback over the last year with the changes within the hierarchy of the official opposition, he was able to get the support he needed to have the changes accepted.

“I have a good personal relationship with every member of this house and we are all reasonable people and all of us want the best for Cayman and in the end all of us were persuaded that this is the right thing to do,” he said.

McLean said prior to the release of the draft order from the UK, his team only had a broad understanding of the changes. After having read the full scope of what was being proposed, however, he believes it is something that will be good for Cayman. That said, two main areas of concern remain for him; the governor’s ability to address the Legislative Assembly and the addition of an eighth minister.

He said the premier has addressed both areas.

He believed the inclusion of an eighth minister would, among other things, create problems to get to the two-thirds majority to unseat a sitting premier.

He said McLaughlin has agreed to postpone that provision until the next elections.

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

Former Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, who was part of the negotiating team that went to the UK to fight for the changes, said he was pleased the changes can move forward.

“I believe if we are going to progress and become more mature in our political processes in Cayman, it is important that Parliament have some authority. This is the only arm of government that is elected by the people and unelected by the people if you’re not doing the right job,” Miller said.

He said his contribution to the changes will remain with him.

“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.

The legislators were running against the clock to achieve consensus as the UK elections will be held on 12 Dec. and there is no guarantee the incoming government would accept the changes.

What the joint letter said

In the letter to the UK, the premier 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 Lord Ahmad.

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 Lord Ahmad.

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