Premier Alden McLaughlin has said the Legislative Assembly will retain control over expenditure coming out of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF.)
The authority over the Fund was changed under the National Conservation Law (NCL), which shifted control to the National Conservation Council.
However, the premier said last week that his administration will not bring that change into force. He was speaking in the LA as he accepted Savannah MLA Anthony Eden’s motion on the creation of a marine enforcement unit under the Department of Environment.
McLaughlin said the EPF is a creature of the Legislative Assembly and the NCL provisions took away the power of the house, which includes Finance Committee.
He said the provisions to administer that change “have not been brought into force and will not be brought into force under this administration because we believe that power needs to continue to reside where it is now in this house.”
Under the current set-up, any withdrawals from the fund must be authorised by the Finance Committee.
The NCL remains under review.
Last year a committee tasked with reviewing the legislation met to discuss the provisions outlined in the law. The Cayman Compass reached out for an update on the review, but no response has been received.
McLaughlin has gone on record saying he does not agree with some aspects of the law and believes it hampers development.
He had described the Environmental Impact Assessment process, particularly in relation to government road development, as “ridiculous”.
He said his government would move swiftly to “remove these sort of impediments to the proper development of these islands”.
The issue was raised when Eden tabled his motion asking government to consider using money from the fund to purchase the necessary equipment to develop a marine enforcement unit within the Department of Environment.
The motion also sought to have government consider using money from the environmental fund to cover the yearly recurrent expenditure of such a unit.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean, in giving his support to Eden’s motion, argued that there needs to be a better level of management of Cayman’s environment.
He lamented that the scales are unbalanced as Caymanians are required to seek licences for fish pots, yet non-Caymanians are allowed to fish unchecked.
“The only thing that Caymanians and residents need to get license for is to spear lion fish. All other license is to control Caymanians, yet everybody else is destroying the marine environment unabated, no control, no enforcement. Yet my good friend and member from Savannah is trying to arrest that and the government response is that’s not what you use the money (for),” McLean said.
Initially during the debate, Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour had indicated the funds under the EPF could not be used for that purpose.
However, upon review, the premier said, based on the advice of the Attorney General, the funds can be utilised as Eden was proposing.
“There continues to be issues with the way the National Conservation Law is applied, or not as the case may be, and there continue to be these issues around the use of this fund,” the premier said in his contribution.
Eden said he was disturbed by reports of “plundering” in the marine parks that have been brought to his attention.
“From Bodden Town up to Frank Sound and on up, that whole area is literally plundered. There’s very little marine life left. There’s very little conch, very little lobster,” he said.
Eden pointed out that when these areas were protected and allowed to be left alone, that there was significant improvement and returning of marine life in these marine parks.
“I would encourage that something be done to make sure that it’s being monitored or policed,” Eden added.
His motion was one of six opposition motions accepted by the government last week.
Those motions included; resolutions for government to make medical supplies duty free, remove duties on cargo being sent overseas for refunds on warranty, making changes to retirement age for civil servants, aligning maternity leave within the civil service and making laws available online for free.
You can view the debate on the motion which starts at 1:18:00 on the video.