Opposition writes to UK foreign secretary over governor’s position on same-sex union bill

Premier: "They thought I was bluffing"

Opposition Leader Arden McLean has written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the governor’s decision to press ahead with the Domestic Partnership Bill.

McLean, in his letter which was dispatched Thursday, called for Governor Martyn Roper to provide the legal mandate for his recent constitutional involvement in the bill. In the absence of that being provided, he has turned to Raab, asking how Roper can intervene on what McLean described as domestic policy issues.

“It is quite clear that the Caymanian people have been misled by the Governor with the full support of the Premier. In the absence of the requested release of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices instructions to the Governor, it can only be assumed at this point that this action has been initiated by the Governor with the full support of the Premier,” McLean said in a media release issued Thursday night.

He sent copies of the correspondence to fellow British Overseas Territories leaders.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, when contacted for comment on McLean’s letter Thursday night, told the Cayman Compass, it’s been “a long time since I’ve seen as much rubbish on two short pages”.

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He said, “Not once in the letter is there an acknowledgment by the Leader of the Opposition of the declarations by the Cayman Court of Appeal that the Cayman Islands Government and the Legislative Assembly are in breach of section 9 of the Bill of Rights and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide a legal framework to recognise the rights of same-sex couples.”

The Domestic Partnership Bill proposes a legal framework through which same-sex couples and those in common-law relationships would be able to enter into a partnership and enjoy the protection afforded to those in a traditional marriage.

It also protected the Constitution’s definition of marriage as that of a union between a man and a woman.

The bill was defeated by one vote after three government members sided with the Opposition to stop the legislation from progressing after two-and-a-half days of debate.

McLean, in his letter to Raab, said he was “troubled” by the governor’s statement to move ahead with the legislation that was rejected by lawmakers and the “unintended consequences that may follow”.

He defended the Opposition’s decision to the vote down the bill on 29 July in the Legislative Assembly.

McLean said he was adamant that the “Caymanian people deserve, at the very least, to have full disclosure of the facts behind the Governor’s decision”.

The East End MLA contended, in a statement that was issued following the dispatch of his letter, that the original Domestic Partnership Bill “was clearly flawed and not fit for purpose, which is now evident by the Governor proposing ‘a version’ of the original Bill”.

On 10 Aug., Roper republished the bill with some minor amendments, together with 11 other pieces of legislation. He said he intended to assent to the bill and the accompanying amendments at the end of the 21-day consultation period.

“These were never mentioned in the proposed Bill that failed to pass. When it was presented only 3 additional pieces of legislation were identified for amendment,” McLean said in his statement.

The opposition leader, in his letter to the UK foreign secretary, said the governor’s use of Section 81, in this instance, “is clearly contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and is also arguably the persistence of colonial governance and an attempt to bypass the democratic accountability of the duly elected Legislative Assembly”.

He added that this approach is also a “great divergence from the ‘modern relationship based on partnership’ that the 2012 White Paper: Security, Success and Sustainability proclaims and it calls into question the nature of the relationship of consent and mutual respect that we assume exists between our islands and the United Kingdom”.

However, McLaughlin said he believes the big problem “for the Leader of the Opposition and his acolytes is that they thought I was bluffing”.

“They thought the UK Government would stand by and allow its territory to breach the rule of law. Any democracy that ignores the rule of law will not long survive. Anarchy will reign,” the premier said.

He argued that McLean “conveniently” ignored the declaration by the court that if the legislature failed to remedy the breach of the rights of same-sex couples, the UK government has a constitutional duty to do so.

“The Leader of the Opposition failed to do his duty as a duly elected senior representative and is now complaining that the UK Government is acting in his stead. Really, what else did he expect?” McLaughlin asked.

Opposition: Governor’s decision should be challenged

McLean said the governor’s attempt to legislate for Caymanians “amounts to an act of modern-day colonialism, which is unacceptable in this 21st century”.

He said the reserve powers held by the governor are quite specific.

“These are matters relating to the civil service, internal security and external affairs. This attempt to intervene in a domestic affair is no different from what is being done to the people of Hong Kong by the Chinese government, which has met with international condemnation, and offers of citizenship from both the U.K. and Australian governments to Hong Kong citizens,” McLean wrote.

He said the official Opposition believes that the governor’s recent decision “needs to be challenged as this will set the dangerous precedent going forward where this Governor or future Governors may want to change other domestic legislation such as our Immigration laws or our company ownership laws”.

The opposition leader also touched on a recent statement by Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, in which he alluded to the consideration of introducing direct taxation in Cayman as the economic conditions continue to trend downward.

“We are even more concerned having read today where the Minister of Finance brought up the issue of Direct Taxation which is also an agenda item for some within the UK’s political landscape,” McLean said.

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