The Privy Council is set to meet on 11 Nov. to ratify constitutional changes which will rename the Legislative Assembly to Parliament of the Cayman Islands, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Monday night.
“Over the past few years, there have been obstacles, missteps and missed opportunities, but finally here we are,” McLaughlin declared as he spoke at the marathon session of the Legislative Assembly that ended after 2am Tuesday.
He affirmed that the now-concluded meeting of the House was the last lawmakers would hold as a Legislative Assembly.
When the House reconvenes, it will be as Parliament, McLaughlin said, adding that Cayman will be the third British Overseas Territory to move from a Legislative Assembly to a House of Parliament.
Securing the changes to facilitate the transition, he said, took “some very intense and, at times, difficult negotiations”.
McLaughlin, in his speech, told lawmakers Monday there was a fleeting moment of apprehension when it seemed that the changes would be stalled following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus restrictions.
“There was a tense period [Monday] morning when the governor spoke to me and said there may be a problem because of the COVID-19 four-week lockdown in London with this matter proceeding. But, subsequently, we were advised that the Foreign Affairs Committee has actually sent the draft constitutional amendment order to the Privy Council and the Privy Council will proceed to meet on the 11th of November,” he said.
The premier said he prayed that nothing interferes with the process and “that, in due course and soon, but very soon, the order will be made”.
McLaughlin recounted the history of the House from its inception as an Assembly of Justices and Vestry in 1931 to its transition to a Legislative Assembly 60 years ago.
“We are about to change again and, with that change, we in this House will also transition from being Members of the Legislative Assembly to being Members of Parliament. This, I am sure, is a matter of pride for every one of us here and indeed for every Caymanian – a pride that is not about us as individuals but instead is one of national pride in the advances we are making as a legislature and as a country,” he said.
House Speaker McKeeva Bush lauded the significance of the milestone as the UK, after greenlighting changes to the Bermuda constitution which gave that jurisdiction a parliament, had indicated similar changes would not occur elsewhere.
However, he credited McLaughlin and his team with being able to negotiate changes that moved Cayman closer to the constitutional arrangement that Bermuda had secured.
Bush recounted fond memories he had as a legislator in his 36-year career in the House. He also used the opportunity to announce that he will be seeking reelection in his constituency.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean pointed out that while the constitutional change would not give more autonomy to the House, as it is already a legislature, he hoped it would bestow a “greater level of recognition”.
“While it may never be viewed as a major step forward, it is nevertheless a step toward greater self-determination,” he said.
Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders, in his speech, urged legislators as they transition to Members of Parliament to raise the bar for future MPs.
“Let us work to leave a legacy for others to build on,” he said.
“This legislative body is an institution. And while we as individuals come and go, this institution will continue. It is therefore important that all of us, that are just passing through, recognise that this institution came before us and will continue after us and we must do what is necessary to ensure that it continues for the purpose it was created,” Saunders added.
View below what MLAs said on the subject of the renaming of the Legislative Assembly as a Parliament, starting from 2:29:41.