Religious Community Join Talks
Constitutional Talks Summary Statement-The Seventh Day Adventist Church's Response.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church hereafter called (the church) is grateful to the government of the Cayman Islands for the opportunity to participate in such fundamental and historic discussions forging the path to a constitution for these islands. It symbolizes government's recognition of our significance and worth in the nation building of these islands and the role we have played and continue to play in the communities of our nation for the past 114 years. Over these 114 years since the Seventh-day Adventists Church has been active in Cayman Islands, it has become part of the Caymanian tradition and has grown to one of the largest denominations with approximately 4000 members in 15 congregations across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
As a part of our tradition the church has historically respected any democratically elected government unless the actions of government are such that makes it ungodly to do so. Being part of the body of Christ, the church seeks to work in unity with the rest of the Christian community for the common good of our nation, our people and our country. Albeit informed by our theology, the church has always sought to make its contribution to matters of national interest and seek to secure for our people, the benefit of modern globalization without the attending ills.
We are aware of the opportunities and the challenges that will present themselves to us at these talks. Despite the differences of opinion, and our international obligations, we have an opportunity to carve out for our people and our nation, a constitution that will preserve the rich, spiritual and cultural heritage that has been the bedrock of our civilization. We have an opportunity to preserve the moral fibers and social boundaries that have guided our society through over 500 years of generational changes despite the flood of secularism that persistently knocks on our front doors. It is with this in mind that we have approach these discussions.
As such, we have considered the government's revised proposal for constitutional modernization and have responded accordingly.
- A Bill of Rights
- Enshrinement of the Bill of Rights
- Separation of Church and State
- Human Rights Commission
- Compensation for Human Rights Violation
- Removal of Unelected Members from Parliament
- The Wording of the Constitution.
The church is in support of Bill of Rights which will protect the fundamental rights and freedom for all people of these islands and preserve the moral and spiritual values of our country and our people.
As noted in our position paper, while the church is inclined to support the enshrinement of the bill of rights into the constitution, the church reserves its position in the absence of a draft bill until its wording is considered.
Throughout the history of this country the church has always had a healthy and cordial relationship with successive governments. We encourage the preservation of this relationship. However, as referenced in our position paper history reminds us of how easily this can change into a church and state alliance, resulting in intolerance and persecution of minority and unpopular groups. Hence, we strongly propose a constitutional provision which will prohibit any alliance between church and state.
The Church shares the view that a Human Rights Commission may be helpful if its functions are limited to the education, promotion and observation of human rights activities.
Church shares the view that financial compensation for violation should be granted only where violation results in pecuniary loss.
The church believes that while such move may be consistent with modern democracy, any removal should be replaced by a more sophisticated layer of checks and balance.
It is to be understood that the church has no objections to the other proposals in principle. However, no formal position can be made definitely until and unless we have considered the final draft and are satisfied with the construct of the provisions.
It is the prayer of our church as we enter into these negations, that our objectives might be achieved, our mission accomplished, the future of our children be safe and our people be satisfied.
I thank you.
CMA'S OPENING STATEMENT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL TALKS ON MONDAY, 29th SEPTEMBER 2008
Chairman of the FCO delegation Mr. Ian Hendry and his delegates, His Excellency The Governor, Mr. Stuart Jack, Speaker of the House Hon. Edna Moyle, Leader of Government Business Hon. Kurt Tibbetts and his delegation, Hon. Samuel Bulgin, Attorney General, Leader of the Opposition Hon. McKeeva Bush and his delegation, Representative of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Wil Pineau, Representative of the Human Rights Committee, Ms. Melanie McLaughlin and Representative of the Seventh Day Adventist Cayman Islands Conference, Pastor Shian O'Connor.
The CMA is both honoured and humbled by the opportunity granted to take part in this historic discussion on a Modernised Constitution for the Cayman Islands. The membership of CMA is made up from most of the major established churches in Cayman and represents significant diversity in denominational and doctrinal distinctives as well as capturing a fair representation of the social, cultural and national diversity that exists here, yet on these issues there is substantial unity. We are in many ways uniquely positioned to represent the views of a substantial portion of the populace of both Caymanians and expatriates because of that diversity and also by having churches located in every electoral district.
The CMA is also no stranger to this process as we have been engaged in these discussions since the publication of the White Paper and Constitutional Modernization became a topic of debate locally. We have also worked diligently alongside of others including the government and the Opposition and with the Non Governmental Constitutional Working Group, which includes the Chamber of Commerce, Concerned Citizens Group, People For Referendum and the Forum.
In 2002 in a historic move, the then PPM Opposition gave up two of their seats in order for two local NGO's to be present at the negotiations which took place in London. Because of a personal tragedy I was unable to remain in London for the negotiations, but was pleased to see that some of the recommendations made by the CMA were adopted and included in the 2003 Draft constitution, including our recommendation for a Preamble.
Time and circumstance has made it possible for us to once again participate in these discussions and we believe that we are now far wiser and better prepared to contribute positively to this process. Some have questioned our involvement in these discussions and consider our inclusion unusual or even undesirable, but we believe our presence here today to take part in these historic discussions is very consistent with the development of these three beloved islands that call home and desire so passionately to protect.
When the very first elections were held in these islands and representatives were chosen by the people; among the participants involved with framing some of Cayman's first laws was a Pastor. History records: "In 1831 the Rev. Mr. Sharpe arrived in the island as its first regular and ordained minister. He was a very active and energetic person and well adapted to conciliate the affection of such people... In his capacity of Justice of the Peace he framed many of the excellent laws in the island code, which were carried and became statutes through his instrumentality. The plans of schools and other public works would not have been carried out so effectually into execution but for his unceasing exertions among the people. In my opinion he laid the foundations of the respectability of the laws and government of the island. CINA, EXCERPT FROM THE CAYMAN ISLANDS THEIR POSTAL HISTORY POSTAGE STAMPS AND POSTMARKS by E. F. Aguilar & P. T. Saunders Pages 8-14.
We are therefore pleased to be a part of a historic community that is unashamed of its Christian heritage and applaud our government leaders present and past who have given due regard to the undeniable positive and contribution the Christian church has had on the development of these islands and that is inclusive of our political development.
I am therefore pleased to present the fourteen point position of the CMA in relationship to the Constitutional Modernisation exercise.
- Support for Human Rights -
- Bill of Rights and Responsibilities -
- Human Rights Acts vs. Bills Enshrined in Constitution -
- Human Rights should not be compensation based -
- Rights to be applied vertically -
- Bill of Rights should be as simplified as much as possible -
- Separation of Powers of Legislative, Executive and Judicial -
- Definition of marriage and family -
- Schools and churches must not be prevented from upholding or promoting their teachings and values -
- Final Document should be subject to referendum vote by people -
- Bills of Rights should be brought into effect after minimum of 24 month period. Proper planning and funding for the training of Judges, Police, Immigrations, etc. -
- Public Bodies should conduct an audit of activities and practices prior to bringing into effect of Bill of Rights -
- Code of Conduct -
- Human Rights Commission role should be clearly defined and have no quasi judicial powers
The CMA has more concerns with the establishment of a Human Rights Commission (HRC) than almost any other Constitution Modernisation issue. Ideally we would prefer that no provision for HRC be made in our Rights Legislation or Bill of Rights, because we believe that howsoever its role is limited HRC will constantly seek to stretch its boundaries and increase its powers.
The very idea of human rights has deep roots in the Judeo-Christian thinking. The baseline is the obligations which all human beings have towards each other and their accountability for living out those obligations before a God who made all men in his image. We therefore fully support the protection of the individual's God-given value and believe that we must equally promote human responsibilities alongside of human rights.
Jack Straw has stated: "Intellectually we all know that rights cannot exist without responsibilities, freedoms without obligations, liberties without duties. But it is crucially important that we spell this out... Putting rights and responsibilities together brings our constitutional agenda down to earth, gives it real relevance to Britain's families and communities." The people of the Cayman Islands desire and indeed demand no less than the same for our families. We are aware of the discussions currently taking place in the UK regarding a Bill of Rights and Duties. We firmly embrace the undeniable need to balance an individual's rights with responsibilities.
The CMA is aware from communications with our government and through the local media that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has instructed the Cayman Islands government that the "British Government would not agree to a new Cayman Islands Constitution that did not include an up-to-date human rights chapter." We would be extremely disappointed if this position is maintained, as there is strong and growing local support for a separate Law as can be seen in the Chamber's recent survey. It appears that if the UK denied us this option from the beginning of the negotiations, the UK would be infringing upon our human rights.
We live in an increasingly litigious world and unfortunately with a Bill of Rights or a Human Rights Law there will be the potential for abuses and even frivolous law suits. People should have remedy without the added incentive of financial compensation.
We support this recommendation.
Let's simplify the Rights language as much as possible.
The Separation of Powers has proved fundamental to the protection of human dignity and rights throughout history. The separation of the Legislature and the Executive from the Judiciary has always played an important role in the development and health of democratic societies. The delicate balance between the Legislature and Judiciary must be maintained. The courts should not be able to strike down laws that have been passed by the duly elected Legislature of the country.
The people of the Cayman Islands have made clear that we believe that marriage is between one man and one woman only. We are pleased with the recent decision of our Legislature to amend the marriage Law. However, for all the reasons stated above we remain concerned that the judiciary should not be able to strike down Laws enacted by our Legislature. The recent case in Bermuda of David Thompson vs. The Bermuda Dental Board offers no comfort and is indeed very worrisome and troubling given the decision of the Privy Council in relying on the Bermudan Rights Legislation in making its decision and stating "as a British Overseas territory, there is no Bermudian nationality as such." It would appear to us that our stated concerns and warnings of the unintended and unexpected effects of a Bill or Rights or Rights Legislation to change a society have once again proven true and Caymanians cannot reasonably expect that we will be treated any differently than the Bermudians, this is very troubling indeed.
We contend that our schools including those receiving government funding should not be forced to change their religious doctrines, beliefs or principles contrary to the principles of the particular school or church.
The Cayman Islands Government in its "Revised Proposal For Constitutional Modernization" Proposal 25; states: "Further changes to the Constitution should require a referendum." The people of the Cayman Islands should be able to vote by referendum on the final document that will be our new Constitution.
We remain concerned at the lack of education and discussion about the need to operate in a new environment once Rights Legislation or a Bill of Rights is brought into force. The UK set aside some 4.5 million pounds for the training of Judges and Magistrates prior to the coming into effect of the Human Rights Act.
To our knowledge there has been no examination of CI Laws and Regulations to consider whether they are in conflict with any proposed Rights Legislation or Bill of Rights and if so to make suitable amendments before any such Bill is brought into effect.
The "Constitutional Modernization Check-list" (item 5) requires a Code of Conduct to be included in a new Constitution. We are therefore in agreement with "Proposal 18: Establish A Commission For Standards In Public Life included in the Revised Proposal For Constitutional Modernization."
The CMA looks forward to the next four days of talks with great anticipation and expectation that the objectives of partnership founded on self-determination creates responsibilities on both sides and is designed to give us the opportunity to maintain our individual character and diversity and gain a substantial measure of control over our own affairs as stated by the White Paper. The UK's stated commitment to uphold the right of the individual territories to determine their own future and enjoy a high degree of autonomy is commendable and we believe that together we can develop a document that truly reflects the wishes and aspirations of the Caymanian people, strengthen democracy and achieve open and transparent government for the benefit of our people.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to be a part of this history making moment in the Cayman Islands.
A copy of our position paper can be found on the website www.agapecayman.com .