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Constitution: Final Round Coming

Hon Kurt Tibbetts JP, Leader of Government Business, Minister

Hon. D. Kurt Tibbetts, JP, MLA

Cabinet Press Briefing, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Following a very successful second round of constitutional talks here last week, we have just received, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the latest draft of the proposed new Cayman Islands Constitution.

As was announced following the conclusion of the talks last Friday, this updated draft is a public document meant for the widest possible circulation. By now, it should be in the hands of our stakeholders in the constitutional process for their consideration, as we prepare for the final round of negotiations beginning in just over a week's time.

Persons interested in taking a look at the latest draft of the proposed Constitution, can download it from the Constitutional Review Secretariat's website. That is, Reading copies will also be made available at public libraries. For the purpose of clarification, I wish to emphasize that this document is not the final Constitution. It is only the latest draft and therefore is subject to the possibility of further changes during the third and final round of negotiations.

This crucial round will take place in London during the first week of February. The UK Minister for Overseas Territories, Honourable Gillian Merron, will be participating in the process for the first time. Her input will be crucial as it will contribute to a final determination of some of the outstanding issues. The entire negotiating team will be taking part. Namely, the Government, Opposition, Cayman Ministers Association, Conference of 7th Day Adventists, Human Rights Committee and the Chamber of Commerce.

Professor Jeffrey Jowell QC, the Government's legal consultant, will also be present. He will continue to provide his expertise in constitutional reform. The Constitutional Review Secretariat will also be in attendance to provide technical assistance to the negotiating team.

Once agreement is reached on the outstanding issues, a final draft of the proposed new Constitution will be produced. Caymanians will then be given an opportunity to study the document and say whether they approve in a referendum planned for May 20th.

After languishing on the back burner for several years, the process of constitutional modernization has surely made a giant leap forward during the past 12 months. Today, our country stands on the threshold of an exciting new chapter in its constitutional evolution. We have before us the promise of an era with a modern structure of governance relevant to the country's changing needs. An era in which Caymanians will have a greater say in their affairs.

On behalf of the elected government, I wish to applaud the various stakeholders for their cooperation in bringing the process to this decisive stage. I also wish to recognize the sterling work of the Constitutional Review Secretariat. The additional progress we achieved in the recently-concluded second round was truly remarkable.

I salute the spirit of compromise which was so evident among the stakeholders at the negotiating table. It shows what is possible when we work together in pursuit of a noble cause. We have come too far to turn back now. We must now complete the task in London. Let us use this opportunity to indelibly write our name on history's page. Let it be said when future generations come to study this period, that we did what was right by putting country before self. If we do this, future generations will be proud of us.

As it stands, there are 10 remaining issues to be resolved to seal the deal on the new Constitution. Considering where we have come from and where we are at, we believe a settlement is definitely within reach. For the most part, the 10 issues are of a technical nature and relate in some cases to choice of language. If we continue to be guided by a spirit of compromise in our deliberations, we will also clear these hurdles.

The 10 outstanding issues have already been summarised in the press. However, for the benefit of everyone, I will list them again. They are:

  • The Bill of Rights as a whole, including possible language on self-determination
  • Proposal on the appointment of a Governor in consultation with the Cayman Islands Government
  • Consideration of text, proposed by the Cayman Islands Government, on the issue of the Governor acting in the best interests of the Cayman Islands
  • Powers of the National Security Council and the issue of the participation of the Leader of the Opposition.
  • The Governor's reserved powers to enact legislation
  • UK consultation with the Cayman Islands when making orders in Council.
  • Term limits of the Premier
  • The disqualification of civil servants from seeking elected office for a particular period after leaving office.
  • Putting a limit on the public debt
  • A proposal for constitutional amendments to be approved by referendum

We are confident these issues will be resolved.

As we prepare for the crucial talks in London that will make a mark on our future, I urge all Caymanians to pray for us and a successful outcome. Thank you.