Cayman is one step closer to an updated Constitution today (Thursday, 5 February), with consensus reached on all ten outstanding issues from the second round of talks last month.
The final draft will be released next week incorporating the changes hammered out over three days of sustained talks in London between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Cayman Islands delegations.
UK Minister of State for Overseas Territories Gillian Merron termed the final package as "not an end but very much a beginning." She wished Government success on the referendum scheduled for May when voters will endorse or reject the changes, which include more avenues for self-determination and a reduction of the Governor's direct and reserve powers.
The Bill of Rights, a main point of contention, is to be adopted with a preamble and with language that is to guarantee a wide range of citizen rights without specifying rights based on sexual orientation. This was based on the consensus views of the Government, Opposition, religious and business groups among the delegation, with the Human Rights Committee (HRC) being the dissenting voice.
It was accepted that the Opposition will play a part in the newly proposed National Security Council, and the composition of the Judicial and Legal Commission was ironed out. The definition of Caymanian will be linked to immigration legislation, and the right to remain silent in criminal matters will be elevated to a constitutional privilege.
Agreements reached on other outstanding points include:
- consultation before making Orders in Council;
- exercise of the Governor's powers;
- future constitutional changes by referendum;
- a maximum of two consecutive terms for the Premier;
- no disqualification of public officers or imposing time limits before running for political office; and
- the public debt percentage not fixed in the Constitution.
A summary of the principal changes will be produced in the next couple of days with the help of Cayman's constitutional consultant Prof. Jeffrey Jowell.
Education Minister the Hon. Alden McLaughlin said, at the conclusion of the talks, "A truly historic day for Cayman. Finally, after what has been a tortuous eight year struggle, we have a draft constitution which has been approved by the UK and, except for the HRC, by all stakeholders at the table. It will provide a modern constitutional framework which will serve Cayman well for many years to come. We pay tribute to all parties at the negotiating table, in particular, the Opposition for their willingness and determination to come to an agreement on a document we can all support. We look forward to publishing the draft early next week and then to the referendum on 20 May."
For further information contact: Bina Mani