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Premier Takes Office

Hon W McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP, MLA

2009 Constitution Message

by

Premier

The Hon. W. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP

November 2009

Introducing a revised Cayman Islands Constitution is truly an auspicious moment in the history of our three islands, and I give thanks to Almighty God for His blessings.

The adoption of this expanded and revitalised governing document on Friday, 6 November is indeed a momentous occasion for our people.

While we are familiar with the term 'the balance of power,' I prefer to view our Constitution as the beginning of a balance of ownership for it is the manifestation of a common vision and will of the people.

The importance of this cannot be overstated for the new Constitution scrutinizes and places greater responsibility on the government in terms of the people's oversight.

These enhanced checks and balances are now enshrined in this, the supreme law of the land, and they can only bode well for our future.

And as with any major evolution requiring some degree of compromise, the best results invariably cater to the majority. I therefore take pleasure in focusing upon some of the unique elements addressed in our new Constitution, such as the enshrinement of our Christian heritage, our culture and language, markers so often omitted in the constitutions of other developed countries.

I say this while fully appreciating our phenomenal growth over the past four decades, development under our original Constitution that reclassified us from being 'the islands time forgot' to becoming a recognized member in the global arena-no small accomplishment.

Yet we must move on, and coincidentally, this year is also the 50th anniversary of our first Constitution. And it is otherwise notable, for we have been privileged to witness the first national referendum, coupled with a peaceful, free and fair general election. And now, in spite of widespread economic constraints, public ceremonies and even new postage stamps are at hand to celebrate this grand occasion.

However, such celebrations are but a welcome mat for this new foundation which we call the revised Cayman Islands Constitution, a document that provides an essential framework for strategic planning and for the implementation of national objectives.

A prime example of its relevance is that its provisions encompass every one of the outline goals contained in government's 2009-2010 financial year. Ranging from the empowerment of youth and women and caring for our elderly, to protecting our key industries, enhancing our culture, and managing the public debt, these critical elements are all contained in the Constitution.

I must also say that I am humbled to assume the inaugural role of Premier. However, it should be clarified from the outset that this post is not one of absolute power. In contrast, it equates to being an engineer first, one selected from amongst equals and indeed, it is a position that carries significant additional responsibilities, rather than power.

Therefore, in keeping with the tenets of the revised Cayman Islands Constitution, I now remind my elected colleagues and official members that, as stated in Isaiah 54, we must hold fast to our mantra of good service to God and humanity. The Good Book states that if we so do, God's covenant of blessing and mercy will never be broken; our prosperity will be great; and we will live peacefully under a government that is just and fair.

In upholding our obligations to our Lord, our people and to the global community, no Constitution could require more.

2009 Constitution Message by

His Excellency the Governor Mr. Stuart Jack, CVO

It is with a sense of collective achievement and optimism that I join the people of the Cayman Islands in welcoming the modernized Constitution. The combined efforts of so many people have culminated in this day, and the end product marks a new milestone in the ongoing development of this vibrant country.

I applaud the diligence and commitment of all those involved: all the participants from both the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom who took part in the negotiations that crafted the new Constitution, and all the citizens that took part in the referendum that approved the results of their hard work. I am confident that the new Constitution will serve well these islands and provide a sound basis for the relationship with the United Kingdom.

I am delighted to be able to say that the commencement of the Constitution on the Appointed Day, Friday, 6 November 2009, represents the highlight of my four years in the Cayman Islands. Facilitating this effort was certainly at the top of on my agenda, and I am pleased to witness its fulfilment.

That said, I must also stress the importance of maintaining public ownership of the Constitution. This is critical because this reworked document heralds a new way forward for the people of these three islands, especially in terms of transparency, good governance, and proper checks and balances.

True democracy should encompass public participation and government accountability to the electorate. A constitutional document defines responsibilities and rules for government, while serving to unify the people's shared values, rights and ideals.

This country is accordingly fortunate to have developed a Constitution that reflects the unique perspectives and culture of the people of the Cayman Islands.

So on this historic day, we will undoubtedly reflect on the intense debates of preceding months, but should also acknowledge that the real call-to-arms begins now, with the Constitution's implementation.

The need to look forward is equally clear. For instance, while it is three years away, I already anticipate that the introduction of the Bill of Rights, a new and important part of the Constitution, will be accompanied by added responsibilities and opportunities.

Meanwhile there is much to be done to implement all the new features, including more responsibilities for the elected government and different ways of working and thinking with the introduction of a number of new Commissions and other bodies, all of which should bring government closer to the people.

I congratulate all Caymanians on this extraordinary constitutional achievement, and I pray for the continued success of these beautiful islands.

2009 Constitution Message

by the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, JP

Leader of Opposition

It is with an exciting combination of jubilation and expectation that we prepare to inaugurate the revised Cayman Islands Constitution. We will certainly celebrate the moment!

But at this critical point in our national development, I am also reminded that we, the people, must be mindful of our obligation to the future, even as we remain mindful of the lessons of the past.

I say this for it is imperative that each person in our society be aware of the contents of the constitutional document-and of our corresponding rights and responsibilities.

History confirms that the Union Jack was once prominent in many countries across the globe. It is flown in fewer places today and in recent decades the UK has encouraged a process of delegating many of their responsibilities to its territories, thereby encouraging democracy to continue to flourish as the countries mature.

Here at home, it is the stated intent of the government and people of the Cayman Islands to maintain our close ties with the mother country. But real growth can only occur when the democratically-elected leadership controls the intended course of direction, and when the people in turn continue to inform and thereby guide their representatives.

This should not be difficult to achieve, for the constitutional review process has been underway for several years now, and a bounty of information resources and avenues of communication is available.

It's often said that a constitution is a living document. However, in itself it is simply ink and paper. It is people who breathe life into its pages and who exercise its provisions and allowances.

It is therefore imperative that citizens continue to take advantage of opportunities to share their views, and to seek clarification regarding areas of interest. There are many resources including a new Constitutional Commission, websites and libraries, as well as your MLAs and civil leaders.

Activism is not a bad thing. In fact, constructive involvement is necessary, for in a free, democratic country there must be no sanctions against free speech and each voice must be heard.

I take this opportunity to thank the government officials and private citizens who have been involved in the process, and in particular, those who are consistently vocal on issues relating to governance and rights.

I encourage others to follow suit, for as we celebrate this grand occasion we also realize that there is still much to be done. Indeed, this perpetual process will continue with our children and theirs, and they will undoubtedly uncover new and exciting reasons to develop and amend the Constitution in future years.

Today, I join the populace in welcoming the formal acceptance of the revised Constitution of the Cayman Islands. I remain confident that God's continued grace, coupled with our faith, honest optimism and initiative, will translate into a brighter and more promising future for us all.

For further information contact: Lennon Christian