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Opposition Leader's Message

Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Alden McLaughlin, Jr., MBE, JP

Taking a historic look, the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Alden M. McLaughlin, Jr., MBE, JP, stresses that the Constitution embodies the rule of law in the Cayman Islands.

The Cayman Islands obtained its first constitution in 1959. That was 52 years ago at a time when these Islands we were still a dependency of Jamaica. That first constitution was replaced in 1972 with a more advanced document which gave the people of the Cayman Islands more control over the governance of their country.

As Cayman's growth and development continued, after ten years of discussions, national debate and considerable controversy, in a historic referendum on 20th May, 2009 Caymanians approved a new modern constitution to govern the affairs of the Cayman Islands. Today, 4 July, 2011 is celebrated as Constitution Day. It is a symbolic day reserved for national pride for the people of these Islands.

Our constitution is the foundation on which our democracy is built and the ultimate embodiment of the rule of law within our land. No man or woman is above it. All who exercise authority in our country do so pursuant to the constitution and must do so in accordance with it.

Through the introduction of a modern bill of rights our new constitution provides the means to protect the people of the Cayman Islands against tyranny, corruption and arbitrary actions by the Government. It enables the people of the Cayman Islands to take a stand in their community on the issues important to them, the ideals they believe in and the things that make Cayman - Cayman. In addition to introducing Cayman's very first bill of rights our new Constitution also created a number of institutions supporting democracy. These commissions are designed to increase participation, transparency and accountability in government.

The Constitutional Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Standards in Public Life and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission increase public participation in government decision making and provide more checks and balances on the exercise of executive authority.

Among other things, these commissions also seek to ensure that the people of the Cayman Islands are served by persons of honesty and integrity. The challenge over the immediate future is to get the commissions and other mechanisms fully functional and, through commitment, legislation and the necessary resources, arm them to properly carry out their constitutional purpose and function.

We must encourage our Government and public officials to promote transparency and accountability while serving with honesty and integrity.

Our new Bill of Rights will come into effect in November next year. The next 16 months will be a very busy time as we prepare for the profound effect the Bill of Rights will have on the way government does business.

The rights, freedoms and responsibilities enshrined in our Constitution were influenced by our distinct history, culture and Christian heritage. The Government must ensure we are ready to recognize, respect and give effect to these rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Government must plan to achieve the highest standards of respect for human rights by public officials anywhere in the world. That must be our aim.

Our Constitution should be acknowledged and celebrated for the unique features that make it distinctly our own and for the certainty and security it provides our people. It should be embraced and respected for the assurance it provides us all of the supremacy of the rule of law and the protection of our individual human rights.

For further information contact: Lennon Christian