Concerns over constitutional limitations emerge in debate

| 26/04/2016 | 17 Comments
Cayman News Service

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush

(CNS): MLAs largely avoided mentioning the word ‘independence’ during the debate in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly on Monday in the first of two opposition motions regarding the police, but the perceived shortcomings in the constitution when it came to the lack of control and limited influence the elected arm and local officials have over national security took centre stage. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush took his usual stance against FCO officials and railed against the UK and the control it wields over Cayman, but he was not alone; other members also expressed their concerns over the constitutional separation of powers.

Members on both sides of the LA engaged in an emotional debate, expressing their concerns about the way the search and rescue operation was handled last month, when Edsell Haylock, Gary Mullings and his three nephews, Nicholas Watler, Kamron (11) and his brother Kanyi Brown (9) lost their lives. However, their inability to get questions answered led many of them to refer to the limitations placed on the elected representatives.

The way responsibilities are divided between politicians on the one hand and the governor’s office on the other was of cause for concern for several members, as they pointed out that their constituents expected elected representatives to do something about crime and did not understand how their hands were tied.

East End MLA Arden McLean spoke of his time in Cabinet and how suggestions were blocked by Foreign and Commonwealth and UK officials, as he pointed to the reluctance of the FCO’s mysterious overseas territories advisor, Larry Covington, to allow Cayman to develop a volunteer coastguard, among other things.

He said that elected members could not keep sitting back and “allowing other people to tell us what we need to do with our country”, stressing that MLAs are held responsible at the polls. He bemoaned the fact that while the UK was in charge of internal security, they were doing nothing and the government and members could not do anything about it, a position he described as “walking down the wrong road”.

Education Minister Tara Rivers called for an awareness campaign to help the public understand the division of power and how the Cabinet could not make decisions about the police, crime and security and to address expectations about what government could and could not deliver.

“As a member of government, I want the public to understand what that means about calling on the RCIPS to take action,” she said, noting that the governor has sole responsibility for internal security and politicians have nothing to do with staffing and operational matters.

“People can’t expect more than we can deliver,” she said, adding that from the very beginning of the search and rescue operation, government had urged a review of it.

But it was Bush who remained the most scathing about the FCO, describing the situation as “them and us”. He derided the PPM government’s attempts at mending fences and accused the British officials of always tearing fences down.

Having outlined his main concerns about leaving the review of the SAR operation in the hands of the UK officials, he said he was far from satisfied by the answers given so far by “officialdom”, pointing to the responses of “blame and accusation, denial and confusion”.

The opposition leader raised concerns that the review would be inadequate because the governor would not allow the police or her office to be criticised for wrongdoing and the families, politicians and the public would not get the answers needed.

“The governor does not operate by herself here but … from things I know from being in Cabinet, she is not making the decisions by herself; she is getting permission from the FCO,” Bush said. “The FCO set up this enquiry.” He suggested the review was likely to be a whitewash and questioned information given so far by officials in relation to the “cock-up”, as he demanded a judicial review.

He accused the FCO of hypocrisy because when they did something wrong, it was nothing but someone here does something, it’s criminal — once again referring to his own case and his claims that he was set up by the FCO.

Bush complained about the FCO’s control and treatment of the local politicians and said it was time to examine the Constitution because the FCO was never going to leave them alone. He agreed with Rivers that the country had to start teaching the next generation about what to expect with the current constitutional arrangements.

Following a compromise, the government and opposition leader were able to agree on an amendment to the private member’s motion to enable unanimous support in the parliament.

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Comments (17)

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  1. King Tut says:

    You can’t discuss something which wasn’t planned for!

    Independence should be considered and a plan put in place; 40-50 years ago!

  2. KeepUrTwoSense. says:

    In reference to the above comments. There was no statement made by any MLA about going independent or anything along those lines. What they are calling upon is control over the RCIPS and how the RCIPS is currently being managed. I don’t know where the independent talks came from…every Tom, Dick and Harry knows Cayman cannot go independent even if we wanted to. #facts

    • Anonymous says:

      Lets hope you have a choice.

    • Anonymous says:

      On the radio talk show recently, one caller was hoping that the forthcoming “revolution” is not armed!
      If it wasn’t mentioned in the LA there are plenty of people running their mouths elsewhere.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I knew there was a reason why people are inexplicably bailing out.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Like it or not, this is something that has to be considered as I feel that the stability here is eroding. Whether it comes in the form expected by a few remains to be seen.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sure go for independence. And then see how long the financial services industry lasts here without UK oversight……

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