(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has again called for more power sharing for the political arm of government when it comes to the policy and strategy of the RCIPS and tackling crime in the Cayman Islands. Speaking publicly for the first time about the recent spike in crime, McLaughlin told his legislative colleagues Wednesday that government was responsible for voting the cash the police needs but the time had come for elected officials to have more involvement on strategy and for the National Security Council to function as intended rather than just a “talking shop”.
In a lengthy statement about the investment in the fight against crime, the development of a border control agency, social programmes to prevent young people going down the wrong path, and improved rehabilitation of offenders, the premier stressed the need for the elected government to be allowed a greater role in national security matters.
“Our role needs to extend beyond merely voting funds for the police,” McLaughlin said. “The elected government needs a significant voice in strategic decision-making relating to national security matters. That was what was contemplated by the constitutional provision that created the National Security Council in the 2009 constitution, but that is not what has occurred in practice.”
He spoke of a shared responsibility between the governor and government and called for the National Security Council to function in the way it was contemplated, “as the National Security Cabinet of the Cayman Islands – and not merely as a talk-shop”.
He said politicians were held accountable by the public for reducing crime but the only control they have is the budget.
“We get to vote money but we do not have real control of national security issues,” McLaughlin said. He called again for the British government to rethink the position of the governor of the Cayman Islands having full responsibility for the RCIPS and to consider a police authority to allow for the sharing of the elected arm in strategic police matters.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick had said in her throne speech that she welcomed conversation on the issue, the premier said, but now Cayman was at a critical juncture, where national security issues are increasingly a concern to the people and visitors. McLaughlin stated that in more recent conversations with the Office of the Governor he had urged that the National Security Council be operated as was envisaged when the Constitution was written.
“That is, as a decision-making body whose decisions or ‘advice’ on ‘non-operational or staffing’ matters regarding the RCIPS the governor would be obligated to take. Where this advice is not followed, then the governor will be obliged to report this back to the NSC at the next meeting,” he said.
He noted that he had asked for more formalised proceedings of the NSC, with regular monthly meetings where papers are submitted by members for consideration, similar to the process followed in Cabinet.
“I would expect that the NSC agenda would be agreed jointly between me as premier and the governor. This should help the NSC become more focused on strategic and policy matters and take meaningful decisions.”
This would provide elected members — the premier, the leader of the opposition and two government ministers — “with some real say into non-operational policing matters”, McLaughlin said. “It is through us, the elected members and the private sector representatives on the NSC, that the security concerns of the everyday man, woman and business owner in this country will be taken to the NSC meeting table for consideration and decision.”
The premier said that with a new governor arriving, this was an opportune time for a reset regarding the NSC and for the UK’s representative and the elected members of the Legislative Assembly to share authority for internal security.
McLaughlin listed a number of things his government was doing to fight crime, noting the $270 million allocated to national security over this current two-year budget cycle. But he said government was willing to try to find more for things such as an increase in police pay to recruit and retain the best crime fighting experts or more CCTVs to deter crime and improve detection. But he said, “We just need a proper plan.”
The premier said that improved policing is about dealing with crime now, but the long-term solution was “stopping our people turning to crime in the first place”, as he pointed to the early identification of young people at risk of offending behaviour, and implementing programmes to help them.
Following his statement, the premier made it clear that the political arm of government had no business being involved in operational activity or who gets recruited or promoted because not only was it a very dangerous thing, but they were not in a position to direct operations.
He said the political arm of government should be concerned with policy and strategy, which could be developed through a police authority, while the National Security Council would still be above that.