(CNS): A ‘Council of Elders’ comprising members of the Legislative Assembly that have served at least two full terms will be established shortly to hammer out a proposal to amend the Cayman Islands Constitution, Premier Alden McLaughlin has said. The government, supported by the opposition, decided to seek discussion with the UK to amend the current constitution and even the possible removal of its reserve powers in the wake of the passage of British legislation that will impose public beneficial ownership registers on the overseas territories without their consent.
While the issues relating to the potential creation of a public register in Cayman still have some two years to play out, the premier has stated on several occasions that it is the impact of the UK imposing legislation on Cayman outside of its areas of special responsibility that is more of a concern than the actual register.
The worry for Cayman is that this move sets a negative precedent and could have far reaching implications for future British governments that may want to impose other legislation on the Cayman Islands without its consent any time it disagrees with the local government. He said it was “absolutely critical” for Cayman to seek to restrict the ability of the UK to do what it has just done.
McLaughlin believes that now is the time to address the issue and ensure greater protection for Cayman’s autonomy. With Prime Minister Theresa May willing to enter into talks about an amendment, the premier has said he wants to move quickly while the UK appears to be listening. He said the UK government was currently “more amenable to the discussions” that it has ever been because of the consequences of the legislation it has passed.
“The UK government is quite embarrassed that it was forced to do something by the UK parliament that it would not otherwise have done,” he told CNS after a short media briefing with Britain’s OT minister, Lord Ahmad, Wednesday. “I am pressing forward quite swiftly with this,” he said, adding that the issue of constitutional reform would now be on this year’s JMC’s agenda.
He said he would be making a formal statement about the next steps relating to this issue early next week. But he revealed plans for a special legislative council of the longest serving MLAs to formulate Cayman’s proposed amendment, as he emphasised the need for the cross-bench initiative to protect the territory from constitutional overreach.
McLaughlin said that in the first instance he will be seeking agreement with his LA colleagues. Once they have agreed on a draft proposal, there will be a period of public debate before it goes before the entire House on a vote. The agreed proposal will then be put to the UK for negotiation, with the goal of significantly amending or even removing section 125 of the Constitution, which is the final line in the document that states, “There is reserved to Her Majesty full power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Cayman Islands.”
McLaughlin is hoping to either remove the entire section or at least substantially amend the ambiguous nature of the section. And the country’s leader appears confident that this is a good time for Cayman to press this issue and advance its constitutional status, as well as prevent what happened over beneficial ownership registers happening with anything else.
“It is important we do this while the UK has the appetite for it,” he added.
Lord Ahmad also confirmed that while the UK sees the 2012 White Paper as the basis for the constitutional relationships, it will be happy to consider proposals from the Cayman government for constitutional amendments.
Related article: Lord Ahmad: We didn’t want this
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