HRC chair stands ground despite Mac’s rebuke

| 11/04/2019 | 107 Comments
Cayman News Service

James Austin-Smith

(CNS): James Austin-Smith has stood by a press release issued by the Human Rights Commission criticising government’s decision to appeal Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling legalising same-sex marriage. The HRC chairman did not apologise to the Legislative Assembly, despite demands from Speaker McKeeva Bush. In a letter to the speaker, he said that he did not agree that the release from the HRC could have been “construed as an insult or resulted in odium, contempt, or ridicule”. The speaker described the response as a “faux apology” when he addressed the LA on Thursday about his calls for the HRC chairman to be held in contempt.

Despite the obvious animosity and the speaker’s continued attacks and derision of Austin-Smith, Bush pulled back from any potential sanctions against him. Bush stated that the House had “better things to do than deal with an upstart who rejects God almighty”.

The speaker had written to him on 5 April demanding an “unconditional apology” for the statement released by the commission last week. In his letter Bush accused Austin-Smith of directly insulting the work of parliament, attempting to lower its authority and bring it into disrepute.

“Your statement from such an important constitutional body cannot be tolerated,” the speaker wrote, as he demanded the apology by 4pm on Monday, 8 April, and implied that the House could have taken more drastic measures against him.

But the HRC chair stood by the statement and did not apologise. Instead, he sent a letter to the speaker stating that he had carefully considered the contents and described the subject as an “emotive one” that engenders “strong feelings”. But he made it clear that the statement was in accordance with the commission’s constitutional duties.

“I do not agree that there is anything within the Press Release which could have been construed as an insult or resulted in ‘odium, contempt, [or] ridicule’ being brought upon the House, and, certainly, I can assure you that was not its intent,” Austin-Smith wrote.

As the speaker addressed the House about the issue Thursday morning, he said the letter came late and was a “faux apology”. But having called for him to be sacked last week, Bush seemed to take comfort in the fact that his term as chair ends on 31 May.

Austin-Smith actually reached the end of his three-year term time as the chair of HRC early last year, having been appointed in 2014 as a member and then as chair in 2015, but he has continued to serve. CNS understand that he has been asked and agreed to remain on the commission at least twice since his formal tenure ended. 

See the exchange of letters in the CNS Library

See Bush’s full statement in the LA on CIGTV below:

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (107)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    The above post makes no mention of whether the decision to appeal is right or wrong. It is a HUMAN right to appeal

    14
    4
  2. Anonymous says:

    While the HRC does some commendable work it is my opinion that their focus and attention is directed at the areas that are of most concern to the appointed members instead of the areas that are of most concern to the wider society. The reason for this is because of a lack of diversity among the members and the continuation of leadership beyond their appointed term.

    19
    9
    • Anonymous says:

      There is nobody else willing to take over the role because it is very time consuming, but extremely poorly paid. It seems there are no sufficiently qualified altruistic Caymanians out there willing to undertake the role. Hence an expat from a small law firm has to do the role.

      13
      9
  3. Cym says:

    I DON’T GET YOU COMMENTERS ! 🤨

    Isn’t the Human Rights Commission, the HRC, Austin Smith, suppose to stand up for ALL RIGHTS, including the Government’s RIGHT TO APPEAL ????

    I think he made a huge blunder here, and should resign.

    41
    15
  4. Anonymous says:

    The behaviour of the majority of MLAs validates the need for Human Rights legislation and a Human Rights Commission.

    80
    110
  5. Anonymous says:

    Looks like the tithing money is being spent on bots liking/not liking posts again. This comment went from 0 to 20 in like 3 seconds.

    298
    34
  6. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to Mr. Austin-Smith, he is standing up to the cig according to the law and he is winning. Unfortunately, I’m sure his intention is to bring awareness to the human rights violations and not himself.

    98
    102
  7. Anonymous says:

    Bush stated that the House had “better things to do than deal with an upstart who rejects God almighty”.

    I accept that many in Cayman have their Christian faith and values, but that doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to be critical of others who have a different point of view.

    95
    103
  8. Anonymous says:

    The thumb voting when it comes to Mac stories is very dodgy.

    28
    52
  9. Say it like it is says:

    There is something very strange going on. Historically on CNS there has always been myriad criticism of the McKeeva Bush with dozens of thumbs up and barely a handful of thumbs down. What I see in today’s comments is for the first time ever, thumbs down are in the majority. I can only assume loyal West Bayers are getting more “favours” for voting in favour of their Leader.

    46
    77
    • Anonymous says:

      Contrary to your assumption we realise that there was much to thump him down on but there is no other person on this island, Caymanian or otherwise who “champions” Cayman like he does.

      50
      37
      • Anonymous says:

        Except his actions, including the manner of the cabinet status grants, are possibly destroying Cayman.

        35
        35
    • Clueless says:

      Maybe you should get off your keyboard, drive around, and investigate the many Caymanians that oppose your gay lifestyle 😱

      81
      44
  10. inevitable says:

    Hooray for James Austin-Smith. He’s doing his job exactly as it should be done. And shame, shame, shame on McKeeva Bush. He is a complete embarrassment, as are the other dinosaurs in the Assembly. News about the Cayman Islands reaches a worldwide, highly intelligent audience, and my bet is that the vast majority of that audience shakes their heads in disbelief that people so ignorant of the meaning of “human rights” could be running the government. As for same-sex marriage, it’s coming. We all know it. The gaybashing by Bush and the rest of the Assembly is largely for the purpose of sucking up to the churches — so as to be sure to get their continued endorsement when election time comes around. Bigots, go ahead and vote against me all you want. But it won’t change in the least the inevitablility of same-sex marriage.

    133
    149
  11. SingleMomof2 says:

    Today, the enemy is the foreign national; the day Caymanians try to change anything, our representatives will say THEY are the enemy. We have made a mistake re-electing MLAs for more than one administration at a time; now some even say they wish they could deport people arbitrarily in the middle of the night – just to silence their voice. The OECD reports that the governments of over 60 countries have fallen victim to bribery from foreign conglomerates, yet no one is looking into that here. Why? Who is making the money here? Why are whistleblowers wary of blowing their whistle? We pay for legislative sessions to discuss law, yet some use their time to preach – well, they are most courteously invited to leave the House and start a church. We have 100 more pressing issues to solve than who enters into a Civil Union. I urge ALL Caymanians under the age of 50 who are lawyers, economists, financiers, to come together and RUN FOR OFFICE. I encourage all eligible voters over 17 to listen to the House sessions and realize what is going on. Register to vote and start changing things – it’s your right AND your duty. They talk about Clarion calls??? Well! THIS IS A CLARION CALL to anyone who realizes it is time to move forward.

    67
    97
    • Anonymous says:

      YES!!! and yet I laugh at the one dislike on that comment! The dinosaurs not wanting the younger generation to stand up and take charge! Well, you should feel threatened cuz change is coming!

      40
      60
  12. Anonymous says:

    Strange how religions and human rights so often come into conflict. It’s almost as if religions are anti-human or something.

    58
    77
    • Anonymous says:

      Religion is about control. Human rights is about freedom within reason.

      74
      63
    • Anonymous says:

      More like human rights activists are atheist, anti-religious fanatics. No?

      CNS: Human rights includes the freedom to follow your chosen religion. That’s the opposite of anti-religious fanatics. But it also protects other people’s freedom to follow their religion, or no religion. Counties without that freedom can be very unpleasant places to live, which is why the urge to impose religious beliefs into civil law is generally seen as backwards, some would say fanatic.

      42
      4
  13. Anonymous says:

    Bush: You will apologise!
    HRC: No. We acted in line with our mandate and refer to first press release
    Bush: I accept your apology.

    80
    95
    • Anonymous says:

      The uneducated buffoon compared to an attorney charged with protecting human rights.
      Laughable how the honwobble takes himself so seriously when all about him are falling down laughing.

      80
      88
    • Anonymous says:

      Interested to know how this went from 0 thumbs down to 26 thumbs down in less than a minute. God works in mysterious ways!

      44
      47
  14. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone else notice parts cut out from the video posted?

    24
    37
    • Anonymous says:

      Yes – Noticed this as well from the original LA discussion when they kicked off. I watched them live and wanted to show someone a part that I saw the next day and it was no longer in the posted video. Convenient that certain parts get cut out. Someone should put in a request to the freedom of information to find out if they are cutting out certain parts of the LA videos.

      34
      41
      • Anonymous says:

        I am amazed that people would dislike a comment that states we should look into whether our government is purposefully removing sections of the posted videos from their live legislative assembly feeds. Our leaders should be held accountable for their comments and views and these should be made visible to us the public regardless of the matter being discussed.

        23
        20
  15. Anonymous says:

    Simple solution is to do away with the outdated concept of marriage altogether. Civil unions for all. Everyone wins except the divorce attorneys.

    41
    75
  16. Anonymous says:

    Einstein was no scholar in school either but look how he turned out. Some persons with no formal qualification are by far more intelligent than those with PHDs. So stop your rubbish! And look at the facts: Austin Smith was out of place being very disrespectful.

    81
    80
    • Anonymous says:

      If you think that was disrespectful you have no idea how adults operate in the real world.

      45
      38
    • Anonymous says:

      That’s false and a common misconception. Einstein did very well in school, but the way his schools graded were in reverse scale to what the person who made that statement knew.

      Also, there was nothing rude. The only rude person was McKeeva, who is incapable of believing that anyone who doesn’t believe the same as him, can be a good or just person.

      41
      42
      • Anonymous says:

        As far as I know Einstein was not taught how to invent! Some persons have “learned” knowledge-knowledge taught by other people-then they are those who are wise. Like Einstein, they have wisdom and understanding which CANNOT be taught- it is a gift from God. In absence of wisdom and understanding your “learned lessons” will be useless but, on the other hand, wisdom and understanding is nonnegotiable. So stop criticizing people just because they do not have “paper” qualifications.

        As it relates to Austin Smith, he was very rude! How dear him! There is a right and wrong way to address the CI Government, whatever we may think about them. Do you think you could have done the same thing to his government in his country? I highly doubt that! So why are we letting theses people “spit” in our Government’s face- IN OUR FACE, as the Govt. represent the majority of US!

        CNS: Yes, anyone can criticise the British government in whatever way they want; it is in fact an integral part of democracy, and in this case is the function of the HRC. None of the politicians here have to deal with anything like the opposition or media onslaught they would face in any major democratic country.

        44
        6
        • Anonymous says:

          Oh, Please CNS! We all know that’s not true! Try it and see what happens!

          CNS: It happens every single day in every single major newspaper.

          28
          2
          • Anonymous says:

            That comment just shows how completely cut off from reality some people are on this island. Look north to the states where the government gets a pasting every day. Try reading the UK news where the government gets a pasting every day.

            8
            4
        • Dark Energy says:

          The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness.
          Albert Einstein

          You’re right, Albert was wise and full of knowledge which is why the whole God thing was bs to him.

          13
          22
          • Anonymous says:

            As far as I know, he also neglected his wife and children. A terrible husband. He was bs himself.

            10
            4
          • Anonymous says:

            And we all know that God make His sun shine on both the wicked and the righteous. He also send rain to water both the wicked and the righteous! Hence he gives gifts and talents to each human being…. Now if Einstein did say such as thing… he was a wise fool!(LOL)The Bible says: only a fool says in his heart that there is no God. Nonetheless, God used Einstein, imparted wisdom so that you, me and the rest of this world could benefit. So I end here, Wisdom is God’s and if He chooses to give it to a man who does not have any formal knowledge or training, that job will be done! Wisdom is better than riches. If you understood this, you would not have disrespected the Almighty God who you owe the very oxygen that you breath in your lungs to. Repent whilst He still allow you to breathe His air.

            7
            5
    • Anonymous says:

      As opposed to MLAs who have only show the utmost respect for everyone especially the gay community!

      21
      39
    • Hancock says:

      Suppose had he come here his work permit would have beeb refused.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Where is the Law Society, the Courts, and the AR association on this crap? This is far from the first time polititicians have used their office as a bully-pulpit to assault persons carrying out their lawful duties and even obligations. Their silence is deafening.

    70
    75
  18. Anonymous says:

    James Austin-Smith has done the right and proper thing to stand up to those who would bash gay Caymanians. Political pandering is part of this faux outrage it would seem. Many in Cayman will only be dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming like children.

    82
    104
  19. Judea people"s Front says:

    Can you say “Thirder world”?

    19
    31
  20. Anonymous says:

    The right of appeal to a court decision is something the HRC should be supporting not condemning. The subject matter is not relevant.

    130
    21
    • Anonymous says:

      Think you will find the HRC was not condemning the right to appeal, but the CIG deciding to exercise that right in this case. Just because you have the right doesn’t meant it always right to use it. Hell the police have the right to arrest people. On your version of logic the HRC shouldn’t complain when they decide to do it for no good purpose.

      2
      5
  21. Anonymous says:

    Reminiscent of when Alden got on his soap box and decreed that Legge was a traitor. What an embarrassment to Cayman.

    88
    96
  22. Anonymous says:

    As if McKeeva in his dress and wig could do anything to James. Somebody buy him some lipstick please.

    94
    66
  23. Anonymous says:

    Well done Austin Smith, including your restraint in not calling certain people odious turds.

    112
    123
    • Anonymous says:

      That’s Dr. Odious Turd, I’ll have you know!

      45
      26
    • Anon says:

      What has he done well exactly? Oh you mean when he issued a statement in which he criticized Government for taking legal action on a matter they have every right to and in that statement gave his INCORRECT opinion that the case was “unarguable”? Well, the court of appeal disagreed with him and granted the Stay concluding the exact opposite. So if he was giving advice to Government on this issue, he would given very poor legal advice.

      P.S. It is also certainly not his role to tell Government what they should be spending money on!

      45
      10
      • Anonymous says:

        Okay, law for dummies, a stay means they have a chance to argue their case now. That means they will argue, lose, waste public money, and James was right all along. Unarguable.

        22
        25
  24. Anonymous says:

    MAC thinks he can just put people on a plane just like those radio hosts that made fun of him. LOL

    83
    94
  25. Anonymous says:

    There are too many atheists on this island nowadays.

    92
    81
    • Anonymous says:

      Blame religion.

      42
      12
    • Anonymous says:

      Too little*

      By all means go to church, praise the sky fairy / Buddha / Rishma whichever in peace, but stop thinking that Christianity is a requirement to be Caymanian. Just know understand that religion is dying as more people on this island get more common sense.

      Born and raised Caymanian Atheist

      47
      65
    • Anonymous says:

      In the News media

      25
    • Anonymous says:

      Other way around , Bobo..way too many bible-bashers.

      38
      44
    • People's Front of Judea says:

      Religion’s greatest trick wasn’t convincing some people that there was a god who was all powerful. It was convincing everyone else that you couldn’t ridicule the idea.
      Ricky Gervais

      22
      23
    • Anonymous says:

      More and more each day. Thank dog for that!

      4
      13
  26. Anonymous says:

    Bill gates didn’t finish school either what’s your point, having a university degree definitely helps in life but it doesn’t always mean you are the sharpest tool in the shed, so please don’t be too quick to throw stones

    86
    45
    • Anonymous says:

      Umm Bill gates dropped out of Harvard. That’s a little bit higher.. a LOT higher than Mac ever did.

      86
      37
  27. Anonymous says:

    The HRC was established under section 116 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 and its members are volunteers who are appointed by the Governor, after consulting with the Premier and Leader of the Opposition.

    If the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition jointly believe that the HRC is no longer fit for purpose they should represent that position to the Governor so that the changes can be implemented.

    67
    31
  28. JTB says:

    The legislative assembly needs no help from the HRC, Mr Austen-Smith or anyone else to bring itself into disrepute.

    117
    130
  29. Anonymous says:

    All this from a ;man who was “fired” as Cayman Islands first “Premier” for cause? All this from Leadership that showed the world that being corrupt is OK in Cayman Culture? All this from a man who’s defense from being arrested while gambling for sexually assaulting a woman was that it was a “Cultural misunderstanding? This is not about laws or the Bible. Its about the rights of Caymanian culture against the rights of everyone else who resides in Cayman. Its about non Caymanians having to give in to the rules of a third world culture because you are on their island period.

    83
    102
    • Anonymous says:

      That’s just recent history….you can go back much further than that for a full list of, erm, allegedly questionable behaviour.

      37
      35
  30. Anonymous says:

    Good on you Mr. Harris, don’t take Mac’s crap. Stand your ground like a man to these wayward children.

    106
    128
  31. Anonymous says:

    The only things that can be “construed as an insult or resulted in odium, contempt, or ridicule” are the actions of our elected representatives and their personal agendas, on this and all matters they deal with. It’s truly both disgraceful and embarrassing.

    116
    134
  32. anonymous says:

    I wonder if the “Speaker” can properly read English as Mr Austin Smith’s letter was in no way an apology. As for “faux”, who has been putting word’s in Mac’s mouth, as this was certainly not in his limited vocabulary.

    130
    137

You can comment anonymously. See CNS Comment Policy at the top of this page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Please support independent journalism in the Cayman Islands