Opposition challenges constitutional changes

| 22/08/2019 | 22 Comments
Cayman News Service
Opposition Leader Arden McLean at Wednesday’s meeting

(CNS): The opposition members have said that not only do they believe that any changes to the Cayman Islands Constitution must go to a public vote, they have also revealed that they do not support all of the changes reportedly negotiated in the recent UK-Cayman talks.

Although the original goal had been to present a united front in London on constitutional reform, that front is cracked, with the formal opposition revealing they will not be supporting several of the agreed changes.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Arden McLean laid out areas of concern for the opposition, namely the issue of an eighth minister, renaming councillors as parliamentary secretaries, and the suggestion that the governor be given the right to address parliament in exchange for giving up his power to directly write local laws.

Alva Suckoo had attended the talks with the former opposition leader, Ezzard Miller, who has said that he kept the rest of the opposition informed before, during and after the talks. But McLean told CNS that Suckoo had raised concerns at the time that there was not full support for some of the issues under discussion.

McLean said that the opposition does support the government’s goal to limit the power of the UK to impose legislation on its territories, which was the main reason for the premier’s request last year to open talks. The passage of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering bill in the UK, which included a requirement to impose public beneficial ownership registers on the Cayman Islands and other territories with offshore finance sectors, was agreed by both sides of the political divide here as constitutional overreach.

McLean said he supported the changes that will prevent something like that happening again but he did not support many of the other changes that have supposedly been agreed. Other members of the opposition have also said they, too, do not support all of the proposed changes to the constitution.

Chris Saunders (BTW), who has already written to Lord Ahmad, the UK minister with responsibility for the overseas territories, about his concerns, pointed out that Cayman must implement the laws supporting democratic institutions and fill the commissions before changing the document without the people’s consent. He said the need for district councils, commissioners to be appointed and the Standards in Public Life Law were all priorities.

McLean noted that while the opposition is aware of the proposed changes, government has not told the public that it does “not have consensus on all the proposals”.

He accused the premier and the former opposition leader of being disingenuous by not revealing the dissent. “We can further categorically state that we have not had any in-depth briefing on the talks that were held on the Constitution in England. However, we were assured that further talks were intended to finalise the proposals,” he said.

Outlining his concerns about the idea of the governor talking directly to the Legislative Assembly, McLean said he believed that would cause division among the politicians, who are elected by the people. He said the only reasons that a governor, who sits in Cabinet, would want to address parliament is to sow disagreement and criticise an elected government, which he said was wrong, no matter who was in office.

McLean and the opposition members were also worried about the implications for democracy of having an eighth minister, as they pointed out that it would create imbalance in the parliament with members and Cabinet. Currently, a rogue leader can only be removed by a two-thirds majority and not a simple majority. An additional minister, without additional members to balance against the executive, would make it impossible for parliament to properly hold a government to account unless a front-bench member resigned to shake off their collective responsibility.

The formalisation of councillors was also considered a problem because there are concerns that back-bench MLAs who are also working alongside, and sometimes acting as, ministers creates a conflict when those councillors sit on important committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee.

But there is also division among the opposition members about the best way of putting any constitutional changes to the people. While a referendum is the agreed route, Kenneth Bryan was the sole opposition member who said that it would be good to have the vote at the same time as the one on the port and other matters of national importance, which might also boost voter turnout.

His colleagues, however, believe it could undermine the cruise port referendum and “muddy the waters”. They think that the Cruise Port Referendum campaigners should get their day without any distractions.

Government has still not said when the details of the talks will be revealed, and CNS recently reported that the results have not actually been formally agreed.

As the UK government remains distracted by Brexit, as that situation volleys between chaos and crisis on a near daily basis, it appears that no one at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has time for the overseas territories’ constitutional concerns.

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Comments (22)

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  1. Elvis says:

    Let’s oppose it because we didn’t think of it syndrome again?
    Does any of these opposition loosing party agree with anyone? Love to see them at home lmao. I don’t agree with this turtle texture and please replace the butter to the original place on my table hunnie

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Leader of the losers.

  3. Anonymous says:

    God help you, Cayman, if the UK does not keep its reserve powers. None of these guys are up to the task of running anything without supervision.

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen and Amen!

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s right. In Boris We Trust! Nigel Farage For Governor!

      (For those that don’t get sarcasm, the suggestion that CI voters, and leaders, are somehow less than those in other countries, e.g., Britain, is easily disproved with real life examples.)

      Quick, call the Donald, tell him Cayman is for sale and costs less than Greenland. He can be the President to finally do something about offshore tax havens. (And we’ll be easy to manage. Just join us on to Delaware. Onshoring is the next big thing.)

    • Anonymous says:

      1.10am Sorry but you wont be allowed to run though .

  4. Anonymous says:

    What are the solutions Opposition members, if you are going to oppose everything at least have some alternatives

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the answer is in the article they disagree with some of the proposed changes and for damn good reasons

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bunch of losers at the next election in 2021.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Compliance with UBO registers, thrust on the UK by the AMLD 4 EU directive, will fizzle on Oct 31 like everything else EU-centric. The UK has never had any genuine interest in complying with EU parliamentary orders or providing a true UBO register themselves. How dumb our Opposition “law makers” must be. Compliance with ECHR is another matter, and the Cayman Islands dinosaurs will need to amend the Constitution, Marriage Law, and more, or be sued every which way.

  7. Anon says:

    Opposition? What Opposition?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Can someone please tell Arden to take his earphones out when he’s having a press conference.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Late breaking news: opposition challenges breeze.


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