Constitution change ‘falls short’ on key issue

| 06/12/2019 | 62 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Alden McLaughlin in the Legislative Assembly, Friday 6 December 2019

(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has said the main issue government wanted to address with the pending constitutional change “falls short of where we wanted to be” in the draft agreement that has been settled with the UK. But as he presented the government motion to the Legislative Assembly about the draft amendments on Friday, McLaughlin told the House that the UK was very reluctant to move at all on the part of the constitution that allows it to pass laws for Cayman.

The government motion brought by McLaughlin deals with the draft order of constitutional amendments relating to talks that the Cayman and UK government have now been engaged in for some 18 months, triggered by what was described as constitutional overreach when an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill was passed in the UK parliament, which included a provision imposing public beneficial ownership registers on the British Overseas Territories.

As he outlined the history leading up to the draft amendments, the premier said one of the most important changes that government wanted to include was an amendment to section 44. He said this was to underscore that Cabinet has autonomous responsibility for all domestic affairs that have been devolved to Cayman, and that had been achieved.

But leading on from that change, he explained, the key objective sought went much further but they did not get everything they wanted. The premier said that a new “hard fought provision”, which directly addresses the concern about the UK parliament legislating for Cayman in areas already devolved, had been agreed. Under the new provision the UK government will be under obligation to notify the premier and Cabinet and have them signify their views on those changes.

“This indeed falls short of where we wished it to be,” he said. “It requires consultation but ultimately the decision making still lies with the UK. But what it will do is cause the UK… to pause before they seek to make legislation which impacts the territory.”

It allows for a cooling off period, he added, and time for the Cayman government to provide strong arguments to stop something the government is not happy with.

“The UK was not very willing… to even make this concession,” McLaughlin said, adding that the initial draft document after the talks last year did not include this change. But the premier said government would not come close to succeeding in achieving the main objective had they accepted the first offer.

“It’s taken since then… to get us to this point,” he said, adding that he believed it was one of the most importance concessions the UK has been prepared to make. And although to date it appears in no other territory’s constitution, they are now all going to get the provision offered to them too.

The premier said that the talks had also led to the removal of the governor’s power to effect legislation that he wants if the parliament refuses. He said the trade-off will allow the governor to come to parliament and argue why he wants to change a law but would still not get to do that. McLaughlin said it might not be something that everyone wants to embrace but it’s better than the current situation.

After outlining all of the other changes, including an additional minister, changing the Legislative Assembly’s name to ‘parliament’ and formalising the position of councillors as parliamentary secretaries, he stressed that it was a package of changes aimed at improving the hand of the Cayman Islands Government.

He said he expected that the deal would be completed sometime early in February, and from then on the public could be assured that the decisions that affect them are being taken by those officials they elected here and not made by those in the United Kingdom.

As he began his debate on the motion to seek parliamentary support for the proposed draft deal, which is now backed by both sides of the House, McLaughlin said it would have been good to have a longer, open consultation period about the draft order but he noted the sense of urgency, given that the UK is going to the polls next week.

He said it was important to ensure this was signed and sealed as soon as possible because there could be a new government in the UK a week from today which might not support the package of changes the government managed to secure, and so the members needed to seize the opportunity to tie up the agreement.

The debate continues.

See the draft order in the CNS Library and watch the premier’s address to the LA below on CIGTV

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Category: Laws, Politics

Comments (62)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am a Caymanian. Independence scares the hell out of me. Until we have leaders that are qualified in every sense to run this country (Which we don’t) then we need to remain as we are. I have no faith or trust in the current lodge.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How could the UK revoke its ability to impose laws on one of its overseas territories? Cayman is already in breach of its obligations under European Law in its failure to recognise same sex partnerships – this means the UK is in breach as the ‘mother’ country. Cayman Islands: Just go independent and be done with it! Then you can do what you like!!!

    • The Constitutional Critic says:

      That’s the thing they haven’t revoked that at all
      They have altered the role of the Governor and agreed to consult with the elected government here first before implementing any changes unilaterally, that is all that has changed
      Section 125 is still in the constitution (section 125 allows the UK to essentially do whatever they want if they so choose)

      This is the problem with Alden Mclaughlin running around saying these are huge steps forward for Cayman and changes our entire relationship. This is what is so infuriating about this whole process, Its not your fault that you don’t understand this, most people don’t spend huge amounts of time reading the constitution or understanding the law or our legal relationship with the UK.
      Our government needs to communicate reality more efficiently instead of trying to make everything a talking point or a campaign issue.
      The UK still retains all of the powers they hold now, they are just removing them from the Governor as an individual , we are no closer to independence than we were 10 years ago
      The Government here just likes trying to make everything they do sound like some extraordinary accomplishment.

      If you only take one thing from this comment understand this: In essence, nothing has changed, this is just a new framing of the same relationship.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I can’t remember when we last had a government I trusted with more power.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Headline could have been “Premier falls short on key issue: Trust”

  5. anon says:

    At last he has admitted we are really no further on. All his hooha about making our own decisions was exacly that. As I pointed out after his first announcement Cayman cannot govern itself yet remain a colony, as you can’t have the best of both worlds.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand how removing the Governor’s veto and legislative powers isn’t controversial or incredibly destabilizing given the other actions of this regime and house. Discuss.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is controversial and is destabilizing and does not have the support of the Caymanian people. It is a power grab by Alden and his cabal. The Caymanian people should be asked if they actually support this. I believe most do not.

    • Anonymous says:

      And power grabs by governors you don’t choose aren’t possible right?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why we continue as an Overseas Territory when the Governor will be stripped of nearly all of his powers. Might as well go for independence as end the charade that we are a colony or Overseas Territory. It is a joke that we will have a Governor with basically no power. Believe that Mother in London is laying the groundwork with these approvals to let the children go out on their own. Next year after BREXIT, London is going to have far bigger challenges, both politically and economically, than 3 dinky islands in the Caribbean.

    • Anonymous says:

      Independence sounds scary.

      Imagine . . . President McKeeva Bush, in charge of the police force and Cayman’s new army. Within four years one or all of the following would happen:

      -Cayman Brac succeeds to form new nation

      -Little Cayman made the national landfill

      -Civil war between West Bay and George Town

      -War with Honduras

    • Anonymous says:

      Singapore on Thames will be competing with us directly cutting out the middle man.

    • Anonymous says:

      For one, our credit rating isn’t static. Overnight, it would be reassessed from AA- to something deep in the C grades if this idea were ever to gain premature traction. It might even trigger a call on loans outstanding that we can’t pay back. Despite all Cabinet-led alternate sound-bites to the contrary, we’re still broke. Secondly, the Financial Sector, 75% of economy, on strength of CIG cashflows those loans were made, would also be thrown into destabilization, similar to fall of Bahamas under Pinder regime, or Jamaica, more recently. Let’s try to learn from other’s previous mistakes, without having to learn them ourselves.

  8. Anonymous says:

    On our way to independence and ultimately the killing of the golden goose.

    • Anonymous says:

      Solves the housing affordability problem as real estate prices will crash as expats jump ship. New problem will be no one able to afford new reduced cost without a job resulting further price reductions. Good luck Cayman, you are headed for a future just like Jamaica and the Bahamas.

    • Anonymous says:

      Last ex-pat to leave, put out the lights.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Two purposes will ne served: protect the wealthy and remove the gays.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Some one is scared of getting caught.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The officials elected here…..not comforted since who is sitting now were not elected…

  12. Anon says:

    The state must be able to legislate over a mere territory.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Alden. You don’t know what you’re doing. Stop flying to Monaco and trying to sell a dodgy port to the Caymanian people. Sort out the real problems the people have.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I do not recall being consulted in our “democratic” jurisdiction.

  15. SIPL for 2021 says:

    How about this, our premier falls short on being less than enthusiastic about the passing of the SIPL. That might be a good start in getting what you want from the UK in relation to our constitution. Then again, you Mr. Premier, and your legislature buddies just might shoot yourselves in the foot if by some miracle it does pass.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thank God there are some fetters on you Alden. You have lost our trust. Absolute power is not something we would want to see you with.

  17. The Change without a Change ft Alden Mclaughlin says:

    Alden Mclaughlin: “I’m not sure I like the colour of our apartment currently, I am going to talk to our landlord about it, this just really isn’t my colour”

    Alden Mclaughlin: “What do you mean, its the same, before it was Spanish Red and NOW it is Imperial Red, can’t you tell the difference, this is everything we asked for, praise my glorious accomplishments”

  18. Anonymous says:

    If only the cayman people trusted our Government as much has the UK has done by allowing these changes to our constitution. I pray we don’t find out too late that this Government and Cayman in general is the best in the region if not the world.

    As usual we don’t know how good we have it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Comment of the week. These people whine and whelp like they are suffering under oppression. People in the UK would trade their government and problems for ours right now.

  19. Anonymous says:

    But we didn’t elect the Unity alliance…there was no such party!

  20. Anonymous says:

    “… that Cabinet has autonomous responsibility for all domestic affairs” explains a lot about how Cabinet feels self-righteous empowerment to steamroll over sensible interaction with their own people! Punch drunk on power! Help us FCO!

    • Anonymous says:

      My friend. Sorry to tell you but this was in essence already part of the 2009 constitution.

      They have only gotten explicit language to clarify and compliment this already established fact.

      For example if the government decides to move the dump to South Sound, the UK has no right to intervene or interfere. That is a domestic matter- no matter how many UK citizens in South Sound write to their MP back home in The UK and complain and lobby.

      As long as governments decisions do not violate our constitution or bill of rights and doesn’t touch the Governor’s special responsibilities it’s a domestic matter for which your 19 elected are fully responsible.

      But that’s democracy. Why should people thousands of miles away have a say in our business especially if it had no impact on them?

      If you don’t love it leave.

  21. Anonymous says:

    It’s obvious CIG wants independence, but they know the majority of Cayman doesn’t want it, so they’re creeping up to it step by step…

    • Anonymous says:

      They’re trying, but I honestly don’t think they are intelligent enough or have the capabilities to chart that course.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely not. The only reason the majority of Caymanians do not want independence is because they see Jamaica.
      Our government is overtly Lodge and independent or not, we would still be serving a foreign power.
      Caymanians are not afraid of independence, they just want it on their own terms.
      The day Cayman goes independent, the Lodge politicians will be all in jail, the colonial Brit stranglehold will be broken and peace will return to these islands.
      The excess immigrants who create their enclaves will go home and the blessings will return.
      The immigrants that remain will respect the culture and the locals will flourish in their own land.
      May that day come.
      If Dart doesn’t like it, he can leave too. He has been given far too much and his influence is destroying a people.

  22. Read the fine print... nothing has changed says:

    These changes alter essentially nothing

    The changes mean the UK has to notify the CIG of legislation that affects us

    Notification will likely take the form of an letter to which no reply will be necessary or expected, and even if one is sent will likely get nowhere.

    This is essentially the equivalent of a financial institution sending out a letter informing people of a rate increase.
    Customers are made aware of it, does that mean they have any say on the matter? No
    Does that mean they can walk into the bank and demand to have a vote or a hearing? No
    This changes, nothing, its just a empty legal hoop for them to jump through before doing exactly what they were going to do in the first place.

    Its purely symbolic
    Anyone who thinks this is a win needs their heads examined

    The Governor almost never utilized his veto, and to my knowledge has never utilized the power to unilaterally draft and pass legislation ( though I stand to be corrected)

    These changes alter nothing, the UK can still dissolve our LA at any time, or suspend our constitution or any other number of things, if they so chose

    The fact of the matter is we either have to come to terms with the reality we are a jurisdiction under the UK or we have to decide to leave, there is no middle ground where the UK will let us be a part of their territories but somehow never ever have an interest or want something done a certain way

    Its like a child living in his parents house, but acting like if he closes the door and puts up a sign that says “do not enter” he is suddenly living in his own separate house independently.
    This is all just for show

    • anon says:

      6.56pm As I said before and as you point out, removing the Governor’s powers changes nothing, the British Government still has the right to veto any local legislation and impose their dictates on how this country is run. Alden tied to make a big deal out of the “concessions” he claimed to have negotiated, but now he has been forced to admit the truth.

      • Anonymous says:

        It removes the Governor’s local eyes-on objection veto in the Legislative Assembly (now a Parliament with Honorable MPs), and moves it to the final tenuous backstop, a perpetually disinterested FCO office, with much bigger problems, and no direct line to understand the will of the people of the Cayman Islands, other than to accept that the same old goons have “formed a government” again, per the flimsy Elections Law and selectively unenforced Constitution.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Governor exercised the power to legislate for us just a decade ago when the Tempura investigation was ongoing and the-then PPM government refused to fund the police. The funding was forced through. A move like that will now have to come from the UK itself, not the Governor on the ground, which is more work for them and more invasive of our autonomy and therefore makes such instances much less likely to occur. Additionally the requirement to consult on legislation affecting us gives us a route to challenge the UK in its own courts if they fall short of the UK’s own common law on what consultation means and how it is to be done, which allows us to delay anything they try to force on us. These changes are bigger than people who are not constitutional lawyers can understand. They are real changes and I am not surprised they were reluctantly conceded by the UK.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Governor has used the Legislative power to pass the wiretapping legislation which is called lawful interceptions or something like that.

      Scary stuff eh? The UK might be listening to you right now.

      • Anonymous says:

        I sure wish the U.K. would record all those closed door meetings that are so popular!

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes because the UK is inherently more trustworthy than people you can actually hold accountable every 4 years right?

          You see how racist your position sounds?

          I really hope Santa brings you a few books on colonialism this Christmas.

  23. The Constitutional Critic says:

    This entire package is just an attempt to prop up governments in future because the PPM knows they will have a hard time forming majority governments, they essentially only win in George Town and the Sister Islands

    Let me break this down for you:
    The entire idea of parliamentary secretaries is just a legal way for the government to allocate higher salaries to members of their backbenches which in turn gives those backbenchers an incentive to support the government of the day. If they vote against the government they lose their extra pay.
    ( think about it this way, would you fire your boss if you had the chance if it meant that you lost your job as well?)

    -At the moment each of the councilors receives an additional $2,000 per month on top of their regular salary of $109,000 annually

    -These councilor positions exist to incentivize backbenchers to support the government, that is their entire purpose.

    The creation of an 8th minister will simply serve to push the principle of collective responsibility onto one more person, making it nearly impossible for any government to lose a vote of no confidence
    There are 19 members of the LA. one is usually made speaker and only has a casting vote leaving 18 traditional voting members, a government can technically survive with 9 MLAs assuming the speaker remains on side when needed. That means a future government could consist of 8 Ministers, one Parliamentary Secretary and a friendly Speaker.
    All of whom have financial incentives to support the government to keep their larger salaries.

    This is going to be the Cayman Island’s version of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act
    Passed for the sole purpose of propping up weak governments with slim majorities so that parties don’t have to bother winning majorities they just need to hold a good chunk of seats to maintain their hold on power and hand out ministries and parliamentary secretary positions to keep MLAs in line with extra pay or financial incentive

    There is no reason for an 8th minister in a country smaller than most cities or towns
    There is no justification to allow the government to essentially pay MLAs to support their government by giving them these positions

    This is a power grab by the PPM and CDP both of whom are worried they will be unable to elect majority governments in future based on the 2017 election results

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually no one expects a head of government to hold ministerial portfolios or large one. Our Premier’s portfolio is ridiculously large.

      Look at Education Ministry and the size of that. Lands and agriculture? We have some ministers with way too much and some really weird combos.

      As I see it and I also agree with those who have said it, adding another Minister frees up a premier to not carry a major portfolio of subjects but to manage his team and rl drive the agenda.

      You don’t need to add a single chief officer. You have tons of them floating around.

      • Anonymous says:

        And a new Ministry of International Trade in the works. More jobs for Caymanians.

        • The Constitutional Critic says:

          This government can barely organise regular garbage collection but I am sure they will handle international trade with flying colours
          What could possibly go wrong


      • The Constitutional Critic says:

        That is usually standard, but we are talking about the head of government of a micro-nation, not the head of government of a superpower with a highly managed and planned schedule, filled to the brim with 16 hour work days
        What exactly would his job entail if not actually including the current ministries?

        At least most other countries that use the Westminster parliamentary system have a valid excuse they spend huge amount of times in their parliaments actually taking the time to debate and scrutinize laws.
        Our MLAs are in the LA for maybe 3 days every 3ish months if we are lucky, except for budget sessions and finance committee and the PAC which are the exception not the rule

        The idea that a country with a population of just over 65,000 people needs 8 Cabinet Ministers plus junior Ministers in the form of Parliamentary Secretaries is ridiculous.
        There is just no basis for it in reality, not to mention the distortion of the arithmetic and balance in the LA
        People seem to forget this but the backbenches actually have a role to play in our system of government, Introducing private Private Members Motions, asking questions and scrutinizing proposals and policies outside of the executive.
        By entwining the entirety of the government benches into the executive we are further turning our Parliament into a fancy hall that holds the proverbial rubber stamp for the decisions made in Cabinet behind closed doors.
        We know that Government wins most proposals they put onto the floor of Parliament by virtue of their majority, but can we at least pretend they haven’t all just shown up to utilize the proverbial rubber stamp because all of them work in the executive and cooked up the same ideas they are now mimicking debate on.

        I want a functioning independent Legislative body, not what is essentially an open door meeting of Cabinet + the Opposition featuring the Rubber stamp of democracy
        We might as well just dismiss the opposition and make the LA a museum if we have just resigned ourselves to being ruled by Cabinet without legitimate scrutiny.

        • Anonymous says:

          If you want a fully functioning independent legislative body then it needs more members. Bermuda has the same population as us but 36 MPs roughly double the number we have. That means their constituencies are even smaller yet the expat community there doesn’t seem to laugh all the time that their democracy is a joke and their representatives are puffed up fools each chosen by a few hundred people. Granted their electorate is also twice the size as Bermuda has the good fortune of its population not being roughly 70% non-voting expats as we have in Cayman. The Westminster system is designed to produce strong governments with popular support yet the machinery doesn’t work without the numbers outside of Cabinet to bring a minority or coalition government down. You identify the correct problems but stop short of identifying more legislators as the solution, which it is, presumably just because it would be unpopular. Commit to your arguments.

          • The Constitutional Critic says:

            The solution to at least some of our problems ( and arguably and inevitably what will be the genesis of a new set of problems) has always been a larger legislative body.
            You don’t really need to convince me of that, I have been advocating for at least 25 members of the LA for years now, and even that would be not nearly enough to balance out the changes that have been made in the past 20 years by parties who want the power and prestige of governing without the hassle of actually being accountable and scrutinized by a legislature. Popularity has nothing to do with it, although people tend toward not wanting a larger number of politicians our current standards are far too low. I’ve honestly seen student councils with more members than what is meant to be our national assembly. Our legislature needs to assert itself as the source of legitimacy for government policy currently its just an quarterly talk shop where people read off talking points for the cameras. We have too many MLAs who think that sitting in the cabinet meeting room is really what they were elected to do, they can find the time to attend Cabinet weekly but can’t be bothered to actually legislate consistently. Even when they do occasionally pass laws and amendments they rarely take their time to scrutinize what the actual changes are and prefer to pass batches of laws at once rather than take their time. More often than not a good chunk of time spent in the LA is amending shortsighted laws they themselves have passed in past.
            My only concern with expanding the LA is striking a balance between the representation from GT and WB and the other districts of the islands. The system we have in place currently already allocates enough MLAs for GT and WB to form a majority and elevate a speaker without needing a single vote from any other district which would be horrendous. We also need far stricter campaign finance laws to prevent what we have now which are parties that serve business interests rather than people because they rely on donations from wealthy business owners to field candidates among many other things.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS this comment should be a headline article.

      CNS: I agree that this issue needs much more discussion and have now posted this as a featured comment. Thanks for the suggestion.

  24. Anonymous says:

    “two-foot crash barrier wall in accordance with the NRA regulations.”
    What are these regulations that need a barrier on a 25 MPH road? There are a few other curves in this road that should need a barrier – outside Kirks / at the Wharf / at the Ritz or lets just put one all the way along between pedestrians & cars!!!

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