Privy Council rejects rascals’ referendum appeal

| 07/05/2021 | 33 Comments
Cayman News Service
Lawyer Kate McClymont with her client, Shirley Roulstone

(CNS) The UK Privy Council has refused to hear Shirley Roulstone’s appeal in connection with a legal case relating to the Cruise Port Referendum campaign, in which the local activist had challenged the constitutionality of the previous government’s decision to set a referendum on the cruise berthing project before it had passed general legislation relating to people-initiated polls. With this decision, government does not need to pass a general law on referendums and if it chooses can legislate for each individual ballot, leaving the rules that provide or this constitutional right open to the political fancy of whichever administration is in office.

Roulstone, who, like many local activists, has been nicknamed a ‘Cayman rascal’, had appealed to the British high court after the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal overturned the Grand Court March 2020 ruling last summer. Acting Judge Tim Owen had ruled that section 70 of the Constitution, which paves the way for people-initiated referendums (PIRs), needed a general referendum law for such ballots to set the parameters.

But the government embarked on a successful appeal, which led Roulstone and the CPR campaign to take the case to London. However, on 28 April the Privy Council refused leave, stating that there is no need for the Cayman Islands to enact a general referendum law.

The court has now confirmed that the right to participate in a “fair and effective people-initiated referendum” can be fully protected by a referendum specific law without framework legislation. This means Parliament must enact separate pieces of legislation for each referendum, since the UK court did not see sufficient public interest in hearing the case

Attorney General Sam Bulgin welcomed what he said was “helpful clarification of the Constitutional position, given the understandable public interest surrounding this issue”.

The CPR groups has not yet commented on the ruling but this situation leaves many questions about PIRs unanswered. It also leaves such votes vulnerable to the political sway that any given administration could now impose on a people’s ballot, especially when, as was demonstrated in the case of the cruise project, the government is against holding such a vote.

The PPM was accused by the campaigners of bad faith regarding the cruise port referendum on a number of levels. The activists had to challenge the question, the date of the vote, the rules around the proposed campaign and the lack of any financial restrictions on the campaign. Without framework legislation, there are no rules about how a PIR should proceed once the signatures are achieved, how the petition should be verified, how the question is set, what the timelines should be or how much each side can spend.

It must also be noted that if Roulstone had not challenged the government in court and succeeded, the vote would have taken place in December 2019.


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Category: Laws, Politics

Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Keep in mind that although the ruling says a General Referendum Law is not *required,* it does not prevent such a law from being enacted.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “if Roulstone had not challenged the government in court and succeeded”, and who succeeded? My friend and I are having a hard time understanding this last statement. Maybe we need coffee…

  3. Anon says:

    The government (PACT) will table a General Referendum Bill in short order. The debate in Parliament will hopefully be constructive and useful. Can’t wait for the clarity and transparency that the people deserve and expect.

  4. Orrie Merren says:

    Shirley Roulstone is a real hero and true Caymanian patriot. God bless Shirley and CPR Cayman for all their great work.

    Now that the Privy Council has spoken and, at least currently, we are stuck with bespoke legislation following a voter-initiated referendum every time one is triggered (pursuant to s.70, Constitution), we can tackle from this perspective.

    However, having a general referendum law would be good to have, so that the Cabinet and the Parliament can play less games creatively and strategy to try to fight against the referendum being successful.

    There is nothing stopping the PACT government from enacting general legislation versus leaving it to specific bespoke legislation every time a referendum is triggered, whether by Parliament (under s.69, Constitution) or by voters (under s.70, Constitution).

    There are quite a few of us Caymanians (in the private sector), who are aiming to get a few referendums triggered over this next term. And, if we (the Caymanian people) can be proactive enough over the next four years, then we can give Parliament a mandate from the Caymanian people to pass legislation.

    I (along with others) intend to get a couple of Petitions (in accordance with s.70, Constitution) together for Caymanian voters to trigger referendums. There are just some issues that, for whatever reason, Parliament does not seem to want to tackle.

    First up will be Cayman Cannabis Reform, which takes into account fundamental human rights and freedoms (enshrined in our Constitution) and the three UN drug conventions, as well as our Misuse of Drugs Act (2017 Revision). The scope of decriminalisation of cannabis use by adults, as well as expansion of the domestic medical cannabis industry (including cultivation, cannabinoid extraction and law export to other jurisdictions as well as research and development), which all requires cannabis legislation.

    Second will likely be some amendments to the Constitution, which are aimed at avoiding all the horse trading that we keep witnessing from election-to-election. There are some simple ways to address this.

    Before this election term is over, by 2025, we should have an idea as to whether the general referendum legislation is needed or whether bespoke referendum legislation can manage to do the work.

    My view is that, at least after a couple referendums being triggered, it will ultimately become clear the best way forward.

    Ultimately, when a referendum is triggered, especially by the Caymanian voters, the Parliament needs to not play games with it and the voice and will of the Caymanian people needs to be heard.

    Big thanks to Shirley Roulstone and the CPR Cayman group (as well as all of us Caymanians, who signed the CPR petition) for triggering the first voter-initiated referendum.

    This has been historic, because it’s the first time we have experienced how this form of direct democracy works. It is hoped, however, that the next time we (the Caymanian people) trigger a referendum, we will also be able to vote on the referendum.

    We need to be respecters of principles of a democratic society, as well as do our individual parts to uphold the rule of law and Constitutional Supremacy.

    May God bless the Cayman Islands and, most of all, our precious Caymanian people.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hear Hear!! Gongs for Roulstone are deserved. She did more for our Enviroment than any civil servant paid to protect this land.

    The best thing about today’s new,” Panton has said his PACT administration has no plans for a cruise berthing project.”

    PACT has made a solid pact with our people. Minister of Tourism stand strong and do not sway by money.
    Most of us indeed (even those in tourism) will admit we all would rather go back to the days of one holiday inn and royal palms.

    Spend money on education, vocational training, not tourism…as an island we need to stand above the others, find alternative revenues, and not pander to cruise ships and the almighty dollar.

    • Anonymous says:

      You lost all credibility when you said go back to the days of one Holiday Inn. Do you realize the economic fallout that would occur?

    • JTB says:

      Yes, this government has given some reassurance.

      However, under the new Marine Park regulations issued by the outgoing government, which remain law right now, there is nothing to stop any future government resurrecting the cruise port plans.

      We need PACT to reinstate the Marine Parks protection that previously existed and which we need to ensure that this dreadful scheme remains buried.

  6. Reality Check says:

    Cayman owes a debt of gratitude to Shirley Roulstone and her CPR team.
    They fought to have the voices of the public heard through a people’ referendum and challenged the lunacy of Alden McLaughlin, Moses Kirkconnell, Joey Hew, McKeeva Bush and all the special interests that were prepared to mortgage Cayman’s future while destroying the marine environment to advance the interests of a select few business owners. Can you imagine the damage that this country would have been in if Shirley and CPR did not stand up and fight the madness of the previous PPM government? They were committed to selling out Cayman. That this the legacy of the UNITY government. Thank you Shirley and your team.

  7. CaymanRascal says:

    Thank You Shirley, and all the other Cayman Rascals that love this country and it’s people enough to stand up and be heard!!!

  8. WBW Premier. says:

    This is most welcome news!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Time to kick the British out and open Cayman for international trade and self governance.

    Every single thing here is controlled by a government 5000 miles away.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we do that we will end up with a homophobic women beater for speaker
      Oh wait!

    • Anonymous says:

      Ya let be like Jamaica…. Oh wait.

      We wrote the constitution, its failing are on us the people.

    • Anonymous says:

      As it should. This island will be broke and a mini Jamaica if we ever go independent.

    • D. Truth says:

      Have you ever considered that could be a good thing? Sometimes the Gee Bees (Greedy Bastards) in Government are only interested in getting more for themselves!

    • Anonymous says:

      As they used to say in Jamaica, “would the last person to leave the island please turn off the lights”

    • Anonymous says:

      7:35 That is the same Government that once ruled the World ask your Great Great Grand Father!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Up to PACT to enact that legislation in the best interests of the people, perhaps as a priority opening act of good faith which ratifies their promise of a new era of governance. Over to you Wayne…pls put this at the top of the pile.

  11. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    If I understand this correctly, we need to support Shirley’s cause; we need CIG to create a legal framework with language in the Constitution which enables the people to create Referendums. It is one of the few way in which we can audibly voice our wishes in a way that the government cannot ignore.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Award Sharon an award. Dame? If civil servants get gongs for doing their jobs she deserves more than a medal for stopping the port. Cayman would have been financially up the creek without a paddle if it had gone ahead.

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