LoGB seeks united front

| 08/08/2008

The government has said it hopes to move towards some form of compromise with the opposition on Cayman’s constitutional proposals so that they can present a united front to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when talks start in September. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts has said he thinksthere is very little that the two parties cannot come to some sort of agreement on. However, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush says there are a number of issues where he beleives it will be very difficult to find a compromise.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet press briefing on Thursday morning, 7 August, Tibbetts said it was the government’s intention to move forward for the good of the country in preparations for talks with the UK, the first of which is set for 29 September. “I have written to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition highlighting the importance of using the time allotted wisely and to hold preliminary meetings in good faith with a view to agreeing the position of the Cayman delegation and presenting a united front,” he said.

The government has proposed that the Cayman delegation will include up to four government MLAs, four of the opposition MLAs, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Ministers Association, the Seventh Day Adventists and perhaps one other NGO.  Tibbetts said he had asked Bush to provide the opposition’s position on the revised proposals and any additional proposal that the Opposition recommend by the end of August, in time for internal negotiations.

The LoGB said that while the government could not see any merit after close scrutiny in the opposition proposals for a senate, he felt there could be some kind of compromise on most other matters. He also said he was confident that there would be few problems working things out with the UK to achieve constitutional change and that the people would get what they wanted, because whatever was hammered out in the negotiations would be placed before them in a referendum next year.

However, Bush told Cayman News Service that not only does his party still need time to assess what the people want, there are a some proposals relating to the PPM government’s proposals to reduce the Governor’s powers and removing the Attorney General from the Legislative Assembly that he would not be prepared to give on. He further noted that the UDP had requested funding to help them assess the views of the people and for an advisor. As Professor Jeffery Jowell was advising on the government proposals, it was only fair that the UDP also had the assistance of a constitutional expert when considering their own.

“When the UK delegation of MPs came here they were quite shocked to discover the government had spent so much on special advisors and a secretariat and that the opposition had not been offered the same resources,” said the Leader of the Opposition, adding that if the LoGB was genuine he should make sure that the opposition has the resources to establish what the people really want. “We still need to talk to the people before we can begin negotiations because we need to do everything we can to find out what it is the people want in their constitution.”

Bush said he was happy with the government’s proposal for the representatives in the negotiations but he saidhe was not sure about a united front. “There are a lot of things that we and the people are opposed to and a lot of areas I won’t give an inch on,” he added. 

The unlikely prospect of a united front was also noted by Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South-West and leader of the recent All Party Parliamentary Group delegation from the United Kingdom, who noted that while the UK was probably in a position to accommodate almost any of the views prevalent in Cayman about the constitution, it could not accommodate them all at the same time, and he was not sure howCayman would resolve the problem of what he considered to be such a wide number of obviously incompatible views.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In my humble opinion they should leave all religious zealots at home.

  2. MB Ebanks says:

    "HE HATH FOUNDED IT UPON MONEY & POLITICS?"

    On 7 August 2008, the Leader of Government Business issued a statement that the proposed team which will negotiate with the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office for a new constitution for Cayman will consist of:

    – up to 4 government MLAs;
    – up to 4 opposition MLAs;
    – a representative from the Chamber of Commerce;
    – a representative from the Ministers Association;
    – a representative from the Seventh Day Adventists Mission.

    This is a most disgraceful proposal, as it is such a obvious play for votes from these 3 special interest groups that insults the intelligence of the Caymanian public!

    None of these special interest groups are qualified to negotiate a constitution and none have any mandate from the Cayman public to do so.

    These special interest groups do not deserve greater representation from the government on national matters.  The Caymanian people will only have an indirect voice at the negotiating table – through the elected politicians. Yet the Chamber of Commerce, Seventh Day Mission and the Ministers Association are apparently of such great importance that they can speak directly to the FCO, to ensure their special interests are protected in the constitution.

    Bear in mind that a constitution is a legal document of supreme importance. It is the core legal document on which our entire country is established. It sets out how the government is structured and operates. Most importantly, it sets out what rights the people have against the government and its agents.  It is wholly unnecessary and inappropriate that these 3 special interest groups – to actually directly negotiate our country’s constitution.

    A constitution is fundamentally about people’s rights againstgovernment – not big business and religion.

    Rights for vulnerable Caymanians such as the disabled or the mentally ill are NOT the main priority of special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Seventh Day Adventists or the Ministers Association.

    The Chamber of Commerce is a private organisation representing business interests – absolutely nothing at all to do with the structure of government or protecting human rights.

    The Ministers Association is a volunteer organisation of local church ministers and the Seventh Day Mission is a conglomerate of 7 local adventist churches.  They are not elected by the Cayman people or anyone else for that matter. Again, nothing at all to do with a constitution or human rights for all people.

    This is a clear admission that the PPM holds the interests of the Chamber of Commerce, Seventh Day Adventists and Ministers Association to be more important than those of any other part of the Caymanian population.

    The government should be able to represent the interests of our business community and religious groups in the exact same way that they intend to represent the views of the rest of us – nothing more, nothing less.  To do otherwise is to publicly declare to Caymanians and the world, that the core values upon which our constitution is based – is not the protection of rights for the Caymanian people, as it is supposed to be – but rather it is money, power and politics.

    The politicians are clearly pandering to these special interests groups to get voting support from these organisations’ membership.

    However, this is a very misguided and dangerous tactic. Particularly because it is such a obvious play for votes, which insults the intelligence of the Caymanian people.

    Special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Seventh Day Adventists or the Ministers Association should not be directly negotiating our constitution. They have no mandate from the Caymanian public and are not qualified to do so.

    Simply put, our country’s constitution is far too important to be used to curry favor with the Chamber of Commerce, the Seventh Day Adventists or the Ministers Association. I urge the PPM to reconsider the proposal to include any special interest lobby groups in the negotiations for a new constitution.  I can say here and now that I will be hard pressed to vote for any politician that thinks Caymanians are too stupid to see that they are handing over our consitution (tantamount to selling our country) to 2 or 3 special interest groups, in order to buy votes.

    MB Ebanks

  3. Chris Randall says:

    The proposed list of delegates is somewhat puzzling:  Why do the Seventh Day Adventists get their own representative, separate to that of the Ministers Association?  Following the same principal there should also be someone from the Roman Catholic and Anglican (St.George’s) churches, to say nothing of the Jehova’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Ba’hais, Jews, Quakers and Exclusive or Plymouth Bretheren.

    The whole delegation appears unweildly.  If every member has the same opinion, then there is no need for them all to be there;  if they don’t, then it will be impossible to arrive at a common position to present in the negotiations.  Ideally the team should be as small as possible and utilise technology to consult a wider pool of opinion back in the C.I. as and when necessary.