Constitutional Modernization

| 16/02/2009

In this specific instance the Leader of Government Business is right on Constitutional Modernization. There have been many examples in the past 18 months which makes it clear that this is necessary.

I have a piece of paper on which I’m trying to record what precisely has the British government done for these and other colonies that is favorable. The paper is still blank.

So it does our country no good for the Hon McKeeva Bush to demagogue this important issue for political positioning or whatever his motives are. In fact, it is a disservice to our country and I beseech him to cease and desist. This is conduct unbecoming of anyone that wants the best for our country and puts its best interests first. This is not behaviour that these islands are searching for with political leadership, especially someone vying to be the first Premier. You would think that he did not have anything to do with the negotiations. You would think that he did not have these objections at the table. Stop the Shenanigans. Let’s move our country forward and approve this Constitutional Modernization.

As for the Human Rights Committee’s objections, I do understand their concerns but I detect a bit of a two-faced move on their part. They have never done anything in the past about gay rights, they have never done anything about discrimination, even in their own profession, and they never been vocal about equal pay for all, so what is with the current drama with them throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of the process? I am not anti gay rights – they are people too. The Human Rights Committee fails to separate what is achievable from what is not achievable. Are they willing to pay for the cost of these rights that they espouse? We did not get the perfect Constitution, but got something that takes us further to defining “our own destiny”. Other steps will take time and will come in due course. So please do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let us make this first step. Please for the good of our very small nation and more importantly for our children and grandchildren.

What we now need is a cadre of new leaders that are visionaries, balanced and fair. People that are honorable, capable and can work together and move our country forward. Since the party isn’t working, let us find the competent Independents that can do the job and do it well.
 

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Comments (9)

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  1. Melanie McLaughlin says:

    In April 2008, we published a Constitutional Guide explaning all of rights and also, the meaning of some of the terms (such as "horizontal" or "vertical" application of rights). 

    The Guide also gives useful, everyday examples: http://www.humanrights.ky – and answers specific questions, such as prayer in schools.  Freedom of religion in the Bill of rights will ensure Christians practices (such as prayer) can continue.   Persons of a different faith can’t be forced to participate but can join if they choose to.  Cayman’s position is very different from that of the United States. The United States decided that their country should have a clear separation of church and state and so prayer is no longer allowed in U.S. government schools.  However, this is not the case for Cayman nor will a bill of rights change that position in Cayman.

     

    In relation to the implications of a freestanding right of discrimination: remember that the Bill of Rights only applies to Government. So, private matters (such as you rent your apartment to another private individual) will still be a matter for local laws.

    I would also like to emphasis that the HRC is a neutral, independent party and our only objective is to get the best rights for the people. All of our members (except 3) are Caymanians and we have our country’s best interests at heart.  Our role is to educate and infom the people on the rights and the implications, so that they can decide for themselves which rights they want in the Constitution. This is why we have pointed out to people that section 16 has been changed and are trying to get the Government to give people a choice between the old section 16 (freestanding right) and the new section 16 (limited to the Bill of Rights).

    Please attendthe public meeting on Thurs at 7pm at Agape Family Worship Center – and get fully informed on all groups’ positions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Ms. McLaughlin,

      Thank you for your response which was helpful in certain respects. I note however that you did not address the government assistance for overseas emergency medical treatment point. This is of critical importance, as it would mean either that our govt. is bankrupted as everyone has a right to receive such assistance because in the past govt. has assisted indigent Caymanians, or alternatively, that indigent Caymanians would no longer receive such assistance. 

      You mention vertical vs. horizontal application of rights. It is true that the HRC had conceded this position, but a recent post  by your esteemed chairman seems to have jettisoned that as well:

      "Should we have the obligation not to discriminate against each other? I am surprised and encouraged to see that many posters here and elsewhere also think that we should include our obligations to each other as part of the debate. As an example of how the obligation between private citizens would work, ask yourselves some questions: Would it be acceptable for an employer not to hire a Seventh Day Adventist if they refused to work on their sacred day, which is Saturday? Would it be acceptable for a landlord to refuse to rent to Jews? At the moment, the Constitution is silent about those things. It is fundamentally important for us to get the balance right".

      You say our position is differentfrom that the U.S., but the position in the U.S. has not been derived so much from what the U.S. constitution actually says but from what activist, liberal judges have interpreted it to mean. They have interpreted no establishment of religion to mean no prayer in schools.  The same could be the case here under a freedom of religion clause. A number of our judges come from liberal societies and will have liberal views.  

      The nature of a free-standing right against disrcrimination is that it is so all-encompassing that we cannot possibly contemplate all the scenarios that may arise and therefore make an informed decision. Why not proceed with caution?

         

  2. Anonymous says:

    Melanie McLaughlin, your barking up the wrong tree. When Sara Collins took over your organization she was asked to post the Boundary Commission’s Electoral Report of 2003

    and she said she would and it never happened. I was explained that it was important for people to know how the government has failed them by not supporting one person one vote, equal protection of the laws and how it would drop the cost of getting elected in the Cayman Islands.

    The political parties do not have the best interests of the country at heart. She never delivered. She never stood up for this very simple posting. So all that stuff you write is pure gama radiated Horse manure. The lot of you should be let go. Your public relations campaign is going no where. Do something for your country and get out of the way of the progress. You make me sick.

    • Anonymous says:

      Whoa, bit hateful there aren’t we?

      Why are we Caymanians so afraid of change, I have no idea. But if you want to continue pretending that allowing free rights to all is somehow going to make Cayman worse…You people really need to look around at where and how we are living.

      I think the HRC has the best interest of ALL Caymanians as their priority which is a lot more than I can sayabout our MLA’s. We the Caymanian people have every right to know the changes made to what would be OUR Constitution and have our say as well.

      These pastors of CMA are supposedly worried about protecting the Caymanian people from what…sin? Come on, it’s here and it’s been here a long time just look around.

      I am not willing to sacrifice the health and well being of my future generations because the people in power are afraid of change and what it brings.

      We consider ourselves a Caribbean gem but yet the attitudes of our people are blackening the call to our shores.

      You don’t have to like gays or their lifestyle or what they wear or anything else about them, the simple point is this, they are human beings and deserves the rights afforded to us all.

      P.S. The CMA really should check themselves before they claim they are doing the Lord’s bidding by not allowing gays or whoever else their rights because on judgement day when you have to explain to the good Lord why your heart was hardened by hate for his wayward Children I hope you come up with a ‘life-saver’ of a good reason.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is always amusing about liberals is that they complain about labelling persons but they never hesitate to label anyone who disagrees with them as "hateful" whether or not it has any basis. Apparently they believe this means they have seized the moral high ground. I have read through the posts on this topic and I have found it comparatively even-tempered without any evidence of hatred. Rather than address the genuine issues raised you have gone off on a rant against the CMA about gays.

        The HRC is not concerned about Caymanians; it is concerned about rights for everyone (that’s why they’re called human rights) and selling the idea of rights to Caymanians. Like every good salesman it emphasises the positive aspects but is mute on the negative aspects. Let us have an honest discussion of the issue unclouded by labelling others as "hateful" merely because they have a different perspective.  

        • Anonymous says:

          You’re right that McKeeva is a demagogue. He participated fully in the negotiations and yet can’t fully bring himself to endorse it but is citing unspecified concerns which he has to pray about. It’s as if he is testing the wind to see what may be more politically favourable. If he senses that most  people support the new draft then God will have spoken to him and all will become clear. The dilemma is that this may give the Govt. some credit which he cannot afford to do. If he senses that the human rights lobbyists are winning his epiphany will take any altogether different turn. So right now he is on the fence.  What a wily politician!   

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear Ms. McLaughlin,

    Don’t you think it would be fair if the HRC explained all the implications of these rights and not simply the ones which sound nice and rosy? The HRC is intoxicated with the idea of rights, but is not focussed upon the full practical implications of those rights in real life. For example, if there is a free-standing non-discrimination clause, does it mean that I will be forced to rent my apartments to a man who is practising obeah? Does it mean that if Government voluntarily provides financial assistance to an indigent Caymanian to receive emergency medical treatment abroad that it must also do so for non-Caymanians who are here simply on a work permit and may be gone next year, or alternatively that it will stop providing needed assistance to indigent Caymanians? Will it mean the end of prayer in schools as it discriminates against those no faith or different faith?    

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. The BVI negotiators were simply not as sharp as ours. Why on earth would we want to follow the BVI?  

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well said, Mr. Jackson. Finally, a voice of calm and reason.  

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr. Jackson Jr.,

    I have been a member of the Human Rights Committee since its inception in 2005 and write to hopefully, shed some light on some of the concerns expressed above about the HRC’s role and community work so far.

    The HRC was established in 2005 as the national, independent organisation to promote and protect human rights in Cayman.  Since inception, the HRC has been very active in the community, investigating and reporting on human rights complaints and issues on a myriad of matters including: childrens issues, healthcare discrimination, treatment of refugees – just to name a few.  Please visit our website http://www.humanrights.ky for copies of all of our reports and work.

    As part of the constitutional reform process, the HRC undertook a public awareness campaign (media appearances, publishing reports, public meetings) to ensure the people have an understanding of human rights and also understand how the various constitutional proposals will affect each of them.  Our Committee’s terms of reference is and remains: to seek the best protection of rights for all people in the Cayman Islands.

    To that end, we recommended the Bill of Rights be drafted in plain English, that rights be included for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, mentally  and physically disabled, children. We have maintained throughout the constitution talks that the draft Constitution must be based on a principle of equality – for all people:  black, white, gay, straight, man, woman, child, disabled and non-disabled.    We do not seek to throw a "monkey wrench" in the process or to derail the constitution.  The HRC is obliged to fully inform all persons in the community of what the changes in the draft Constitution mean. Every voter must be empowered to make their decisions on an fully informed basis. 

    With respectto identifying "what is achievable" for us as a country – the HRC is, in fact, only pointing out the deficiencies in the current draft and making people aware that there are feasible alternatives available and acheivable.  The HRC is therefore asking the Government to allow voters to choose between the original version of the right of equality and the new version that is in the current draft.

    The original section 16 was a freestanding right of non-discrimination. This meant the Government could not discriminate against anyone in any area of life.  This was changed.   The new section 16 limits the right of non discrimination to only the matters appearing in the Bill of Rights – which does not include things like healthcare, housing or employment.   This was changed to prevent too many rights being given to gays.  However, it also means that everyone (not just gays) now also gets less constitutional protection.   It is achievable and conceivable that the majority of Caymanian people may want a freestanding right.   The HRC is asking  the Government to simply give the people the choice and let them vote on it  – that is democracy in action.

    Without a freestanding right of non discrimination (original section 16), most people will continue in the same position as we are in today –  unable to compel the Government to pass legislation to protect women and girls from discrimination (CEDAW – still not in force for over 10 years), to protect children (Childrens Law 2003 still not in force after 5 years), to protect disabled persons (still no Disability Law in Cayman) or demand equal pay legislation or paternity leave for men.

    The HRC hopes the Government will allow people a choice on the extent to which they want the right of equality to apply (a) just to the Bill of Rights or (b) to all areas of life including healthcare, employment or housing.

    Other OTs, such as the BVI have recently undergone a constitutional reform process and have given their people a freestanding right of equality.   Our people ought to be allowed to choose that for themselves; the HRC is only asking that we be allowed to do so in the upcoming constitutional referendum.  Any persons who might support a freestanding right of equality may vote "No" to the current draft; by giving people a choice, this should increase the chances of the draft Constitution being accepted.  

    I hope this is helpful.

    Melanie McLaughlin