Minister says choice would unravel constitutional deal

| 17/02/2009

(CNS): The Human Rights Committee’s suggestion of offering voters a choice between full rights and half rights is unlikely to make it to the referendum as the government says it will not only lose the support of the church but the entire deal could unravel. During a press conference featuring all of the stakeholders in the talks, Minister Alden McLaughlin said the idea of asking the people to choose between Section 16 as a free standing right and the way it is written in the new draft constitution agreed in the UK could see the whole process derailed.

Since the compromise to restrict the non-discrimination section of the proposed Bill of Rights – Section 16 – to apply only within the bill itself, the HRC has said it cannot support the Bill of Rights. HRC chair Sara Collins has suggested that government allow the electorate to choose between Section 16 as it is now (half rights) or Section 16 as it was at the end of the first round of negotiations (full rights), giving the people a choice.

However, the government stated at Monday’s conference that it is not possible to begin inserting questions of choice into the referendum at this stage.

“We have a political agreement,” Minister McLaughlin told CNS.  “We cannot change what has now been agreed. The Human Rights Committee has been involved in every step of the talks and we are not prepared to re-open the negotiations now when we have a deal. If we do that we are changing the fundamentals and we could lose the concurrence we have already achieved with the other stakeholders.”

The minster said the electorate would not understand the difference in any event and that the issue is very complicated, adding that the time for discussion has passed. “It is one thing to argue the point during the negotiation process but the process is at an end. It is now time for the country to choose. After eight years we have a compromise that the church and the UK have agreed to — everyone except the HRC is in agreement,” McLaughlin said.

However, Collins disagreed with the position that the issue was complicated and that the people would not see the difference. She said it was important that the electorate saw the difference and understood exactly what has happened to their rights. She explained that after the first round of talks with the UK, Section 16 ensured that the government could not discriminate against anyone in all areas of everyday life. Now with the compromised section government can discriminate in a number of areas of everyday life not mentioned in the Bill of Rights — from health care, housing and employment to allowing seeing dogs on buses.

“What we are asking for is simple,” she said. “Let the people choose. You say we are not ready but perhaps we can show you that we are.”

Collins added that in a true democracy, on an issue like this, the voice of the people should and can be heard. She said the choice question would not derail the constitution but ensure that the constitution vote was a true reflection of what the people wanted.

Collins noted that so far the government has merely assumed, based on the input from the church, that everyone that will vote is not ready for gay and lesbians to have rights, so they are willing to sacrifice the full rights of every person just in case. If the question was put to them in the referendum  it would be a win win situation, she said.  “That is democracy in action. We will have a constitution in the end, but we will be sure that the wishes of the people … went into it.”

The Cayman Ministers Association said that, given the fact that the deal is done, they did not think a choice question was possible. Pastor Al Ebanks told CNS that all the positions had been put forward during the negotiations and now the UK has accepted the draft document.

“My concern would be going back to the UK after the negotiation process is closed and they have already accepted this document,” the Pastor said. He added that he had not discussed the possibility of a choice question with CMA members, but he was inclined to think that the association could not support it as it would been seen as changing the deal that was brokered after the fact.

During the morning’s conference, each of the stakeholders gave their opinion on the document and not one believed it was an ideal agreement but they all said it was the best given the circumstances. Collins was the only dissenting voice when she asked, why should the Caymanian people accept something that everyone agrees is not ideal?

“I am not sure that I can think of any other constitutional process where the people drafting the document stepped away from it at some point and said, ‘Well, there it is. It’s not ideal but it’s the best we can do for now so let’s just leave it half finished and come back to it later.’ I believe the Caymanian people want us to aim for perfection, to achieve the ideal,” Collins stated.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the issue was a matter of compromise and practicality. After eight years the crucial thing was to get the constitution modernized. He said the people of Cayman needed to consider if this document was better than the current constitution.

The question we must all ask is whether the draft constitution will improve the key areas of the administration of government and the protection of human rights for the Cayman Islands.  The answer to that question, I say, is an unequivocal yes,” the LoGB said.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As the moral fiber of the country is eroding almost before our eyes with domestic violence, alcohol, drugs, family breakdown, schools passing through children without education and skills, gangs, child abuse, unsolved murders, multigenerational inmates at Northward and serial adultry just to name a few off the top of my head.

    Now the real underlying cause of all these problems is homosexuality. If we can keep homosexuals down and in the closet then the cultural values of Cayman will be secure.

    Does this make sense to anyone other than the Ministers Association?

    • Anonymous says:

      The issue is much deeper than getting homosexuals out of the closet. Try reading some of the concerns expressed under various articles on CNS and take your head of the sand. Do not be blinded by the HRC’s rhetoric.

      • Anonymous says:

        “The question we must all ask is whether the draft constitution will improve the key areas of the administration of government and the protection of human rights for the Cayman Islands. The answer to that question, I say, is an equivocal yes,” the LoGB said".

        Surely he said unequivocal!
         
        CNS: You’re right – a typo, now changed.
  2. Anonymous says:

    Anyone in Cayman that would like to see the moral values promoted by many in Government only have to stop into bars like Country Western most evenings.  Fortunately the same freedoms promoted by the HRC would allow them the freedom to continue such pursuits free from persecution (if not re-election .. ha!) after all – all they have to do is let everyone else enjoy the same freedoms, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, disability, etc.   Certain pastors in Cayman like to think that somehow Christian values will cleanse many in their congregations of their tendencies to glaze over "thou shall not covet.." and "thou shall not commit adultery"… etc. but the societal reality is that these sins prevail here day after day and hurt the family model and future generations of this country far more than allowing two persons of the same sex to have rights in this country ever will.  Guess what,  you can’t keep your idea of rights and take away everyone else’s, sooner or later it will catch up with you.  This eroding of family values is already prevalent here and is of far more concern than same sex rights.  I would strongly suggest that Government, and the members of the churches who are against these rights, stop and look in the mirror – for therein lies a far greater danger to a peaceful Cayman life than the HRC. 

  3. Anonymous says:

     

    I am not sure who wrote the below comment as it was forwaded to me this morning but it is most deserving of a post!
     
    Tuesday, 17 February 2009
    Sara Collins may have reluctantly accepted the job of Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, but she has again, as is her usual mien, got about the business at hand and has shown us all that she has some serious cojones– and that, muchachas, in an Island of Cocks and Politicians such as ours, is one serious achievement for a woman. She has demonstrated in London and here, that the simple rights of equal treatment must never be subjugated in the interests of political expediency. The need and desire for Premierships and Power has usurped the opportunity for a Bill of Rights that is fair and decent. The unseemly haste on the part of our negotiators either to subordinate these Rights to the custodians of morality (and their vote-influencing pulpit rhetoric) or to for the convenience of the FCO Mandarins and their commitment to the EU Greater Good, reminds me in some way of that old adage that women fake orgasms, but men fake relationships.
     
    Sara will have none of this. Her own sense of Caymanian moral rectitude will not allow her to accept the notion of a progressive attainment of human rights, no matter how defined. She refuses to accept that the electorate are stupid enought to accede to these compromises, as apparently asserted by Aldon.
     
    Our men are faking it. Thank you Sara, for showing this up- again.
     
     

     

     

     

     

  4. Concerned Caymanian says:

    Attached is the link that you may access the draft constitution document.

    http://www.constitution.gov.ky/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/CMIHOME/RESOURCES/DRAFTCONSTITIONDOCUMENTS.PDF

  5. Jab-Jab says:

    Actually, the HRC does not fall in line with "the general view of much of North America and Europe". If you analyse what they are asking for, or, more to the point, what will be possible under the system they are asking for, then look at what is possible in Noth America & Europe you will find that what they are aksing for is beyond the acceptance of most of the overnments of the continents you site.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sorry but I have have had it with this guy’s public display of arrogance.  Mr Tibbets will get my vote any day but I will pass on alden this around until he gets off his high horse and treats the public with respect. I have no problem saying that I am a PPM supporter. But Alden needs to go…   

  7. Anonymous says:

    The government is on the horns of a dilemma.

    One one hand they have the Ministers Association clamoring the homophobic rhetoric to anyone who will listen and that means those who they reach from their pulpits. It is regrettable they have inserted themselves into the constitutional process but so it goes.

    On the other hand you have the HRC representing those working to protect the rights of everyone. Theirs is the morality of the future and the general view of much of North America and Europe. Unfortunately the HRC are fighting a strong lobby of the Ministers Association and the moral high ground may not overcome the power of the pulpit.

    The government wants this constitution to pass and have sided with the pastors based upon political expediency. What they individually believe is anyone’s guess.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Whose concern is it that giving the voters of Cayman a choice would unravel a "deal" that was made without consulting them? Did anyone know that this deal was being done in the context of the closed door talks? The people of Cayman only found out after the fact what was being taken out of section 16. Usually, when an agent  does a deal he has the instructions of his principal. In this case, if the deal was done without consulting the Caymanian people, the honourable thing to do would be to let them have their say on whether they wish that deal to stand. There is nothing to fear about letting the people vote. That’s democracy, not closed door sessions and back room deals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Given that the issue is likely to confuse the public, if this issue is put in then many will ensure that there is a campaign to vote against the entire draft Constitution, Bill of Rights and all. We would rather have none at all, than what you propose. That’s what the Minister means by "unravel". That is the line in the sand.   

  9. Anonymous says:

    As to the comment about Ellio, he is very much a one sided type of guy. Anything that seems to give outsidersequal footing with Caymanians will never fly with him even if some Caymanians will suffer. Should he get into the house we all will wonder how the "champion" became such a monster. We will have to depend on McKeeva to reign him in.

  10. Anonymous says:

    There is a public meeting about the bill of rights on Thursday at 7pm at the Family LIfe Centre. Everyone please come to that meeting to make your voices heard.

  11. TomCayman says:

    The article notes "The minster said the electorate would not understand the difference in any event and that the issue is very complicated".

    With all due derence to the Honourable Minister, and assuming the article is not putting words in his mouth as the article does not give a direct quote, I am a member of the electorate and I fully understand the issues involved with s16, in particular due to the very clear explanation given by Ms Collins and the HRC recently.

    I for one have signed up to the Equality Cayman group and wish to see us have the opportunity to vote on a constitution that is not "half a loaf".

    In saying that "the time for discussion is passed", iIt seems to me that our Government are asking us to simply rubber stamp the draft constitution as is, either accepting that half loaf or rejecting the entire document.

    This hardly seems like effective democracy in action.

    To be fair to the elected officials though, our government has their hands tied to some extent by the constitutional arrangement with the UK, as they can’t change the options available for us to vote on without going back once again to the UK to seek their permission.

    Still, this is a great opportunity for our elected officials to show some intestinal fortitude, recognise the need for the "full loaf", and, even at this late stage, go back to the UK and insist on giving our people the right to choose, not to simply vote yes or no on their "political agreement".

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Well TomCayman, since you "fully understand the issues involved in s16" please explain in plain language the ramifications of having a full, free standing right to equality in everything to do with our interactions with Government. In particular the areas pointed out by the HRC. How would our interactions be improved? How & who would be able to use them? What would this mean to the public purse? Etc.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I agree that the Government and Pastors that are controlling the drawing up of the Bill of Rights are treating the Public like they are just dumb and stupid and don’t know anything and don’t have no rights to stand up and say anything.  It is manipulation and control like a Dictatorship rather than a Democracy.

    I believe it’s the Pastors causing this belittling insult to the Public.  That is my belief.  I am a Christian and have not found any Church here where the Congregation has any rights.  They are all under a Dictatorship control.  (If there is such a Church here (and do know that i have been to alot of churches here), please do reply and let me know, i would love to know and come and visit and check out your church, because i would be amazed if it is any different to the others on a Dictatorship level.)  For that reason, if a Country is a Democracy, then maybe they should investigate the Churches, because if the Churches are run under a Dictatorship, then they should be shut down.  God created all human beings with free will to choose what they want to choose.  No one is to force anything upon anyone else.  In Churches the Congregation supplies most of the finances to the Leadership.  But then it seems the Congregation has no rights to know how much is collected and what it’s spent on, or to have a say on what some of it should be spent on.  When people choose leaders it’s because they believe the leader will be open, honest and transparent to the people and value the people’s inputs and let the people have a say.  That is how people go about choosing leaders.  When leaders shut out the people from the knowledge of what is being accounted or discussed and ordered at their leadership table, and shut the people out from having a say in various matters, then the leaders are disappointing, belittling, disrespectful and abusing their office of power over the people that voted them in to lead.  It becomes an absolute abuse of power.

    This is a Bill of Rights for the Public to have Rights.  The Public should not be kept in the dark, and should be informed of all that is being drafted up in the Bill of Rights and the Public should have a say in the matter!  Otherwise what kind of Bill of Rights is this? 

    This is a Democracy!

    Not a Dictatorship!

    God himself does not manipulate anyone, manipulation is a spirit of witchcraft.

    Stop treating the Public like they are stupid and dumb and their input is meaningless!  That is a disgrace to treat the Public like that with the Human Rights Bill.  Then what Human Rights would that be?

    Stop disgracing, insulting, humiliating and belittling the Public.

    It is the Public that votes and puts the Leader in Power, because they trust the Leader will listen to them.  No such luck here it seems with this Bill of Rights.  Seems the Leader is not listening to the Public.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Who can be a greater stakeholder in this process than the people of the Cayman Islands?  I believe Mr. McLaughlin stated in one of his first reported remarks after returning from the UK earlier this month that some changes were still possible.  Am I mistaken about that comment?  Now all of a sudden that isn’t possible.  They may havea political agreement but to my way of thinking their agreement should be with the people of these islands.  

  14. Anonymous says:

    Amazing.

    He made a "political agreement" with the churches and the FCO and now does not want to admit that he was WRONG to ignore the views of the HRC – which seem to resonate with more people than he realized. How arrangant!

    I for one, wanted the bill of rights to apply to the private sector: the way some of these companies treat people – especially the law firms, is disgraceful.

    The only people asking for application to the private sector was the HRC. And I also do NOT like this business of them cutting down the right of equality to please the churches: what about the rest of us??

    and now he is too arrogant to try to explain his actions because it is "too complicated" for us to understand? it is to laugh! Pastor Al and other regular people (not lawyers) are able to understand thn so can everyone else.

    I find the way the government has handled this whole constitutional moderisation is very distateful and underhanded!

    May 20 cannot come soon enough!

     

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am a caymanian. and I agree with the last post by the expat worker. I have always thought that this particular minister appeared to be very arrogant. while I agree with one of the other post that he may mean well, that is not enough to lead the country.  The minister of education has a lot to explain regarding the past 4 years. and Yes I agree that his statement that we don’t understand the section anyway is very insulting to say the least.

  16. Yo Mama says:

    Cayman is a theocracy

     

    It’s official, Cayman is a theocracy. Our government won’t do what it knows to be right (promote equality and justice for all) because the church has ordered  them not to.

    Because these people are terrified of the prospect of two women holding hands in George Town (actual example given by the Leader of Govt. Business in Monday’s press conference) they are willing to discard the rights of all. Why is Kurt Tibbetts going along with this?

    Thank God the church cabal didn’t order him to bring back witch burnings or I guess he would have tried to put that in the constitution.

    Why are gays so important to the church leaders? Why do they seem to feel that history swings on a pink hinge? Why does this one small part of society overwhelm concerns about racism, gender discrimination, the neglect of children, and so on? Fine, you don’t like gays — then don’t marry one! If you believe they will all go to hell, then fine, keep believing it. But why is this obsession allowed to wreak havok on everyone’s constitution?

    What is going on here? Cayman is behaving as if it’s the Dark Ages and Pastor Al is the Pope.

    Kurt Tibbetts, please stop kissing that man’s ring. Forget politics on this one. Follow your heart and your mind. Even if it costs you the election in May, you and everyone else will always know that you are a decent human being who tried to do the right thing by standing up to irrational fear and mean-spirited bigotry.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I am an expat worker who will never be able to vote in an election here, but I do come from a democtratic nation and haveexercised my right to vote there. If, EVER, a politician said publicly or even intimated the sentiment reported by Minister McLaughlin—that "the electorate would not understand the difference in any event and that the issue is very complicated,"

    I can only hope that the electorate will "understand" that your government holds a very low opinion of you–apparently thinking that you are dim-witted and incapable of reasoning. Be SMART enough to vote the arrogant, the condescending, and the self-righteous right out of office-regardless of their political affiliation.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Minister is not being arrogant, he is being realistic. One only has to have a discussion on the issue with the man in the street to know this. The HRC knows this as well, but they are hoping to confuse the electorate with grandstanding to achieve their objective. This is all about making a name for oneself rather than any true concern about rights. The rights of Caymanians have been trampled on in the workplace for a long time, but never once did we hear the HRC speak up about this.     

    • Twyla M Vargas says:

      SO VERY TRUE

      If you have a politician speak so low of his electorate one would wonder how ignorant he think weare.    I do hope there are persons who read his report understand what is thought of the people of Cayman.   I sure do hope that was a slip of the tongue.    Because we are obviously being put in the category of being dim-witted and incapeable of reasoning.  So very true.

      If I was to say I am surprised I would not be telling the truth.  Some politicians really take all of us for fools, that includes paper and non paper Caymanians.  I know they will strike out at me for speaking up, I thought this was a free country;  but guess what  "Tough Luck"   If they think they can win a battle with me………..go ahead start the war………………………………………..

      It so happened that quite a few years ago I was at a political meeting in Bodden Town and heard one of the Bodden Town candidates say these words. "IF YOU DRESS UP A BROOM STICK IN BODDEN TOWN THEY WILL VOTE FOR IT."    and the people responded with "Yeah" …………………………….  Its called listening, but not hearing.  Its called insulting your people, its called being dim-witted and incapeabable.   VOTE THEM ALL OUT WHO IS NOT FOR THE BETTER OF THIS COUNTRY.  Do not vote against someone because you dont like them or they have not given you money.  Vote because it is the right thing to do and the best person for the job.  Again there is no personal feelings against anyone.  I am just telling it like it is.  Continue to be blessed.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Personally I believe this minister means well. However I do agree that he has made some serious mistakes during his term. He made a great start with those education conferences. But after that we have not actually seen any action to improve things. All we have are some promised schools etc. I don’t much about his work in other areas so I don’t want to be too judgemental. But I think he did not do so well on the education and training side of things. I think he means well but I will likely support only Mr Kurt Tibbets this time around and probably not Mr. Mclaughlin.

  19. Anonymous says:

    This minister is arrogant and I cannot wait until 20th May. He and other PPM members will be voted out of office.

    Independents – we are counting on you all so DO NOT be bought out by the parties like Ellio did. We do not want the parties- we want FREE thinkers.

    • Twyla M Vargas says:

      I AGREE WITH SOME

      I believe we are on the same wave length,  and I agree with some of your statement, but you maybe wrong in thinking that Elio Solomon has been bought out by parties.

      Building a house on one post can never stand alone, if you do not put the other three I believe it will lean.

      Elio Solomon is independent, but he does need three other post to hold the house.  Please give it some consideration considering who are and will be independent candidates.  I cannot vision it, that when an independent candidate gets elected he or she will have a private chair to sit in away from the others.  He or she will have to stand on that BACK BENCH or GOVERNMENT BENCH.  Will he /she still say I am Independent then?  I do not think so.  Give it some thought and see if it makes sence.  Be blessed.

       

    • Anonymous says:

      Your right on target sir.  Everyone has a price and Ellio Solomon desperately sold out.  Lets see if it matters when election time rolls around!