Activists urge voters to understand constitution

| 19/04/2009

(CNS):  With just over four weeks to go before polling day the general election noise appears to be drowning out the information regarding the referendum vote on Cayman’ proposed constitution which will take place on the same day. However, Equality Cayman is urging voters to read and learn the constitution and the rights that it currently denies them. It says its goal between now and 20 May referendum will be to raise awareness and help the electorate understand the pros and cons of a yes or no vote.

 

On 20 March this year the grass roots organisation Equality Cayman which was created to draw attention to the lack of human rights protections included in the new constitution’s Bill of Rights, submitted a petition with 701 signatures to the office of Kurt Tibbetts.

“The petition requested that the Government include two alternative versions of Section 16 in the 20 May referendum and allow people to choose for themselves, between the original section 16 (free standing right) or the new section 16 (right to equality limited to the Bill of Rights),” said Equality Cayman spokesperson, Carlene Alexander. “To date, Equality Cayman has not received a response from Mr. Tibbetts or anyone in his office.”

She added that 300 of the petition signatures were obtained in just one day, which suggests that had the organization had more time, a lot more signatures could have been obtained. She explained that Equality Cayman’s primary concern is that the original section 16 of the draft Bill of Rights stated that the Government should not discriminate against anyone at any time, however, the new section 16 does not protect anyone from discrimination by the Government in relation to healthcare, housing, employment, access to public spaces, the provision of social services and anything else which is not listed as a specific right in the Bill of Rights.

In the original draft constitution, the right to equality applied in all areas of daily life, including healthcare, housing and employment. This meant that it could not be restricted and made to apply only to certain areas/types/categories of rights and not to others. If the new constitution is accepted, there will be no full right in the Constitution to truly equal treatment by the Government.

As a result she says the organization is now embarking on a campaign encouraging the public to educate themselves on the details of the constitution and the rights that it currently denies them. The primary objective of Equality Cayman now will be to facilitate that education process and help Cayman voters understand what the pros and cons are of voting yes or no on the constitution as it stands.

The constitutional secretariat has produced an explanatory guide document for the constitution written in plain English. In it government takes some four pages to spell out its position regarding the denial of a free standing right in section 16. However, it does not explain in those pages that all Caymanians will be denied protection from discrimination regarding a number of areas including health, housing and access to various services offered by government. The documents are available in libraries across the islands or log onto www.constitution.gov.ky

 

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  1. Green says:

    Purple,

    About 2 months ago,  I thought so also. In fact – we were all sitting back from the Constitutional drafting process assuming that the UK would not allow this kind of Bill of Rights to happen in the first place.   However, I understand that the FCO has ignored and discouraged  a number of organised attempts from Cayman to have them intervene – in addition to ignoring Human Rights Watch’s open letters to Miliband & Jack.

    Apparently the accusation of violation of all of these international obligations & the violation’s potential re-precussions are not enough to make them act. 

    Its unfortunately – or fortunately if we happen to have a majority NO vote –  in our (Cayman’s) hands now it seems.

     

     

  2. Purple says:

    Green, with a bit of planning the UK can be made to intervene in respect of some of the rights failures (particularly those in respect fo discrimination on the basis of national origin or limitations on running in elections or voting).  The FCO is subject to the Human Rights Act, and by breaching the ECHR it will be breaching the Act.  Legal proceedings could be issued in London to protect rights in Cayman by requiring the UK to amend the Constitution.  And anyone who suffered in the meantime would have a damages claim against the FCO.

  3. Green says:

    Unfortunately, it seems the UK will not intervene – although the UK’s approval of the Cayman draft Bill of Rights is problematic for them with respect to thier international human rights obligations (ICCPR – Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, CEDAW – Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women & European Convention on Human Rights – ECHR).

    I guess they assume as usual the people of the Cayman Islands will passively accept whatever is handed down to them — without significant protest (the not so wise or worldly locals, unable to organise themselves or recognise thier own best interest, prepared to sacrifice thier own rights to take rights away from some already abused and marginalised group in society)- and their acceptance of the BoR will go more or less un-noticed and will cause no major problems for them.

    Its up to Caymanian voters to vote No on the Constitution – if you would like your country to have a just foundation which guarantees you and your loved ones meaningful equality and meaningful human rights. 

    Of course both political parties are pushing for a vote Yes – Kurt and Mac can’t wait to be ‘Premier’.

    Vote No for YOURSELF and for a just society and respect for human rights. And not for political expedience (Yes).

     

    And to the last comment – its quite simple – the Government HAS the right to discriminate against you and everyone in Cayman, on any basis, with respect to employment, healthcare, housing, and access to public space and public services.

    Do you want to be subject to a Constitution which gives the Government the right to discriminate against you in these areas? Will you deny others the right to a constitution which protects them from such discriminiation? While this may have little significance or impact on your life – think about the hundereds of Caymanians who are either old & poor (think about the Pines – and Government’s refusal to fund its renovation – in the papers last week), mentally and or physically disabled and mentally ill – and all of thier family members,  one of the 3 dozen children who live in the Fairbanks trailer park, or others in our society who are totally marginalised and have no laws, policies or legisations which effectively protect them. A free standing right to non-discriminiation would give them this!

    Its not too late Cayman. Vote No on the constitution and insist the next final draft after May 20th have a free standing right to non-discriminiation.

  4. I AM WATCHING says:

    READ THE LAST PAGE…..WHAT HAS OUR GOVERNMENT ASKED FOR???

    1. As part of the Constitutional Modernisation process the THE CAYMAN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT made the following proposal:

    “After the present modernisation process has been completed, further changes to the Constitution should not be made without the authorisation of a referendum, UNLESS the change is declared by the PREMIER and the Leader of the OPPOSITION to be minor or uncontroversial, in which case a RESOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT would be sufficient. The UK Government should be invited to agree that it would honour this referendum requirement.”

    2. In general the United Kingdom Government approves the idea that substantial constitutional changes should be supported by the people of the Cayman Islands in a referendum. Accordingly, the United Kingdom Government would normally USE ITS BEST endeavours to honour this referendum requirement. However, there MAY BE exceptional circumstances where it would NOT be possible or appropriate to do so, and for that reason the United Kingdom Government must RESERVE its position on this matter.

    WHAT IS a “MINOR AND UNCONTROVERSIAL CHANGE”???….could it be changing one word from “SHALL” to “MAY”…that is minor but also SIGNIFICANT….Do not get caught in the ‘red herring’ of the Bill of Rights–know what you are voting for and the powers the Government has requested !!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is interesting to see Equality Cayman avoid mentioning the rights of homosexuals to marry which i feel is their real agenda.Note the homosexual rights group writing to London on thier behalf.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Equality Cayman’s best hope of getting justice is by securing support from UK-based rights groups such as Liberty or Stonewall to lobby for a change – after all it is election year in the UK too!

    • Anonymous says:

      Equality Cayman appears to have stopped reading the draft Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities before they got to Section 19.

      Section 19 gives the right to everyone without discrimination the right to "lawful administrative action". As 19(1) explains, all decisions and acts of public officials must be lawful, rational, proportionate and procedurally fair."

      Section 1(3) makes it clear that Section 19 is included in the responsibilities of the "government" – because "government" includes "public officials", even, in respect of this section, if the officials are those of courts or tribunals – but the definition of "public officials" is wider than that, and "includes any organisation or person carrying out a public function or duty, including the Governor, except where the nature of their act is private" (section 28).

      Notice that this important right is included in the rights conferred under Section 16 (1), because it is a right under "this Part of the Constitution".

      This shows that disabled people, as indeed all people, are certainly protected by this Bill of Rights.  

      It is easier to mislead people by emotional outpourings, but it is vastly more important to stick to the solid truth.  Stop misleading people, Equality Cayman and others, about this. The draft Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities is an excellent document, and should be approved without reservation.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just what we need to gain clarity on the constitution – a one-issue group who thinks the only think that matters in the Constitution is to have their version of section 16.  

        Groups like Equality Cayman want to oppose the draft Constitution in the hope that if the referendum is not passed Britain, in order to satisfy its international human rights obligations, will impose a Bill of Rights that contains no local input and caters to gay rights. Unfortunately, this is a realistic scenario. Wake up Caymanians! The draft Constitution has some flaws but is basically a sound document that deserves our support.