Constitution gets less than half electorate’s support

| 22/05/2009

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Constitution was passed on the say ofless than 50% of the full electorate, though it did receive 62.2% approval from those who took part on Wednesday, 20 May, or 7,045 ‘yes’ votes. Although the new Constitution itself stipulates that a people-led referendum must receive an approval rating of more than 50% of the entire electorate (which is currently 15,361), this vote did not reach that figure. In order to achieve the new standard of referendum it would have required 7,681 votes to pass.

However, the Referendum Law which was passed in the Legislative Assembly earlier this year only required a 50+% of the actual turnout, which was in the end 11,244 people, or around 69% of the entire electorate. Susan Bothwell from the Constitutional Secretariat told CNS that she felt that given this was Cayman’s first ever referendum it was an impressive result.

“I believe it was a tremendous turnout considering this was the country’s first ever referendum. The numbers are quite impressive and the truth of the matter is most people who voted in the General Election also took part in the referendum,” she said. “The country’s mandate has been ‘yes’ for acceptance of the Constitution. Now the work will begin to prepare for the implementation of the new Constitution."

Although the result was bitter-sweet for Alden McLaughlin, the former minister who, along with Kurt Tibbetts the outgoing leader of government business, has been associated most with the drive for constitutional modernisation, he told CNS he was delighted that the people had voted ‘yes’ in the referendum despite the election result. “We are very please that the new Constitution has been approved and this document will be around a lot longer than any political administration,” he said.

Governor Stuart Jack expressed his pleasure at the outcome and said it was as a result of three rounds of negotiations between the government of the United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands government, the opposition, and non-governmental organisations, representing the churches, the local business community and the Human Rights Committee.

“An Order in Council will now be submitted to Her Majesty in the Privy Council for consideration at its next meeting on 10 June,” he said. “The new Constitution Order will be brought into force by me by proclamation soon after it has been made in the Privy Council. At that time, I will issue a further press release explaining the phased introduction of the new Constitution. There is much work to be done, and my office will be working closely with the Constitutional Review Secretariat and others to ensure a smooth transition.”

Bothwell too felt that it was important for the secretariat to continue its work following the result to help educate people about what it means to them and to assist with its implementation.

“I definitely see a future roll and function for the secretariat in terms of education,” Bothwell said, adding that she herself had been seconded and so the unit may well be headed up by someone else in the future, but either way she hoped  it would continue on with its work of informing and educating.

This morning, the UK’s Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron welcomed the acceptance of the draft Cayman Islands Constitution Order at the referendum on 20 May and congratulated the United Democratic Party on its election into Government.

 “I am delighted too that the draft new Constitution has been accepted by the people of the Cayman Islands.  As I said in February at the conclusion of the final round of talks, which I was honoured to chair, the new Constitution will be an important step forward for the people of the Cayman Islands,” she said, adding the she recognised the debate surrounding the Bill of Rights.

“I am convinced that it is an important first step in the enhancement of human rights protection in the Cayman Islands, and that it will raise awareness of and strengthen respect for human rights in the Islands. The new Constitution will also help to ensure the increasingly high standards of good governance to which the UK government attaches considerable importance.

“We look forward to working with the new government of the Cayman Islands towards timely implementation of the new Constitution Order.  I know that it will entail a great deal of work, and I am grateful for the efforts that have already been made to help ensure a smooth transition," Merron added.

Although some elements of the Constitution will be implemented immediately, the Bill of Rights will be phased in over a period of three years. Also, certain domestic laws may have to amended and new ones passed in order to ensure the national legal framework is compatible with the requirements under the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009.



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  1. Anonymous says:

    If all of our candidates were responsible as those that openly said they had read and understood the constituion………and told people they were voting yes for the constitution, then perahps nearly everyone one would have voted for it. One only has to look at the districts that the election candidates told people they would vote yes and you will see we the 7,000 were pretty smart.

  2. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    Haven’t you seen the want ads placed in Cayman newspapers by local churches? Some churches here discriminate based on a person’s religion for positions such as yard workers and janitors. This is the sort of unjust discrimination that our constitution could have stood against but does not.

    In modern societies that embrace human rights hiring people is based on qualifications and experience, not believing in Jesus or being a member of a favored version of a particular religion. This may shock you but a non-Christian groundskeeper really can do a fine job of cutting a church’s grass.


    • Anonymous says:

      Is this what your argument has degenerated to – non-Christian competition for jobs as yardboys for churches is the reason not to have a new Constitution that is a huge improvement on the present one.  

  3. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    No matter what you say you cannot change reality.

    This constitution does not have an unrestricted bill of rights that protects the people from racial, gender, age and religious discrimination. Read it again. It’s not there.

    You cite a labor law that seems to preven unjust discrimination in hiring practices. But something is wrong here. The churches and the previous LOGB celebrated the fact that the new constitution will still allow churches and schools to unfairly discriminate in hiring people based on their religion.

    You can go on and on about conventions, laws, the ability to hire an expensive lawyer and file complaints, and so on. But still we are left with the fact that this constitution does not have an unrestricted bill of rights that protects people from racial, gender, age and religious discrimination.

    The preachers who were on the negotiating team in Londan said this omission was necessary for Caymanian society to avoid tumbling down the slippery slope of gay rights and "excessive" human rights. Idiotic reasoning, to be sure, but that is what they said on the record.

    Why are you are so content to embrace such an inappropriate bill of rights? Do you share their moronic and mean-spirited view?

    Time will tell. Placing faith in laws that come out of the LA is foolhardy. Look at the bunch who just left and look at this new incoming crew. Do you seriously think we will see massive amounts of human rights legislation coming any time soon?

    This constitution was the best chance to place Cayman firmly into the current century. And we blew it.



    • Anonymous says:

      Abdominal, of course the Bill of Rights isn’t "unrestricted" since section 16 is not free-standing and since there are qualifications to most of these rights.  That would clearly be pandora’s box. Why do you think the UK declines to ratify Protocol 12 to the ECHR? There are many legitimate reasons to discriminate.

      "You cite a labor law that seems to preven unjust discrimination in hiring practices. But something is wrong here. The churches and the previous LOGB celebrated the fact that the new constitution will still allow churches and schools to unfairly discriminate in hiring people based on their religion".

      The Labour Law does not apply to churches and charities. It is absurd to claim that a church who declines to hire a Hindu e.g. as a youth worker or worship leader is unfairly discriminating. What an appalling idea! It is exactly this mentality that CMA was objecting to, and in that respect they are 100% correct.  Also remember these are public schools, but church schools.

  4. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    Smokescreen alert…

    If it’s no big deal, totally unnecessary, then why did the preachers make such a big stand against having horizontal rights and protection against the most common forms of discrmination in this constitution? They answered that question, of course. They said a bill of rights that prohibited discrmination based on race, gender, age, religion and age woud lead to gay rights and too much litigation. They said this repeatedly. They were a part of the negotiations so we can’t just dismiss what they said.

    You do not seem to recognize the difference between a bill of rights that is enshrined in a constitution and simple laws that can be changed at the whims of whatever fruitcakes get elected into the Legislative Assembly.

    Chances are, you are a decent person. Think about what it is you are defending here. You are defending a constitution that left out the most basic and necessary rights and protections for any modern society. Is this really the position you want to argue from?

    A final point, you said I was insulting to the majority of Caymanian Christians. That charge is insulting. Why do you assume that I am not a Caymanian Christian? Since when do Christians have to be for disrimination and against human rights in order to count?

    Not all Caymanian Christians are bigots or without compassion for all people.


    • Anonymous says:

      Abdominal, you are just being argumentative. You make a statement (which is clearly incorrect) that not making the the rights horizontal means you can hire, fire on the basis of colour etc. Now that you have been corrected, rather than acknowledge that you were wrong desparation has led you to latch on the idea that for some inexplicable reason a Law that has been on the books for decades could now be changed to permit discrimination on those bases. Any new legislation  (which is passed by an arm of government, the LA) will not be permitted to be discriminatory under the new Constitution. Remember this has to advised on by the AG, the Human Rights Commission and be assented to by the Governor.

      That Constitution has not left out the "most basic and necessary rights and protections for any modern society". All such rights are clearly provided for in the various international human rights instruments with which the new Constitution is in complete accord.

      There you go again: anyone who does not agree with you is a bigot and without compassion. You talk about the preachers but I have yet to find someone more self-righteous than you.  And yes, you are being very rude to the vast majority of Caymanian Christians, simply because you have a difference of opinion. Now, isn’t that the very intolerance that you loathe?     

  5. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    Sorry, you are correct. I overstated the matter. I suppose I should have written: Thank you for the restricted, diminished, insulting and unjust nondiscrimination protections in this constitution.

    When religion stands in the way of justice and fairness for all, it does not deserve respect. If you think a gutted bill of rights in the name of religion or anything else is okay, then you need to check your own moral compass.

    As a young Caymanian I am ashamed of this constitution regarding its lack of fundamental rights. Why aren’t you?

    Yay! The preachers saved us from human rights! Yay! We can hire and fire people based on their color, religion and sex! Yay!

    Yay! Nobody can tell me I have to hire anyone who is not a born-again Christian. Yay! I don’t have to hire black people if I don’t want to. Yay! We won, yay!


    • Anonymous says:

      Abdominal, you are getting carried away on a wave of hyped emotion. Your conclusions are not based on the facts. No, you are not allowed to hire and fire on the basis of colour, religion sex etc. Section 80(1) of the Labour Law says as follows:

      "(1) No person (whether an employer or an employee) shall discriminate with respect to any person’s hire, promotion, dismissal, tenure, wages, hours or other conditions of employment, by reason of race, colour, creed, sex, pregnancy or any reason connected with pregnancy, age, mental or physical disability (provided their ability to perform the job is not impaired), political belief or the exercise of any rights under this or any other Law".

      Similarly, many of these vertical rights will take effect horizontally in other legislation.

      You should be very proud of the new Constitution since it is major step forward from the current one. Ms. Sara Collins, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, has embraced it. All of this angst is entirely misplaced.  

      I can assure I have no need to check my moral compass, but since you are happy to vilify those who disagree with you without bothering to actually check the facts it is clear that yours is in need of re-orientation.    

      • Anonymous says:

        Unfortunately, the Labour Law does not apply to government, where people can be paid off because they have reached 60 – age discrimination if ever I saw it.  The reason given is that the terms of employment with government meet or exceed those of the Labour Law.  It’s the same reasoning for the lack of portability of pension funds into the government pension scheme.  Private pension companies refuse to accept it as being on a par with what the private sector pension law requires.

  6. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    No, you need to reread it. This constitution does not provide the horizontal right to nondiscrimination based on race, gender and age.


    Yay! We won! We got a hollow sham of a bill of rights! Yay! Praise Jesus!

    • Anon says:

      Abdominal, your original statement had nothing to do with horizontal versus vertical rights but was a plainly a misstatement which I corrected. You obviously don’t understand the topical issue which was free-standing right vs. right confined to the rights under the Bill of Rights. You show a thorough lack of respect for the religious views of the majority of Caymanians.     

  7. Abdominal Cave Diver says:

    Yay! I voted for a constitution that doesn’t protect me from discrimination! Yahoo! Praise Jesus!

    Yay! We won! We won!

    Thank you pastors, political hacks, and radio talkshow host! Thank you for guiding us through this process. Thank so much for not forcing on us constitutional prohibitions against race, sex, religious and age discrimination to these blessed isles. Thank you so much!

    May God richly bless you for your wisdom and compassion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Abdominal, may be if you had actually read the draft Constitution you would know that it does protect against discrimination on these bases (see section 16(2)) to a greater degree than the European Convention on Human Rights.   

  8. rectal itch need not be a dealbreaker says:

    I saw a lady on a CITN report who said she didn’t read the constitution and didn’t understand it but her pastor had "held meetings on it" and told her to vote "yes" so she did.

    The people who sold this to gullible people should be ashamed of themsleves. It’s these people they conned, those who didn’t read it and don’t understand it, who are most likely to suffer discrimination.


    • Anonymous says:

      Actually Equality Cayman, Cayman reactionary ex-politicians and the HRC were selling a lot of garbage to gullible people. For example, the Premier will have "absolute power", or not including and obligation to warn suspects of the right to silence reverses the presumption of innocence.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think the people who didn’t vote at all just didn’t understand the constitution. I read the full book, and it was very hard to understand. I chose to vote ‘no’ for that reason alone. What parts I did understand, I felt was incomplete, needed more thought into it or something. Someone told me they voted ‘yes’ because PPM told them that in their meeting. I asked them if they understood it and they admitted they didn’t understand anything about it. This is sad!.

  10. bite me says:

    I heard a very vocal well-known lawyer on the radio today boasting about how proud he is to have played a part in influencing people to vote yes for this ridiculous constitution.

    Yeah, great job. You are a true educated statesman.


    By the way, don’t ever come into my restaraunt to eat. I don’t serve your kind.

    What are you going to do about it? This constitution you are so proud of certainly can’t stop me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    "I believe the writer was referring to expatriates."

    I have no doubt.  But then, it really isn’t our constitution… is it?

  12. drain the blue iguana says:

    A mere 7,000 ‘yes’ voters have imposed this retarded constitution on a society of 60,000 people for many decades to come.

    Wow, ain’t democracy swell?

    England and the Gov should be ashamed of themselves. They know this constitution is crap but they dimiss us as ignorant island people who don’t know any better. They assume that we aren’t ready for the modern age.

    Now, after this result, one has to wonder….

    What does it say about our educational system that so many people are dumb enough to vote ‘yes’ to severely restricted rights for themselves?

    Do they even teach civics and history in our primary schools here?

    As a young Caymanian I’m embarrassed for my people today.


  13. Anonymous says:

    I am wondering how many had the same experience as myself…I saw an older gentleman in front of me casting his vote, aside from ruining his ballot, he was VERY confused about his vote for the referendum. It was SOOO obvious. I feel for those working for the elections office if this was a constant. I feel sorry for the country if this is how we voted, as I am sure there are many similar examples…. and I have heard them. I am not happy, yes this is not a first to the public, but have we REALLY taken the time to UNDERSTAND what is being asked of us? Remember, this is not just for today, or support for a certain party, its our future and the future of our children. I implore all who have made a decision to TAKE THE TIME (it is your future) to READ this document and think how this will affect your children and future generations. WHAT IS THE LEGACY YOU ARE LEAVING BEHIND? I am upset by the ignorance of those who voted yes..and like many, I have to wonder if I have to start planning a future elsewhere.. YES I AM CAYMANIAN. I love my country with such passion!!! but I have to think of my child’s future. This is not a PPM matter as the previous suggestions for the constitution were not any better. This is decision we have to make without prejudices.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Interesting observation that while the model ballot for voting showed two fictitious names with an X beside one of them, the referendum model had an X beside the Yes option.

    A friend of mine inquired of the officer explaining how to complete the referendum how she should vote.  She was told to put an X beside the Yes.

    Hmm … makes the UDP handing out flyers on election morning insignificant in comparison.

    Where I voted the election booths had curtains but the referendum section didn’t.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Voters who did not wish the country to implement the new constitution for what-ever reason should have exercised their democratic right to vote "No".  Not voting at all was just that, an abstention and a conscious decision not to influence the outcome either way.  I am sure that they all know that abstentions don’t count towards the outcome, so the message from the abstainers was that they wished to abstain, nothing more, nothing less.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It is a major  constitution advance – and the majority of the voters did not vote for it.  Two indisputable facts.

  17. Anonymous says:

     Yes, I agree, shame on Cayman. Shame on Cayman for moaning and complaining while they had full power to make their voices heard. Shame on Cayman for not voting and then complaining about the result. Shame on Cayman for not taking an interest in what is going on in the country. There were numerous adds on the TV and on the radio telling people to register to vote. Voters registration booths were set up in supermarkets. They even went to some work places. There were constitution meetings held for months at a time in every district. There were numerous radio talk shows. There were handouts in the news papers, at the supermarkets, in government offices, there was a website, and yest still I heard people complaining that they didn’t know anything about it. 

    You can take a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink. One can only assume that those who did not vote against or for the constitution did not care to, as they were given ample opportunity to make their voices heard. Unless one lives in a bubble, one cannot blame the government. 

    Yes, indeed the people have spoken. And those who did not speak did not want to or did not care to, and they along with the rest of us who took the care to get aquainted with and informed about the constitution will have to live with it. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    What people fail to realize is that the people who chose to not vote were making a statement. Exactly what that statement is needs to be discerned by the government but it is a statement never the less.

    To not vote for the constitution under those circumstances is a powerful negative directed toward the powers that be.

    • frank rizzo says:


      What people fail to realize is that the people who chose to not vote were making a statement. Exactly what that statement is needs to be discerned by the government but it is a statement never the less.

      To not vote for the constitution under those circumstances is a powerful negative directed toward the powers that be.

      Wrong way to make a statement.  Example, total of 20 voters – 10 decide to make a statement by not voting – of the remaining 10, 6 vote yes and 4 vote no. Under the referendum rules the 6 yes votes carry for the entire 20 eligible voters – hardly a majority – hardly a negative? statement.  Not voting effectively assisted in passing the referendum.  Seems the only statement by the stay at homes is a shot in the foot.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Would it be right for a small number to hold everyone else hostage by refusing to participate?  I think, in view of the well-demonstrated need for the constitution to be modernised, no, but in future, yes, hence the difference.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Extraordinary – a constitution passed that less than half of the electorate have voted for. Shame on Cayman. and shame on the Governor for going along with the sham.  Ye shall reap which ye shall sow…

    • Big Al says:

      I do not quite understand what this furor is about. Anything that is put to a vote is determined by the number of votes that were received. How can you be responsible for the people who did not vote? If they were not responsible enough to come out to vote then they don’t have a say. Simple.

    • Anonymous says:

      This was presented to the public as a ‘modernisation’, would the public vote have been the same if they understood the truth – this is a major constitutional advance!  Next step is….

      • Anonymous says:

        "This was presented to the public as a ‘modernisation’, would the public vote have been the same if they understood the truth – this is a major constitutional advance!  Next step is…."

        More scaremongering. There had been ample public education on this issue. Meetings, articles, radio shows, television shows, lectures, summaries  – you name it. By and large those people who did not understand the document either did not vote at all or voted against it.  

        Clearly it is a constitutional advance – and a much needed one. Other territories have been at this new level for many years and some are more advanced, e.g. Bermuda and Gibraltar (2007) and neither one has been required to set any date for independence.  In the past the Turks & Caicos had set a date for independence and then changed their minds. It is not compulsory to take any "next step" but should we do so a "next step" will require the approval in a referendum of at least 50% plus 1 of the entire electorate

        Note that the California Constitution may be amended if a proposition is approved by more than 50% of all voters who vote.

        The statement that was made by failing to vote? It may be a series of statements one of which is that I do not take my civic right and responsibility seriously.

        73% of the electorate voting in the first referendum is pretty impressive. Approval by 62% means that it has received clear approval from the public.      


  21. Anonymous says:

    I see the activists who opposed the draft Constitution still haven’t given up.  There is nothing to challenge. The Referendum Law was assented to by the Governor and allowed by the UK Secy of State. In fact strictly speaking the draft Constitution did not even need a referendum. There was no referendum for the 1972 Constitution. This is a strong endorsement by the electorate considering all the disinformation that was put out there against the draft Constitution by reactionaries and activists. I guess they are feeling frustrated that all their efforts were in vain and commsense prevailed in the end.  Let’ s get on with it.     

  22. Anonymous says:

     "Most of whom had no say whatsoever"?  The Cayman people had the chance to vote on a new Constitution for the Cayman Islands (as well as for new governmental leadership).  Many did.  Many did not.  But those that did not vote certainly had every opportunity to make their wishes known – via their vote.  

    • frank rizzo says:

       "Most of whom had no say whatsoever"? 

      I believe the writer was referring to expatriates.

      • Anon says:

        What is proposterous is the idea that we would allow non-citizens who may be here today and gone tomorrow to determine our constitutional status. That notion needs to be bludgeoned until is completely dead.    

  23. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, PPM done it now, they had best stay out of sight for having unleashed this monster upon the Caymanian people, McKeeva will use each and every single one of these new powers and provisions to its absolute limit just you watch.  I am putting the FCO and FAC on immediate notice.  Tell Sir Robin to stick around, we will need him over here before long!

  24. Anonymous says:

    The proposed Constitution is just that,only a proposal. Therefore it is not possible to breach its provision that a people led refrendum would require approval of more than 50% of the electorate.  The quustion that troubles me is why would the LA pass a Law that did not reflect the intent of the constitution?  Anyone who is willing to challenge the inadvertent breach of  our Constitution by Mark and Dwayne should consider challenging this.  Let the UK know that the majority of voters did not vote for the new constitution. Dont tell me that all the politicians are so anxious for more power that they wont raise this!  Whats the rush?

  25. Anonymous says:

    I am glad to see that someone else bothered to do the math.

    All the great excitement about “the people have spoken”, rings quite hollow when you look at the larger picture. The bar was set intentionally so low, because it was the only chance for passing this loser.

    It is even more preposterous when you consider this will now be enforced on the whole population, most of whom had no say whatsoever. The Gov and Gillian ought to be ashamed of themselves for having the audacity to go along with this sham.

  26. Anon says:

    CNS-  Who made this decision?  It boils down to one person- who was it?  Can you name this individual without subjecting yourself to physical or some other kind of harm?