Public asked to shape people’s referendum law

| 20/10/2011

(CNS): The constitutional commissioners are asking the public to contribute and comment on a research paper which is being circulated to encourage legislators to pass the necessary laws to facilitate and define how people’s initiated referendums will work. This unique democratic tool was introduced into the Cayman Islands via the 2009 constitution and allows for the people to trigger a national poll based on the support of 25% of the electorate. Legislation and regulations are required to facilitate the people’s vote but this has not yet been addressed by government. At a public meeting in West Bay last week Julene Banks said the people could take the lead on shaping the future law to present to government. (PhotoDennieWarrenJr)

She and fellow commisioner Wil Pineau encouraged the people to join in the debate and to contribute to defining the parameters ofthe law. She said that there was no need to wait until the government got around to the job as the people could do it themselves and present a draft law for consideration by Cabinet. The idea behind the paper is to provide a platform on which people can begin to comment and join in the debate as well as to promote a clearer understanding of the idea and its relevance in a democratic society.

The concept of people initiated referendum allows ‘the people’, to directly vote on a specific issue as a means of expressing their opinion within the scope of national importance and without contravening the Bill of Rights or any part of the constitution.

The new constitution provides for 25% of registered voters to initiate a referendum which currently means, based on the existing voters list, that if a petition containing the signatures of 3797 people can be collected to support a national vote on a specific topic government is obligated to hold the poll. Then if more that 50 percent or 7594 of the registered voters, despite how many people turn out, vote ‘yes’ then it becomes legally binding and government will also be obligated to amended or create the necessary legislation to support the people’s vote.

The commissioners said that the introduction of this democratic tool by the negotiators of the 2009 constitution was to foster the concept of direct democracy and provide an avenue for the electorate to gain more control over issues that directly affect their lives.

The provisions in the constitution don’t go far enough for some and members of the People for Referendum group Billy Adam and Dennie Warren have both criticised the requirement in the constitution that states that a result is only binding when more than 50% of all registered voters cast a yes for the question rather than 50% of the voter turnout as was required when the people voted for the constitution in the country’s first referendum.

Speaking at the West Bay meeting Adam pointed out the irony of the constitutional national vote only requiring 50% of the voter turnout not of the actual electorate. Just over 62% or 7045 of the 11,244 people who voted in the referendum voted yes for the constitution which would not have been enough had the vote required 50 percent of the entire electorate which was 15,361 at the time.

Under the rules of that referendum the constitution was passed and came into effect in November 2009 despite almost two years having gone by government has still not passed the legislation required to govern the people’s referendums. This law is required to regulate how petitions can be collected, the time period and other issues such as the wording of the referendum the administration of the vote, without the people will not be able to trigger a national poll.

Go to www.knowyourconstitution.ky for more info and see the dicussion paper below

Category: Politics

Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymouse says:

    Leave off the "50% of those voting" bashing. Remmember this was a compromise, between those who wanted the referendum clause and those who didn't. Just be savy when yougo to use it. Make sure your questions is 'small' and your campaign is strong.

    'Referendums should be passed by 50% of those voting', for example, would be a 'small' referndum question that you obviously think you can get 50% of the electorate to agree with.

  2. Libertarian says:

    On the day for the ratification of our new Constitution in 2009, the same day for Elections in general, the entire electorate (those who could vote) consisted of 15,361 people. Interestingly, the day to vote for the Constitution, was arranged on the same day of the country's General Elections. The rule of the game, was that 50% of the voter turnout to vote in the General Elections (which was 11,244 people), would be able to determine whether or not the new Constitution would be ratified. And it was made into the supreme law of the land by only 7,045 people.

    Here is the hypocrisy of this whole matter and I agree with Billy Adam on this one:  Let's say we had a referendum to stop a developer from luring our politicians with monies to destroying our environment and dredging a canal. The entire electorate is 15,361 people. With a referendum, you can not, I repeat CAN NOT consider a 50% of a "voter turnout" like what happened in 2009 where voter turnout was 11,244 out of the 15,361 to determined the draft Constitution!  So with a referendum, the 50% would have to be from the entire electorate sum total of 15,361, which is 7,681 people needed to vote.

    This, to me, is not fair. A determining a referendum's outcome, should be based on "voter turnout," those who are truly interested – excluding those who are not interested or wanting to remain in the neutral. So if you had a referendum and the voter turnout is only 5,000 people out of the entire 15,361 – the rest not interested… the 50% should be from the 5,000. Such a rule, is how it should be, because that is how the new Constitution was ratified.

    Moreover, I think it makes it more difficult for the people's voices to be heard when the new Constitution provides for 25% of registered voters islandwide to initiate a referendum. What happens about issues that are only effecting constituencies and the other constituencies could care less???  I think in regards to a district, 25% should be applied to that constituency like the B.T. district for example if a matter arise that will adversely effect B.T. So for instance if Joe the developer decides to dredge EE, 25% of East Enders would be able to initiate a referendum islandwide on the matter. To me that is more democracy for the people. Why have 25% of the entire electorate needed for that purpose when they may not care less for what happens in East End? If it is a national issue than 25% of the entire islands would suffice, but for an issue effecting a consituency, there needs to be amendment.  The MLA and politicians should answer to each constituency.

    Secondly, I believe there should be more provisions in the Constitution for the people to remove not only a Premier – but an entire party from sole power!  I don't believe in this "No Confidence" crap… sorry for my sentiments, but the No Confidence thing is too partisan!  Have a national vote by the people, give them the power to remove a Premier and Party when they don't deliver on their promises.

    In sum, I rate our direct democratic provisions in our Constitution, very poor. And that the UK's Governor has the power to dissolve Cabinet, the elected representatives, makes it even worse of a document. Her Majesty's Interest (by special interest groups and from the FCO) should never be over the People's Interest of the Cayman Islands.

    I am for Direct Democracy.  Who is with me? 

  3. JTB says:

    Get ready for a slew of anti-expat referenda …