Minister calls for more power

| 12/09/2008

(CNS): Accusing the current Governor Stuart Jack of being “very political", Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has once again called for more power for elected officials, suggesting that the current situation where the administration is expected to take all  the responsibility for things when they have none of the authority is an invidious position for any elected government.

Speaking about the current police investigation, the helicopter debacle, issues surrounding the status of the suspended Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, and even the failure of civil servants to submit their accounts for audit, as recorded in the Auditor General’s report, the Minister complained that the government was powerless to address certain things because of the current constitutional arrangements. Pushing the need for serious constitutional change, McLaughlin said that the situation was unacceptable.

At Thursday’s Cabinet Press Briefing the Minister complained that the elected members of government had only heard from the Governor a short while before he made the public announcement about Kernohan’s failure to respond to official requests to return to Cayman. Even though they had discussed the matters in Cabinet on Tuesday (9 September and the day before the Governor’s announcement), the Governor had reportedly failed to update the elected members on Kernohan’s failure to respond, which he has since denied.

 “The Governor tells us what he thinks we should know, what he deems fit,” said McLaughlin. “This is all to do with the constitutional problem of elected members having to face the responsibility but having none of the authority. We have no mechanism to find out anything; no one is obligated to respond to our questions.”

Demonstrating his frustration over the elected government’s exclusion from certain decisions as well as policy surrounding all police and security matters, the Minister said there was an undue deference given to the Governor and the media let him get away without scrutiny. “While we are sitting targets, the media has a reverence for the Governor’s office that is unhealthy. This Governor is very political and he ought to stand up to scrutiny,” he said.

He called for elected government to have much more involvement in policy matters, and noted what he considered to be the irony of the current situation in that all the major problems concerning good governance were matters that fell under the Governor’s area of responsibility, including the police investigation and the financial reporting problems within the civil service.

While the public thinks the failure of financial officers to do their job is the responsibility of government, McLaughlin said it is not a matter that the elected government has control over, and while theyhave some influence they have no real authority.

He said that significant constitutional change was required to change the situation or every future elected administration would face the same problem as the current government.  He explained that when things like the AG’s report which noted the failure of the civil service to comply with the PMFL came to light, the Chief Secretary or the Governor did not stand up  and take responsibility for those issues.

“These are serious governance issues that will not be sorted out unless there is a better framework for the Cayman Islands government to operate in,” he added. McLaughlin said that government had made the strongest possible representations that the present arrangement is unsatisfactory with regard to the overall policy-making and management of the police service.

“The elected government needs to have a greater role to play,” he said.” We have been critical of the way things operate and … we have complained … very strongly about the way generally police matters are dealt with, the lack of information we get in relation to investigations such as the Kernohan issue and in relation to the helicopter fiasco,” he added.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The elected government holds the key to the budgets of the police, etc. So where they have the power for example the helicopter debacle, they had the power to stop it but instead seemed to delegate their power to someone else.

    Perhaps government should improve how they handle their own power before getting more. Imagine the complete mess they could make then. It could make the Matrix contract look like a kindegarten.

    • Anonymous says:

      "The elected government holds the key to the budgets of the police, etc. So where they have the power for example the helicopter debacle, they had the power to stop it but instead seemed to delegate their power to someone else".

      That is simply not how it works with the police. The elected govt. has no power over the proper  application funds already voted for the police, particulary if they had no reason to know that guidelines were not being followed. The Governor does. What is amusing is the notion that the Auditor General needs to tell the Governor whether there were appropriate checks and balances. The Governor is the check since he is the only person to whom the Commissioner is accountable. Perhaps he hopes the Auditor General will blame the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.  Like it or not, the buck stops with him. 

      If we play politics with this issue, or treat it like a expat vs. Caymanian issue we will not learn the real lesson which is that the current system does not work to our best interests.    

       

       

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    • Anonymous says:

      Simple fact: had the Governor not exposed the "corruption" and mess within the authorities, no one would have and the situations would have only gotten worse. All the changes that will come from this will be to the benefits of Cayman and I thank the Governor for strongly reacting to what he thought was unacceptable. It may be humbling for our Ministers to have higher authorities take control when they couldn’t, but let it be a lesson learned that Cayman wouldn’t be this great place we all like without the UK.

  2. Anonymous says:

    "He can’t handle the power he’s got now and he wants more??"

    See what I mean? This guy only read the title.

    I agree with Boston tea party mostly.

    "Rather than wringing their hands and whingeing, our politicians should be brave enough to talk meaningfully about and to explain to the electorate that full independence with the proper checks and balances and governance to enforce them is the solution".

    Caymanians have been brainwashed into believing that our best interest is served by wrapping ourselves up in the Union Jack. Disingenuous politicians play to this mindset where they feel it is politically advantageous for themselves to invoke distrust of the others. It would therefore be political suicide to do what you suggest.  

     

  3. boston tea party says:

    Our politicians need to recognise that there are serious limits to resolving the current split of responsibilities and authority between the unelected Governor (the UK’s man) and the elected Cabinet (Cayman’s men) in a way that is in the best interests of the Cayman Islands as long as Cayman remains an Overseas Territory. The current modernisation proposals will not resolve the problems. Rather than wringing their hands and whingeing, our politicians should be brave enough to talk meaningfully about and to explain to the electorate that full independence with the proper checks and balances and governance to enforce them is the solution. As the founding fathers of the United States came to realise, relying on the UK (through the FCO and its appointed Governor here) to do anything other than pursue its own self interest is naive and foolish. As long as Cayman fails to put in place measured moves to independence, bad outcomes will continue.

  4. Anonymous says:

    He can’t handle the power he’s got now and he wants more??

  5. Anonymous says:

    I must say your title for this article hardly does justice to the content and is clearly calculated to prejudice the mind of the reader against what the Minister has to say which, incidentally, is entirely correct.