Talks with UK underway

| 29/09/2008

(CNS): The People’s Progressive Movement government has made a commitment to secure the best possible deal for Cayman as negotiations begin again five years after constitutional talks broke down between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Cayman Islands’ adminstration. The new round of negotiations begins this morning, following the arrival of a UK delegation led by Ian Hendry, at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman.

“Our role as your government is to articulate a strong and convincing case for Caymanians and to represent their interests working in concert with other stakeholders,” said Kurt Tibbetts the Leader of Government Business. “Our aim is simply to secure the best deal possible for the Cayman Islands. That is a new constitution which is acceptable to the vast majority of people. A constitution which reflects our values, our hopes and our aspirations in a continuing relationship with the United Kingdom and you have our word on that.”

With the government and the opposition still at odds on some of the more significant points Tibbetts said on Friday that he was still confident that, as the two sides agreed on almost 90 percent of the proposalsthat will be put before the UK, the talks on Monday 29 September would be productive.  

“There are more issues on which we are united than we are divided and between now and Monday an opportunity may arise to further narrow the differences,” said the LoGB. “Government has always been of the view that this is more about country than about party”

Speaking at the weekly media briefing he said that the previous day’s  final preparatory meeting in Bodden Town, which was the first tome government and opposition had sat down with all of the other stakeholders, had seen all parties reach broad agreement on most issues. He said the Constitutional Secretariat will summarize the positions arrived at by the end of that meeting and that document will be handed over to UK team.

He said the NGOs were in broad agreement with the government’s proposals aside from a few issues regarding the bill of rights which he felt could be resolved during the UK talks. He also said that the few sticking points between the government and the opposition concerned the role of the governor, issues of power regarding the police and the makeup of the legislative assembly and cabinet.

“They also disagree with the proposal to introduce single member constituencies which would allow every voter to be equal when it comes to their vote in the election. As it stands some Caymanians can exercise up to four votes depending on where they live while some have only one. The UDP says it is happy with the status quo,” he said. “In cases where finding common ground is not possible between now and the beginning of the negotiations the issues will still come up because as the UK government will naturally have a position of their own.”

Caymanians he said needed to be mindful that the negotiations don’t just involve Caymanian interests but the British government has a role and whatever emerges will reflect both countries interests. He also noted that the time for a new constitution was never more apparent given the recent developments surrounding the independent police investigation and the arrest of a high court judge which was excluding the elected government from developments.

Constitutional modernisation has been on the agenda for some eight years,” he said. “We in the Cayman Islands ought to bring closure to the issue and further delay is not in the national interest. If we miss this train it is likely we will not have a similar opportunity for quite a while perhaps several years to come. There is broad agreement that the Cayman Islands needs a new constitution to more effectively address the reality of a changing community and wider world. Let us endeavour therefore, to make a new constitution a reality. We are at a crucial juncture in our development and in our history. Circumstances dictate that the interests of the nation must take precedence over all other considerations and the people of the Cayman Islands expect nothing less.”

Tibbetts said that the talks would continue through to Thursday and that while only the opening presentations will be held in public the rest will be behind closed doors as is normal practice but the people would be updated through the media as the talks progressed. The dates and location for the next round will also be established during the course of the next four days.

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