Constitutional talks delayed

| 27/11/2008

(CNS): The Leader of Government Business announced this morning that the second round of constitutional talks has been postponed over fears that the Opposition team may not have shown up followingcomments made by two of its members to radio talks shows. Kurt Tibbetts said that although the opposition had not told government they wanted to postpone Juliana O’Connor Connolly had stated she could not come because she was still needed on Cayman Brac.

Speaking at the live cabinet press briefing on Thursday 27 November Tibbetts said that the position taken by the acting leader of the opposition, (Rolston Anglin)and O’Connor Connolly put the opposition’s presence in doubt.

“Unfortunately, instead of raising its concerns directly with the Government, the Opposition chose to make a public statement. The Opposition knew well in advance of the timing of the negotiations and could have had the courtesy of contacting the Government directly,” Tibbetts added.   “The Opposition’s main concern relates to the availability of the first MLA for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Mrs. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.  It is contending that her priority right now should be supporting the hurricane relief effort on Cayman Brac which I can tell you, as the Minister responsible for the Sister Islands, is proceeding  at a  satisfactory pace. ”

Tibbetts said the government recognises that O’Connor’s absence would disadvantage the opposition which was compounded by the Leader of the Opposition’s very recent return to the island following surgery.

“With the clear likelihood of the Opposition not turning up next week and in the absence of direct communication from them, I have spoken to the Head of the UK delegation, Mr. Ian Hendry, and told him that we have concluded that it would not be appropriate to proceed with the talks in the present circumstances,” LoGB said.

Rolston Anglin who has been acting as Leader of the Opposition since McKeeva Bush was undergoing surgery spoke with CNS after the briefing and said that the opposition had never said they would not attend the talks, but that O’Connor would not be able to be there and as a lawyer she is a key member of the team.  Anglin said that if the government had not moved to cancel at the eleventh hour the opposition would still have attended

“We thought it was shameful that following the impact of Hurricane Paloma the government didn’t move for a postponement immediately as it was obvious that two of the fifteen members would be otherwise occupied,” Anglin added. “Yet again the opposition has had to take the lead and tell government what needs to be done, this is incredible. The government’s captain is asleep at the wheel and just does not seem to be aware of what’s going on around him.”

LoGB said that the government was disappointed that the situation had forced a postponement and there was concern that the postponement would make it difficult to get through the talks before the dissolution of parliament. “Unfortunately, the situation now is that we are really running against the clock. Government is gravely concerned that this postponement has implications for our ability to complete the process on time, given the reality that the Legislative Assembly will be dissolved in March of next year,” he added.   Despite this, however, we shall do all we can to get the process back on track as soon as possible and as soon as the Opposition returns to full strength and the diaries of all parties, particularly the UK delegation, permits.” 

Tibbetts claimed to have no choice but to cancel as the risk of the opposition not taking part would, he said, have defeated the purpose of talks as the next phase will be to negotiate areas of difference between government and opposition.

“We have repeatedly made it clear that the new Constitution is not just about the Government. It is about the people of the Cayman Islands and, therefore, must reflect a national consensus. Despite fundamental disagreements with Government on the issue of a new constitution, we believe the Opposition must be allowed to fully make its case,” Tibbetts added.

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