HRC accused of exploitation

| 24/02/2009

(CNS): During the debate on the Referendum Bill (2009) Minister Alden McLaughlin said he was very disappointed with the Human Rights Committee’s campaign against the draft constitution that will go before the people in May. He accused them of exploiting members of the disabled community by giving them the impression that rights had been taken way from them when the non-discrimination Section 16 in the Bill of Rights was changed. The HRC has strenuously denied both charges and said the minister is misrepresenting its position.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Monday afternoon, McLaughlin who has been the driving force behind creating a Bill of Rights in the new Constitution that would be acceptable to a cross section of the Cayman community, including the church, as well as the UK, criticised the HRC for its position since returning from London and said that they were misleading people about what had happened to Section 16. He noted that the HRC was sacrifcing the constitution on the "altar of perfection."

He also confirmed that the referendum question would be a straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and that, had the HRC wanted to see a choice question over Section 16 added, they should have voiced that position in London. To request it now, he said, was simply too late.

Referring to a public meeting at the Family Life Centre last Thursday night, where a number of people from Cayman’s disabled community came out to ask about their rights, he said the HRC had “rallied the troops” to voice their opposition to a the Bill of Rights. He said given that Cayman has no rights at the moment at all, while not perfect, the Constitution with its enshrined Bill of Rights was a vast improvement.

The HRC, however, has denied either campaigning against the constitution or exploiting the disabled community. Sara Collins, Chair of the Committee, has persistently said that the HRC would rather take the Bill of Rights as now proposed than no rights at all, but that the committee has a duty to inform people what has happened and why.  

“We have not said, as some members of the government suggest, that rights are being ‘taken away’ from anyone,” Collins told CNS. “It is true that, at present, there is no constitutional protection of any rights, so there are no rights that can be ‘taken away.  In all of the public statements we have made since the conclusion of the constitutional negotiations, we have consistently said that it would indeed be worse to have no rights at all.”

However, Collins explained that the HRC is merely explaining that the alternative would be to offer the people of this country the full protection from discrimination that was in the original draft. 

“By changing the original draft of section 16 during the second round of the talks, the Government did “take away” the opportunity for us all to have better protection from discrimination by the Government. The only reason given for the change at the time it was made was that it would be unacceptable to the leaders of the churches and the majority of the people in the Cayman Islands to include gays and lesbians in the full protection of the original draft section 16.”

Collins also regretted that Keisha Martin, who has been blind for most of her life, was used as an example in the LA as someone the HRC exploited. “She is a private citizen who simply asked a question at the public meeting,” she said. “The HRC did not contact or encourage any of those people to attend. They did so of their own free will. If the Minister is nowsuggesting that Ms Martin or any of the other speakers at that meeting were “exploited” into attending or speaking up for themselves that is misleading. It belittles the intelligence and independence of those who came to the meeting to speak for themselves, as well as the value and importance of this process to the country as a whole. “

Martin herself told CNS that the suggestion that she was being exploited or manipulated by the HRC was “ridiculous and appalling”. She said she had not met Sara Collins or Melanie McLaughlin before that day and they had not tried to contact her. On the contrary, she had spent hours trying to track them down and had asked them for a few minutes on the floor to speak at the meeting. Matrin added that she thought that Minister McLaughlin was “back peddling”. “He’s very wrong and he knows he’s wrong,” she said.

Some of the stories told at the public meeting involved complaints about discrimination suffered at the hands of private citizens and the HRC did not suggest the Bill of Rights would apply between private individuals and has sought to explain that the current draft Bill would apply only “vertically” -between government and citizen.

“We explained that the Bill of Rights would not solve all of the discrimination problems of discrimination faced by the disabled or others from private individuals or companies,” Collins added but she said there would be some benefit for vulnerable groups in a stronger section 16 as it would compel the Government to pass legislation which would have a positive impression on the wider community.

“If the Constitution provides that Government should not discriminate on the ground of disability, the Government will have to take this into account when passing employment, planning or other laws and would also arguably have to update those laws to ensure that they are not discriminatory,” Collins added.

She said that she too was disappointed that the HRC’s position was being misinterpreted and that the committee was not campaigning against the draft Constitution. We asked the Government to give the people a choice on the referendum between the full right to be protected from discrimination by the Government and the limited right which is now contained in the draft Constitution. That request was rejected on 16 February 2009.  We must now respect that decision,” she said but noted the HRC still has a responsibility to educate the public about what is included in the draft so everyone can make an informed decision on 20 May.

In his presentation to the house on Monday, McLaughlin defended the government’s decision to limit section 16 to the confines of the constitution for a number of reasons. Aside from being the only way he said that the church could accept the Bill of Rights he also said it would be very costly for government to have a stand alone non-discrimination section. McLaughlin also said that Caymanians would be at risk as government would not be allowed to discriminate in favour of them.

However, Collins notes that the right to protect Caymanians above foreign nationals is already enshrined in section 16 and a stand alone right would not have undermined that protection.

McLaughlin has also talked about the concept of human rights creep where litigation based on rights is filling the courts with suits and seeing judges make decisions about discrimination and not government. Ultimately the Minister said the Bill of Rights was an excellent first step and compared favourable to many other documents around the world. He lauded the inspirational rights to environmental protection and education and stated that given the controversy caused by the document over the years as Cayman strived to write a constitution to get agreement from all of the stakeholders, aside from the HRC was something Cayman could be proud of.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Homophobes always trot out the "love the sinner but hate the sin" garbage to disguise their sickening prejudices. You know full well that the kind of rhetoric you use will lead to gay bashing on this island if it hasn’t already. Newsflash: The Earth rotates around the Sun (a theory the Church was originally opposed to), We evolved from apes (even the Vatican had to concede in the end), and sexuality is not a life choice but a biological fact. Oh and let’s not forget that the church managed to justify slavery for hundreds of years – and yes, I am aware that it was also churchgoers who fought against it. But that’s the thing about the Bible, people interpret it however they want to. Homophobes look for a justification for hating gays (hmmm, let’s just label it "sin" and call gays "sinners" and then petend that’s not hateful and we really care about them). Better people look for ways to love, forgive and understand.

    • Anonymous says:

      You have simply shown your own ignorance, prejudice and hatred of Christians.

      • Anonymous says:

        If your response is to the previous post, then I suggest you address the points raised, rather than attack the person presenting the argument. "You have simply shown your own ignorance, prejudice and hatred of Christians" 

        • Anonymous says:

          The post did not raise any points relevant to the issue but simply launched an attack against Christians generally. Accordingly there was nothing to address. It is clearly proposterous to suggest that people become Christians to justify their own homophobia. This is a personal attack. You should address your comments to that poster.  

  2. Anonymous says:

    You need help.!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    GOVERNMENT is the one that needs to explain this document – they are the ones pushing for its approval – not HRC!  But only Sara and Melanie are the ones trying to inform people about what it in the document. Not Government, not churches. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    I wish that people with the intelligence and integrity of Sara Collins were leading this country.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The Minister is wrong. Pastor Al & Co. are exploiting their easily led flocks. All of a sudden when it suits their homophobic agenda they care enough to become politically active (no peep out of them about domestic violence, child molestation, animal cruelty, discrimination of the disabled, etc). Stand firm my fellow Caymanians. Do not be swayed by the loony  only-we-are-righteous right. If we do not stand up they will succeed in destroying this country.

    • Anonymous says:

      I see we have a parrot with a tick. The CMA and the SDA representatives are standing for bedrock christian principles on which this territory was founded. They did not originate with Pastor Al and Rev. Sykes. It is simply false to say that they do not care about and preach about many other social issues including those youhave mentioned.  

      Pastor Al and Rev. Sykes have a significant background on constitutional issues and did "suddenly" become ‘politically’ active. Get your facts straight.  

      "Homophobic" like "xenophobic" has become a grossly misapplied term that is used to denigrate those you disagree with when you cannot address their arguments. Because one views homosexuality as immoral does not make one "hateful" or "homophobic". We love the sinner but hate the sin. Try to get this straight (no pun intended).  It was one thing to tolerate it so that such conduct in private between consenting adults is not an offence, but it is entirely another thing for the state to give its blessing to it.     

      But of course ‘gay rights’ are not the only issue at stake. That together with disabled rights are simply a smoke-screen for a wider anti-Caymanian agenda. The HRC is simply a salesman selling the idea of human rights to Caymanians. Like every good salesman it does not tell you of the downsides to its product. We will only find it out when we buy it and take it home at which time there is a ‘no returns’ policy. My fellow Caymanians do not rush in to buy loads of the product for the great bargain the HRC claims you are missing out on. Buy some and see how it works. If it is as great as they say you can always buy more later. If it stinks you can cut your losses.  

      A big part of the problem is that we do not know how unelected judges are going to interpret these provisions but in so far as they come from liberal jurisdictions based on experience we can be sure they will interpret them in such a way to benefit their fellow expats to our detriment and reflect their own values. We will have put ourselves at their mercy. Have a look at the Privy Council decision based on the Bermuda Human Rights Act in the Thompson v. Bermuda Dental Board case to see what I mean.  Do not be taken in Caymanians.

  6. Anonymous says:

    To "make no mistake about this…" Your comment is completely insane.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Make no mistake about this, those of us who have come from other countries and have been given the right to work here or even better, live here and call ourselves Caymanians,  (albeit on paper) have to realize that we are guests in this country and have chosen to come here for personal gain, financial or quality of life.

    Cayman has the right to protect itself by democratic vote which it has managed to do so up until now.

    ThisBill of Rights Agenda is nothing more than evil disguised as good to force unnatural and ungodly behaviour upon these islands.

    It is absolutely disgusting that Sara Collins and her Marxist cronies have tried to play the disabled card to shoo in all and sundry under the guise of Human Rights.

    It is the right of the Caymanian people to worship the living God in Spirit and in Truth and if standing against a satanically inspired left-wing agenda is part of that, then it is their right. I would rather be on the side of God than the side of Sara Collins.

    Unless the Caymanian people relinquish their rights to free worship, then they should stand strong and stand firm and not be ashamed to call evil exactly that, evil.

    Mr McLaughlin has worked very hard to try and please everyone and he and his fellow MLAs carry a huge burden of responsibility. They need your prayers, not your criticism.

    Finally, to any holier-than-thou, fellow expats that want to impose the same ridiculous political correctness that seems to be invading the US and Europe, I say, "go home". It won’t be long before you are under martial law anyway.

    To my fellow Caymanians, be strong in the Lord and the power of His might and be wary of the wiles of the devil as he comes as an angel of light, full of deception.

    I issue a stern warning to those who would lift their hand against these islands. The "He" in "He hath founded it upon the seas" is none other than the Living, Loving Father who will jealously guard his children. Raise your hand at your peril, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

    Rather, repent and come to enjoy His love and provision in this dark and dreary temporary world.

    God bless the Cayman Islands and its people.

    • Anonymous says:

      The same old tired tiatribes espoused by a pseudo christians brainwashed into certain beliefs by various cults who call themselves followers of Christ. You should be aware of false profits who spread hatred and bigotry against fellow humans. I hope you repent and find the true path

      • Anonymous says:

        The Minister is right. Sara Collins & Co. are exploiting the disabled. All of a sudden when it suits their agenda they care,(as if they rest of us don’t). Stand firm my fellow Caymanians. Do not be swayed by the loony left. If we do not stand up they will succeed in destroying this country.

        As for the pseudo christian comment, you clearly do not understand what a true Christian is, but since you cannot distinguish between "prophets" and "profits" that is understandable.      

  8. Anonymous says:

    Double standards with the "haves" and the "have nots" have been the rule in Cayman since time was. The idea of a bill of rights where everyone is equal under the law scares the "haves".

    Usually the expats are to blame but this fight is between Caymanians. Some want equal rights and others say that they are not ready for them.

    Me…I don’t understand why the ministers association doesn’t think that we are all God’s children and deserve equal rights.

    No doubt they have a quick easy answer to that.

  9. Anonymous says:


    Minister McLauglin is projecting an arrogance the likes of which most Caymanians do not wish to see persist. As a representative of the people it is his duty to inform and educate but to also carry out the will of the people upon listening to the majority views. It seems to me that the PPM has lost its way and have now decided that in the interest of its manifesto they would wish to push down the throats of the Caymanian people the new constitution regardless of the imperfection. The intent seems to do this as they would wish this to be their legacy.

    We cannot afford to have just an improvement of what exists. It must be made more in keeping with the concerns voiced by all groups as this constitution is a living codified document that will encapsulate who we are as a people. There can be no mistakes as the cost, time and legal ramifications of making ammendments are too great.

    I urge all right thinking people to reject this constitution and vote NO on the referendum and allow more time to incorporate ALL the RIGHT changes to guarantee that our beloved country is best served.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If you had lived your life – blind or disabled, or raised a child or taken care of a family member who was disabled – with practically no assistance from the Government (in a country whos GDP per capita is amongst the top 10 globally) – do you think you would need much manipulation or ‘rallying’ to protest a Bill of RIghts that will give you no further material benefit?

    Especially given that a few months ago, those rights were on the table? (ie the original Bill of Rights)

    Sara Collins, by really standing up for the rights of Everyone, has given these people HOPE that there is a chance for a brighter future for them were they can no longer be ignored by the Government, live with dignity and with some greater level of Equality.

    Alden McLaughlin should be ashamed of himself. The one group in Cayman that is actually standing up for Caymanians and all people – he FALSLEY acuses of exploitation.




  11. Anonymous says:

    CNS, you are  right about Mr Ebanks saying it, but the Compass definately quotes him as saying "and they’re all communist, except for on or two" (Page 6 or the 23rd Feb compass)

  12. Anonymous says:

    "simply too late"

    It is never too late to do the right thing… unless you have decided to stick with the wrong decision.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Yesterday it was quoted in the Compass that the honorable minister stated only 16 countries had signed up to free standing rights and all but 1 or 2 are Communist countries, however there are only currently 5 fully communist countries in the world and 3 communist elected governments.

    1. something doesn’t add up.

    and. 2. have the likes of China and Laos really got full rights when the human rights abuses on their citizens are well documented?

    CNS NOTE: In fact it was the Chair of the Cayman Ministers Association who at the Thursday night meeting declared that the 16 countries which had signed up to free standing rights in their constitutions were mostly communist.



  14. anonymous says:

     Ask for a better constitution. Please sign the Equality Cayman petition at http://www.petitiononline.