Local lawyer tells UN Cayman remains a colony

| 15/05/2009

(CNS): Speaking at the UN Decolonization Committee’s Caribbean Regional Seminar in Saint Kitts this week, local attorney Sophia Harris said that despite the UK’s attempts to have the Cayman Islands removed from the list of non-self-governing territories (NSGT) the islands’ governance system is still that of an administering power to a colony. “The Cayman Islands has not achieved self-determination, but at best, if the current 2009 draft ‘constitution’ is approved by the electorate in a referendum," she said.

Harris continued, "All we will have is a revised administrative document between the UK and a colony, as opposed to a constitutional document of the people and by the people,” she said.

There has been no education or discussion in the Cayman Islands on the options outlined by the UN for achieving self determination, Harris said. “To date the only surveys conducted that vaguely address any of the options available have focused on the question of independence,” she said, adding that they confirmed that there is no support for that.

She describe the UK’s push for constitutional modernization as increasingly murky waters, but what had become very clear from the latest developments was that every Overseas Territory needed the power to draft their own constitution reflecting the wishes of the people of that jurisdiction, a level playing field and she said that the constitutional revision process must be totally open and transparent.

“It would seem that if, at the very least, these parameters are not set then it will be difficult for the people of the Overseas Territory to have a free hand in drafting a constitution of their own making,” Harris said. She went on to say that Cayman had failed to have any kind of meaningful, unfiltered education on all issues of constitutional governance but instead there was a series of what can best be described as public hearings.

Shesaid that the Cayman NGO Working Group for the constitutional reform had asked the government for information on how it came to make the decisions they made in drafting their proposals for the draft Constitution, but had still not received a response.

“The negotiations with the UK started in October 2008 and concluded in February 2009. The government extended an invitation to the opposition to participate in the negotiation, as was a representative from the Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the association of the churches (the Cayman Islands Ministers Association hereinafter ‘CIMA’), the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (as they are not members of CIMA) and a representative from the Human Rights Committee,” she explained, noting that the NGO Working Group was not invited to participate nor were any submissions sought on their behalf.

Despite calls for open negotiations it did not happen on the orders of the UK, and Harris went on to say that in the end, the 2009 Draft Cayman Islands Constitution is still in fact only a revised administrative document. She also criticised the forced inclusion of a Bill of Rights, saying that if it is passed it could prove to be the most costly experiment the Cayman Islands have ever engaged in.

“There were certain issues that were bound to be controversial including the rights of homosexuals and same sex marriages. The Churches and some NGO’s memberships were clear that they could not support a Bill of Rights that did not protect against same sex marriage. The final round of talks held in the UK seemed to have resulted in a battle of wills between the church and the government on one hand and the Human Rights Committee on the other,” she said, adding this spilled out to the public unaware and regretfully uninformed of the subtleties of the language in dispute.

“Of greater concern for the Cayman Islands is that this episode demonstrated the potential for other problematic issues left unexamined and unexposed in the absence of a major and unbiased education campaign,” she said, adding this was contrary to many relevant UN resolutions on the self-determination process.

“This situation lacks the full debate and information that a complete education campaign would bring in the open to truly enable a final constitutional product reflecting the wishes of the people,” Harris added and said the divide over the bill of rights has resulted in an identification of the constitution with the government of the day.

Criticising the fundamental lack of education on constitutional matters, she described the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands as mostly dysfunctional.

“Suffice it to say, however, that we continue to have faith that this committee will be able to make progress in achieving the UN objectives and it is hoped the recommendations made herein might be considered,” she said. “In this day and age, in this new century, it is ever increasingly clear that the people of the Overseas Territories must be provided with assistance to accomplish that right of self-determination which, if it is an inalienable right should, nay must, be attainable albeit ever increasingly elusive,” Harris concluded


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent comments Sofie. I will not be voting for the new constituton either.

    • Anonymous says:

      "Excellent comments Sophie"

      Why does this woman have any say in anything? She doesn’t represent me as a simple caymanian who doesn’t move in her exalted limey legal circles. Lots of us don’t want her saying any damn thing about the cayman islands to anyone-especially the UN. She doesn’y have to worry about where her house insurance, car insurance food bills fees for her kids are coming form. Why is she so damned obssessed with telling the UN how downtrodden we are. I get so angry when people like her put up this radical liberal downtrodden cayman thing. She’s been doing this for bloody years while getting rich of our oppressive colonial status. Just visit floor 3 of the Firstcarribbean building to see how oppressed she is. She needs to be ignored.

  2. Self serving says:

    This is just her very biased opinion. The majority of the people of the Cayman Islands including all the Elected officials dearly would like Cayman to remain a  British Overseas Territory. Therefore the approach taken to put in place a constituion reflects the wishes of the majority.

    Anyone who wanted to take part in the most recent Cayman Islands Government sponsored constitutional modernizing process, had more than ample opportunity to do so. Caymanians need to grow up and stop making excuses for letting the status quo remain.

    How long is long enough to review the constituion?

    It is a crying shame that so many of our so called leaders are so incapable of making executive decisions that they have to resort to these kind of scare tactics.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wish that Sophia had leant her voice to this a bit earlier. But better late than never I suppose.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Stop whining then and hold a referendum for full independance!!

    The UK would be glad to see the back of you 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well surprise, surprise. As long as we are a BOT we are going to have an “administrative document” and not a “Constitution” as defined by Ms. Harris. No, the people of the Cayman Islands do not get to just present the UK with their document as long as we remain a BOT.

    As for lack of information and need for full debate, we have had 18 years of constitutional review. Two sets of constitutional commissioners. Three draft Constitutions. We have a constitutional secretariat tirelessly have public meetings in every district and every organisation who asks. We have had constitutional experts give lectures. We have publications summarising the draft. We’ve had articles explaining the implications of the provisions. If we wait for another year, or two or three, we will be precisely in the same position. Other territories have adopted two new constitutions in the time that we have not had one. Let’s get on with it, people!

    • Anonymous says:

      "Well surprise, surprise…", I am in total agreement with your comments because I feel sure that  even if Cayman were to continue constitutional modernisation talks for 20 or more years there would still be claims of the public not having enough time to contribute to and/or study the draft in order to understand its contents and thus make a sensible choice! 

      For comparison, let us think of the upcoming CXC and other external exams which our children will be sitting shortly – students have had the opportunity for years to attend classes, to study and apply themselves diligently with the goal of learning as much as possible about the various subjects so that come exam time they will be able to confidently and correctly answer any questions posed.   However, if any students have chosen to hang out and have fun and never open a book, then any unfavourable exam result will be nobody’s fault but their own. 

      Obviously, no matter how much time Caymanian voters are given to read and understand the draft constitution, it is up to each individual to personally do what is necessary to become fully acquainted with its contents.  While it takes more effort to think for ourselves than it takes to jump on the band wagon of those insisting that a NO vote is the only way to go, do not be fooled into doing this because the loud cries of  "The sky is falling! The sky is falling"  is just the usual scare tactics of those willing to sacrifice once again the long term good of the people of Cayman in order to fulfill their own agendas and ambitions!   

      Prove your genuine love for your children and grandchildren and Cayman as a whole, by voting YES in the Referendum and also by thoughtfully casting your votes so that a majority of the PPM will be returned to the Legislative Assembly on 20th May 2009 – "Don;t stop the progress"

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Mrs. Harris.  For too long we as Caymanians continue to take what is shoved done our throats by England becuase if we don’t we are branded as seeking independence.

    I srongly believe that despite what is being marketed to us to vote yes on this constitution, it is not what is best fo Cayman. I am so sick and tired of all those that say that it is the best that we can get so we must vote yes. Why? Caymanians we will liveto regret this and we will continue to remain as slaves to the Queen.