Mac under pressure to enshrine 21 day rule

| 02/11/2010

(CNS): Following mounting controversy over the government’s continued suspension the public consultation period for new laws and amendments, the opposition has submitted a motion calling for the necessary changes to be enshrined in the Legislative Assembly’s rules. The Cayman Islands Constitution 2009 says that the Legislative Assembly Standing Orders require that all laws brought by government need to be published at least 21 days before the meeting except in the case of an emergency. In its first report published last month the Constitutional Commission also called on the government to amend the House rules to formalise the period of public debate and discussion and comply with the Constitution. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

Although the current standing order 45 requires that all potential bills be published and gazetted before a bill is read for a second time in the LA, the government has suspended this order via a vote in the House on a considerable number of occasions since taking office. In a recent interview with Cayman 27 the premier justified the suspensions as he said the laws were needed to facilitate the country’s offshore business and he did not have time to waste.

However, the problems associated with rushing laws through the assembly were highlighted recently with the Dormant Accounts Bill. Although Bush had told his legislative colleagues that the financial sector had been consulted at the time the bill was brought to the House, since then it has been revealed that the industry had very grave concerns about the damage that the law could do to offshore business. The law was designed to give government access to the funds in accounts that had been abandoned but the legislation appears to encroach on long term investment products as well.

In a twelve-page memo to government, the Financial Services Legislative Committee said that because the necessary experts were not consulted before government passed the law it had potentially dangerous consequences for the financial services industry. The sub-committee said that unless it was changed it would have “a serious and irreversible adverse impact" on what was revealed to be a long list of key financial service industries, from investment funds to private wealth management services.

This was one of a number of bills rushed through the House over the last year or so and the Constitutional Commission has called on government to amend Standing Orders to reflect the Constitution. Wil Pineau (one of three constitutional commissioners) said the concept of what constitutes an emergency then has to be defined. He pointed out that if government was suspending orders every time, then it clearly cannot be extraordinary or an emergency.

The opposition motion presented by Alden McLaughlin and seconded by Kurt Tibbetts is expected to be debated in the House this week, if it makes it to the order paper, and calls on government to take the necessary steps to comply with section 77(2) of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order and amend the Standing Orders as soon as possible.

The public consultation period is not just a provision for the opposition to debate a particular bill, but also allows the public to read and consider government’s proposed legislation and for the man in the street to raise concerns or offer support.

Speaking on Cayman 27’s "Lets Talk to the Experts" on Monday evening, Human Rights Commission Chair Richard Cole pointed out that it is part of the wider democratic process which allows the people to tell their own MLAs what they think of a bill that is coming before the Legislative Assembly and whether or not they want their elected representatives to support it or not.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The Constitutional Commission is itself operating without rules which seems contrary to the constitution’s intent. No rules have been made or gazetted to date that I know of. Are they operating outside of constitution themselves?

    see exert:

    Constitutional Commission
    118.—(1) There shall be in and for the Cayman Islands a Constitutional Commission.
    (2) The Constitutional Commission shall consist of a Chairman and two other members
    appointed by the Governor, acting after consultation with the Premier and the Leader of the
    Opposition, at least one of whom shall be an experienced lawyer.
    (3) The functions of the Constitutional Commission shall be—
    (a) to advise the Government on questions concerning constitutional status and development
    in the Cayman Islands;
    (b) to publish reports, discussion papers, information papers and other documents on
    constitutional matters affecting the Cayman Islands;
    (c) to promote understanding and awareness of this Constitution and its values; and
    (d) to exercise such other functions as may be prescribed by a law enacted by the Legislature.
    (4) In the exercise of their functions, the Constitutional Commission and its members shall not
    be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
    (5) Subject to this Constitution, further provision relating to the establishment and operation of the Constitutional Commission may be made by the Legislature.

    • The Original Anon says:

      Yup- What’s your point?  Oh, the Governor or somebody should be doing their job?  That we’ve seen nothing but bad governance?  That somebody should either grow a conscience or strap on a pair?