A chapter closed on Cayman’s political and Legislative history on Monday and Members of the Legislative Assembly(MLA’s) exited the chamber.
When they return for the next sitting it will be as Members of the Parliament(MPs), another historic occasion signalling another phase in the jurisdiction’s constitutional maturity.
The change of designation is the result of lengthy negotiations with the British government over constitutional reform. It was one of several concessions secured by the Cayman Islands to amend the constitution although the UK had rejected proposals to curb the powers of the Governor especially his power to impose legislation.
Reporting in September on the outcome of the talks, Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin had termed the decision to allows Cayman to transition from Legislative Assembly to Parliament as a significant achievement.
“What also caps this off for me,” he said, “ is the UK’s agreement for the Legislative Assembly name to be changed to the Parliament of the Cayman Islands and for the elected members to be called Members of Parliament.”
He defined this change as reflecting, “the true standing that we will have in constitutional terms.”
For what is likely to be regarded as a key part of his legacy, Mr McLaughlin declared that “this change is hugely important when elected members are dealing with international matters, or indeed when dealing with the UK Government or any other government.”
“Government officials”, he pointed out, “understand intuitively that a legislative assembly is an inferior body in constitutional terms to that of a parliament.”
“I believe that it is less likely that the UK Parliament will seek to deal with another parliament in the way that, on occasion, they have dealt with this Legislative Assembly in the past, “ he added.
Those points are also reflected by the Cayman Islands Constitutional Commission which had also explained in a briefing note that the change from Legislative Assembly(LA) to Parliament was more than cosmetic.
“This is important,” it said, “ because often the term Legislative Assembly is
considered a lower legislative body to a parliament. The term
Parliament better recognises what the Legislative Assembly is and
avoids confusion when our Elected Representatives travel overseas,” it said.
The Commission had also pointed out that “a Member of Parliament for the Cayman Islands is clearly understood by more people as it is used by the majority of Commonwealth
Countries that have the Westminster system of government, such as
Bermuda, Canada, Australia, Jamaica, and New Zealand.”
Also linked to the switch from LA to Parliament will be the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries who will be elected representatives appointed by the Governor acting on the advice of the Premier. Parliamentary Secretaries will assume the roles which Councillors now have.
Another change that impacts the pending Parliament of the Cayman Islands, will see effective from year’s general election, an additional minister in the cabinet, taking it from 6 to 8 including the Premier.
Meanwhile, in addition to the Constitution Order 2020, the outgoing LA recently published a bill in the gazette under the heading of the Legislative Assembly (Management) Bill giving more direct control over it’s administrative affairs in what will now be the Parliament of the Cayman Islands.
The objective of that is to to give it more independence away from the current status being a part of the civil service.
Historically, political representation in the Cayman Islands dates back to December 1831 when the Assembly of Justices and Vestry was created at Pedro St. James.
This served as the Legislative body until 3rd July 1959 when Cayman received its first written Constitution the following day on 4th July 1959.
The bi-cameral Assembly of Justices & Vestry was then replaced with a uni-cameral Legislative Assembly comprising “Members of the Legislative Assembly” in place of the term “Vestry” which referred to the elected representatives.