The Official Opposition of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly is demanding that Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin disclose his consultations with the Governor over the use of the Governor’s Reserve Powers to enact the Domestic Partnership Bill.
His Excellency Governor Martyn Roper is currently conducting public consultations before the bill becomes law on September 1st under his constitutional prerogative which gives him the power to override the Legislative Assembly.
In a press release on Friday, the group of MLAs said they are now calling on the Premier “to come clean and publicly disclose his consultation with the Governor as required by the Constitution before the use of Section 81 of our Constitution.”
“The Official Opposition is also calling on the Premier to come clean and publicly disclose and clarify the Cayman Islands position as it relates to Direct Taxation and any other potential changes to our Immigration Laws,” it adds
According to the group, “since the Governor’s press release of 14th August 2020, the members of the Official Opposition have been inundated with questions as to the events surrounding the approval for the Governor to use Section 81 of the Cayman Islands Constitution, as it now appears, that the request was initiated by the Governor’s Office.”
They say concerns have also been expressed to them by other British Overseas Territories "as they fear that they may be next".
Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Arden McClean is quoted as saying that “this issue is now bigger than the Domestic Partnership Bill as it strikes at the heart of our very democracy.”
“Democracy itself is a system that recognizes that there will be differences, disagreements, discord, and dissent. However, it requires debate, discussion, discourse, and dialogue to arrive at consensus and compromise,” Mr McClean is quoted as saying.
But he went on to add: “It is clear that there is now a departure from this process by the Governor and the Premier. And while the Governor is an employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and is tasked with representing the interests of the U.K. Government, the Premier as a democratically elected representative of the Cayman people has no excuse for not consulting and engaging the people he was elected to serve.”
Mr McLean further stated that during the recent debate on the changes to the Constitution, the Premier fought for the removal of Section 81 of the Constitution.”
He said Premier Alden McLaughlin “now needs to explain to the Cayman people why the about-face", accusing the Premier of “moving from a Champion to a Coward on this issue.”
“While the Premier may be okay with sitting back and allowing the Governor to make changes to domestic laws – I am not,” he said.
“Once we open this door, it cannot be closed, as both the Governor and the U.K. Government will be further emboldened to make changes to other domestic laws such as the introduction of direct taxation and changes to our Immigration Laws that will benefit UK citizens living in Cayman which is another agenda item for many in the U.K.’s political landscape.”
The press release went on to say that the Governor references Cayman being in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and cites the need for good governance.
“The same Human Rights Convention that the U.K. intends to repeal in less than 5 months when it finally leaves the European Union.”
“Why does this good governance that he is clinging to, not apply to us seeking to uphold our Constitution?” it questioned.
“Furthermore," Mr McClean continued, "the public and the Legislature were only told after the Bill was defeated the number of domestic bills that it would impact – 11 in total.”
“This can only be construed as a deliberate omission to mislead the public about the scale of the changes to come,” he claimed.
The Official Opposition said it believes that "the approach taken by both the Governor and the Premier to force a law without proper prior consultation, or input from the public”, goes against the principles of democracy and raises many questions regarding the state of Cayman’s democratic process.