OPPOSITION LEADER MAINTAINS TOUGH STANCE ON USE OF SECTION 81
The Hon. Leader of the Opposition, Arden McClean, has suggested that there are inconsistencies in the justification given by the UK Minister of State for Overseas Territories, Baroness Liz Sugg, and how HE Governor Martyn Roper utilised his reserve powers to institute the Civil Partnership Law.
There has been an exchange of correspondence between the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for the OTs over issues surrounding the Governor’s decision to resort to Section 81 of the Cayman Islands constitution which gives him the authority to override the Legislative Assembly.
Mr McClean had challenged the basis on which Governor Roper exercised that power in a previous letter to Baroness Sugg.
In reply, she had defended her instruction saying it was necessary to ensure that rule of law is maintained in the jurisdiction.
Now, Opposition Leader McClean doubled down on his objection to the UK’s handling of the issue on several aspects including invoking Section 81, the original period of consultation, and the British government’s policy regarding of same-sex marriage in the OTs outlined in 2018.
According to him, the Governor had acted contrary to instructions, “where you authorised him to publish in a Government Notice bills on domestic partnership which is in compliance with the Court of Appeals judgment of 7th November 2019.”
The Opposition Leaders also says “I have also noticed that there were many changes to the original bill that was published which now begs the question of the legality of his actions.”
Where the OTs Minister speaks of “upholding the rule of law”, Mr McLean counters by stating that “the judicial process should have been allowed to reach its natural conclusion or establish a working commission to find an acceptable solution.”
That was in reference to a related matter at the Privy Council seeking recognition of same-sex marriages in Cayman.
The Leader of the Official Opposition accused the British government “of the blatant double standard being applied here has everything to do with race and ethnicity just like the treatment of the Windrush generation” (of Caribbean migrants in the UK).
Responding to Baroness Sugg's statement that she was “disappointed that the Legislative Assembly felt they could not comply with the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal judgment, notably as the remit of the Legislative Assembly is to uphold the law”, Mr McClean referred to the 2018 position of the British government to a recommendation UK Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee.
The FAC had recommended that the British government impose same-sex legislation by decree on the OTs which refused to do voluntarily enact the law.
At that time the government of ex-prime minister Theresa May had stated that such decisions were devolved to the OTs.
“Our relationship with the Overseas Territories is based on partnership and therefore as policy on marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility it should be for the territories to decide and legislate on.”
Using that policy as a reference point, the Opposition leader McClean argued that “if that position has changed under current UK prime Minister Boris Johnson then it needs to be clearly spelt out to the people of the Cayman Islands and not done by duplicitous means.”
On the matter of the public consultation for the law which Baroness Sugg felt was adequate, Mr McClean differs, drawing comparisons with the duration of public consultation in some situations in the UK - citing pavement parking as an example.
The Cayman Islands Leader of the Official Opposition said he was looking forward to a response from Baroness Sugg, “particularly when the UK government’s position of working to encourage those territories that have not put in place arrangements to recognise and protect same-sex relationships, changed to forcing their hands and overriding the will of the democratically elected representatives.”
Opinions continue to differ in Cayman on the Civil Partnership Law which gives legal recognition to same-sex couples as the equivalent of a martial union except for the religious ceremony.
Those who oppose it say it disregards and offends Cayman’s deeply held religious convictions and cultural norms.