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Constitutional Modernisation

Hon D Kurt Tibbetts, JP, MLA
Leader of the Opposition - First Elected Member for George Town

The following is a statement made by the Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, at a press briefing at GIS, on Friday, 16 February.

The government has established a programme which heralds a fresh start for the constitutional review process in the Cayman Islands.

A Constitutional Review Secretariat, headed-up by Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Orrett Connor MBE, JP, has been established to facilitate the process. On the Secretariat staff will be Senior Crown Counsel, Mrs. Suzanne Lookloy-Bothwell, who is on secondment from the Legal Department; Mr. Samuel Rose, Policy Analyst, on secondment from the Cabinet Office; and a receptionist with secretarial responsibilities.

The Secretariat's office will be located in Elizabethan Square in George Town, and will be operational from 1st March of this year.

In addition, the Cayman Islands Government has retained the services of Professor Jeffrey Jowell QC, a constitutional lawyer of global repute from Blackstone Chambers in London. Professor Jowell visited the Cayman Islands this week to engage in preliminary discussions with the Government about the Constitutional Review programme.

Professor Jowell is a leading authority on Public Law (including Constitutional, Administrative, Human Rights and Planning and Environmental Law) and has written widely in those areas. He has held visiting professorships in a number of universities outside of the UK, serves on the boards of various public bodies and legal journals and has advised on constitutional and administrative law matters in a number of countries including South Africa, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia. Several honorary degrees and awards have been bestowed on him.

It is envisaged that Professor Jowell's role will extend to advice and guidance to the government, and assistance with the local education and consultation process, which will include his attendance at public meetings and lectures on constitutional reform. It is anticipated also that Professor Jowell will be advising the Cayman Islands Negotiating Team during the negotiations with the UK government.

The Constitutional Review Secretariat will establish a Communications apparatus, which will be dedicated to raising public awareness, disseminating information, and facilitating the public education and consultation process effectively. The function will seek to ensure that communications are accurate, complete and timely. The Secretariat aims to facilitate a clear, meaningful and pervasive understanding among the general public of all aspects of the process - regardless of technical complexity - which will enable and promote the participation and contribution of all, and the exclusion of none.

The review process will commence shortly following the settling-in of the Constitutional Review Secretariat. The process will include intensive public education and consultation, a national referendum on the subject, and negotiations with the UK, culminating in a new constitution which is acceptable both to the people of these islands and the UK.

The government hopes that the Opposition will utilise the opportunities presented by this consultative and inclusive approach to become involved in this exercise, which is of the utmost national importance.

Whilst the government acknowledges that significant progress was made during previous efforts to move forward with constitutional reform, as reflected in the draft constitution of 2003, we believe that a fresh start to the process is now called for. The modern Cayman Islands democracy deserves a constitution which reflects the degree of self-governance which we currently enjoy; which meets internationally recognized standards of best practice; which both strengthens and clarifies the important constitutional link we enjoy with the UK as a British Overseas Territory and which is also rooted firmly in Cayman soil - mirroring faithfully our culture, principles, beliefs and values.