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Part Three - The Cayman Islands and the West Indies Federation 1959 to 1962

As the years passed, the Cayman Islands were described simply as “part of” the Federation. However, this issue became more pressing as the Federation States moved closer to achieving full dependency from the Great Britain and transitioned in to dominion status within the British Commonwealth.

Photos Courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archive
Photo: Cayman Islands National Archive collection
Administrator Jack Rose, A.R. Thomas and Sir Hilton Poynton at Lancaster House on a conference on the West Indies Federation.

In 1959, the Cayman Assembly chose five delegates, Messrs Duncan Merren, Roy McTaggart, Willie Farrington, Ormond Panton and Administrator Jack Rose to participate in a series of conferences held between September 1959 and June 1961. Their instructions were to negotiate and settle all unresolved aspects of the Federation’s Constitution including the Cayman Islands position within it.

In July 1961, Governor Kenneth Blackburne visited Grand Cayman for the purpose of announcing the proposals that had been drafted in June that year. The details were presented in a public meeting. The proposal, if accepted, was to be set out in a trial period of about five years after which a review would be carried out by the Federation and the Cayman government to decide whether the islands should continue in an associated relationship or become a unit territory, and petition the Crown to revert it to a colony status.

Photos Courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archive
Photo: Courtesy of the Cayman Islands National Archive
Sir Kenneth Blackburne, Governor of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands at a public meeting of the first legislative meeting under the Cayman Islands first written Constitution at George Town Town Hall.

The proposal for federation membership was that once the Federation became independent, the Cayman Islands would cease to be a British Dependency and would remain a member of the Commonwealth. The islands would enjoy full internal self government and the Governor of Jamaica would relinquish the responsibility over the islands.

The areas of Foreign Affairs and Defence would be the responsibility of the Federation and as a result, the Cayman Islands would contribute to their costs. The relationship between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands would be preserved through links with the University of the West Indies, medical and prison services and by the former providing periodic technical support and assistance.

The proposed arrangements meant that the Cayman Islands would have a Lieutenant – Governor as head of state, appointed by the British Government. In addition to this, there would also be a Chief Minister, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers would comprise of the Lieutenant Governor, the Chief Minister, two legislators selected by the Chief Minister and an Attorney General chosen by the Public Service Commission.

It was expected that this proposal would have been the main issue debated in the local 1962 election. However, surprisingly the decision of the Jamaican people upon voting at a referendum to not remain a part of the West Indies Federation caused the eventual collapse of the Federation in May 1962. What did this now mean for the Cayman Islands and its quest for greater self government?

See Constitutional Supplement of July newsletter

Last Updated: 2007-07-03