Our Constitutional History - Part 4
 

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Part Four - The First Cayman Islands Constitution 1959 to 1962

In spite of the uncertainties of who the Cayman Islands would join, on July 4, 1959 the Cayman Islands received their first written constitution by royal order – in – council.

Obtaining a written constitution was the first tangible step towards political advancement for the Cayman Islands, as the islands were now specifically exempt from the control of the Jamaican legislature and was placed directly under the authority of the Jamaican Governor.

 
Opening of The Legislative Assembly in 1972.
Photo: Cayman Islands National Archive collection
Opening of The Legislative Assembly in 1972.

There were also radical changes to the Legislature. After 129 years, the body of Vestrymen and Justices was replaced by two new bodies, the Legislative Assembly (the LA) and the Executive Council (ExCo, now Cabinet). The composition of the Legislative Assembly was also reduced from thirty five to eighteen members which comprised of twelve elected members, three nominated members and three official members. ExCo consisted of two official members, two elected members and one nominated member.

 
Justices and Vestrymen in George Town Grand Cayman on June 22, 1911
Photo: Cayman Islands National Archive collection
Justices and Vestrymen in George Town Grand Cayman on June 22, 1911
The Administrator of the Houses sat both as chairman and speaker and presided over ExCo.

The most significant change, experienced by the average Caymanian through this new Constitution, was that all adult Caymanians were now given the right to vote and stand for election.

However, for women, the road to universal adult suffrage was a rocky and tumultuous one. In 1948, twenty four George Town women wrote to the Commissioner at the time, stating that there was nothing in the 1865 Act of the Cayman Islands denying women to vote and that they intended to exercise their right in the forthcoming election. Unfortunately, the response of the Attorney General of Jamaica was that whilst the 1865 Act did not specifically exclude women from exercising their right to vote and their right to stand for election, the Act did not specifically include women either.

In a move to be taken more seriously, on May 29, l957, Caymanian women came together to demand their political rights. The signatures of three hundred and fifty eight women were submitted in the form of seven identically worded petitions originating from seven different districts to the Legislative Assembly.

These actions concerned both the Commissioner and Governor so much, that on September 20th 1958, a draft bill was forwarded from the Governor to the Commissioner. Likewise the Select Committee unanimously recommended the granting of the petition on October 16th 1958. As a result of this, the Cayman Islands saw the swift passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Law on December 8, 1958.

With the new constitution firmly in place and the Federation question having resolved itself, what steps would now be taken to obtain greater self government as a crown colony of the United Kingdom?

See Constitutional Supplement of July newsletter

Last Updated: 2007-10-19




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