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Part 6 - The 1972 Constitution – A quest for internal self control?

After the unanimous resolution in the Assembly for the Islands to remain a dependency of the United Kingdom, the legislature now attempted to fulfill its mandate to achieve internal self government.

During the 1960’s the local legislature established select committees to consider constitutional change. A British constitutional expert, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith was also appointed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to facilitate this process.

In conducting his work, the Earl of Oxford observed that the islanders desired greater participation by the elected representatives in government business and for the abolition of nominated members in both the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council.

After the Earl produced his report, a new constitution came into force in the Cayman Islands in August 22, 1972. Some of the changes that resulted from this new constitution were that the Administrator, who was the Chief Executive, was now changed to the Governor. The term of the Legislative Assembly was extended from three to four years and the system of nominated members was abolished. In its place was the appointment of the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Attorney General who were official members.

The new constitution also made provision for the Legislative Assembly to be presided over by a Speaker. The appointment of a speaker did not take place until 1989 some 17 years after the 1972 constitution came into force with Ms. Sybil McLaughlin appointed as the first speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The Governor remained as the Chief Executive of the Executive Council and the four elected members were officially assigned portfolios by the Governor pursuant to the 1972 constitution.

Whilst substantial constitutional developments were achieved through the 1972 Constitution, the longstanding request of the people of the Cayman Islands for greater participation by the elected membership seemed to remain elusive.

This was evidenced by the fact, that although the Executive Council were bound by “collective responsibility” to support all its decisions in the Assembly, the Governor was vested with special responsibilities and reserved powers which excluded him from being bound by the collective will.

The new Constitution vested the Governor with special responsibilities which did not require him to consult with elected members. Additionally, the Governor was vested with reserved powers which allowed him to go against the advice of Executive Council in special circumstances.

Whilst, the Cayman Islands have been fortunate that it has had benevolent Governors who have used their reserved powers sparingly, we see that the tension between the Governor and the elected representatives still remain. Here we are, some thirty five years after the fact, making the same request - Have the winds of change finally arrived?

Last Updated: 2007-07-18