Posted By: Tina Trumbach
The past week has shown us that the Cayman Islands has a more tenuous grip on self governance than we’d previously believed.
Given the modernised 2009 Constitution, most Caymanians have been lulled into a sense of security that despite being a British Overseas Territory (BOT), we had the right to rule our own destiny.
However, with calls for direct rule coming from the UK’s (United Kingdom) Opposition Leader it quickly became clear to us all that this was not outside of the realm of possibility.
We have only to look at our fellow BOT the Turks and Caicos Islands to see that it is a potential reality that Britain can hold over our heads if we don’t fall into line.
Although Prime Minister David Cameron pushed aside Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments regarding the spectre of direct rule, the damage to our psyches had already been done.
Most of us grew up blithely accepting that our elected representatives ran the country while the Governor of the day merely represented the UK on our shores.
After all, the UK is supposed to be responsible only for our national security and foreign affairs.
However, recent events and issues have pointed to a far different reality.
Look at the issue of a public registry of beneficial ownership. Our local leaders have fought this tooth and nail over the past three years, finally coming to a compromise announced this week. However, despite this agreement Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin has warned that the battle is far from over. David Cameron continues to push for a public register.
And although Mr Cameron has denied the possibility of imposing direct rule if we do not comply, we are certain that great pressure will be brought to bear. How long will we be able to withstand it?
Beyond the issue of beneficial ownership, we also have the social and cultural one of same-sex marriage. While this publication has not taken a public stance on the issue, we are keenly aware that there is strong opposition to the very idea among the local population.
Indeed, two elected representatives resigned from the ruling government over the issue late last year. And opinion against recognising same-sex marriages locally has only solidified since then, with the Cayman Ministers Association taking a pledge to uphold traditional marriage.
While any pressure from the UK on this issue has been more subtle than that exerted over beneficial ownership, the pressure is still there.
A spokesperson for James Duddridge, the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories and Africa, said “We continue to encourage all the Overseas Territories to respect human rights in their widest meaning and to embrace policies of inclusiveness.”
This was in relation to a previous statement by Mr Duddridge in the UK Parliament on the Cayman Islands position on “equal marriage” that became a point of contention with Dr Leonardo Raznovich – who is currently appealing the Immigration Appeals Tribunal’s decision not to approve his application to be added as a dependent to his partner’s work permit by virtue of their marriage in another jurisdiction.
The Premier is trying to compromise on this issue as well. He has pledged to amend the Immigration Law regulations to allow same-sex and common law spouses as work permit dependents. It is his hope that this will stem the tide, and prevent the Cayman Islands from being forced to recognise same-sex unions by the UK.
This publication has not taken a position with regard to same-sex marriage, what we are taking a position on is internal self-governance.
Cayman’s elected representatives must have the final say on issues that relate to our internal affairs. Otherwise, what is the value of our democracy? And without this assurance, is the 2009 Constitution worth the paper it is written on?
We do not see how the issue of same-sex marriage is related to good governance, our national security or our foreign affairs – the only areas which the UK is supposed to have control over.
Aren’t we supposed to have governance over issues that relate solely to our community and society? Culturally, we would hazard a well-educated guess that most Caymanians are against same-sex marriage. If it came to a point that we were being forced to adopt this, wouldn’t it have to go to referendum?
After all, as drafted, the definition of marriage in the Cayman Islands is established in our Constitution of 2009. The provisions of that document had to go to a referendum to be approved by the people, so shouldn’t changing this aspect have to go to a vote as well?
And should the Caymanian people vote “No” what would the UK response be? Would our Constitution be revoked and we be placed under direct rule for disagreeing with a social and cultural construct?
Please note, as we have said repeatedly, this is not a position on same-sex marriage. This is a genuine question on the Cayman Islands’ rights and abilities to govern, control and manage our own internal affairs.
If we can be threatened, coerced and bullied on beneficial ownership, will we experience the same on this and any other issue that we disagree with the UK on?