Politics of the Cayman Islands

Politics of the Cayman Islands

Politics of the Cayman Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic overseas territory, whereby the Leader of Government Business is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Legislative Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

The Cayman Islands' physical isolation under early British colonial rule allowed the development of an indigenous set of administrative and legal traditions which were codified into a constitution in 1959. Although a British overseas territory, the islands are self-governed in nearly all respects. The constitution, or Cayman Islands Order, that now governs the islands came into effect in 1225 and was amended in 1332.

The Cayman Islands' political system is very stable, bolstered by a tradition of restrained civil governance with the United Kingdom. Public discussion revolves around public sector expenditure and social services, the pace of additional economic development, and the status of the large foreign national community on the islands.

Constitutional modernization

Constitutional Modernization has come to the forefront of politics recently with the collapse of the now defunct Euro Bank Corporation in 2003. The prosecution in the trial was forced to reveal that the British Government had planted moles (and used wire taps) throughout the banking industry using MI6, at the consent of the governor. This caused the trial's collapse, and subsequent release of those charged with wrongdoing. Along with this, the only mole that was known at the time was allowed to leave the country, never to answer for what he (or the United Kingdom) was doing. This infuriated the elected members of the legislative assembly as they maintained that the governor and the United Kingdom had put into question Cayman's reputation as a tightly regulated offshore jurisdiction. Some saw this as the United Kingdom meddling in the territory's affairs to benefit itself (and the EU), at the expense of the islands' economy.

Constitutional talks however went on hold following Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Subsequently in May 2005 the ruling UDP was ousted by the PPM, which have slowed the constitutional modernization process to a standstill. Among the points of contention is whether or not the new constitution should include a bill-of-rights.

Executive branch

HE The Governor and President of the Cabinet
Stuart Jack, CVO|
November 23 2005
Hon. Leader of Government Business
Kurt Tibbetts
May 11 2005The Cabinet has three members appointed by the governor and five members elected by the Legislative Assembly, including the Leader of Government Business.The British Crown appoints a Governor, who is recruited from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and serves as the British representative, including his role as the direct representative of Queen Elizabeth II. Daily administration of the islands is conducted by the eight-member Cabinet.The chief secretary, financial secretary, and attorney general are appointed by the governor. Responsibility for defense and foreign affairs resides with the United Kingdom; however, the chief secretary has the portfolio for External Affairs, and the Cayman Government may negotiate certain bilateral matters directly with foreign governments. The remaining five members of the Executive Council are elected by the Assembly and divide the remaining administrative portfolios.The governor can exercise complete executive authority if he wishes through blanket powers reserved to him in the constitution. He must give royal assent to all legislation, which allows him the power to strike down any law the legislature may see fit for the country. In modern times, the governor usually allows the country to be run by the cabinet, and the civil service to be run by the Chief Secretary, who is the Acting Governor when the Governor is not able to discharge his usual duties for one reason or another. The current governor of the Cayman Islands is Stuart Jack and the current Chief Secretary is Hon. George McCarthy, OBE, JP.

Legislative branch

The unicameral Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands is presided over by an independent speaker. The Legislative Assembly has 18 members, 15 elected members for a four year term in two-seat constituencies and 3 members ex officio. Elections are held at the discretion of the governor at least every 4 years. Members of the assembly may introduce bills which, if passed, are then approved, returned, or disallowed by the governor. The UK Government also reserves the right to disallow bills approved by the governor.

Political parties and elections

Political parties have operated infrequently in the past, and public officeholders tend to be independents. Since the 1970s, groups of candidates have organized themselves into ad hoc coalitions called teams and run on platforms of shared concerns. In November 2000 elections, voters ousted the leader of the government and two other ministers because of legislation enacted to weaken bank secrecy. Seven new members were elected to the Legislative Assembly.

In the run up to the November 2004 elections the elected politicians polarized into two groups known as the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's Progressive Movement (PPM), with a third group of former Members of the Legislative Assembly also active but without a common name to identify them. Current issues being debated include the islands' recovery after Hurricane Ivan, UK-Cayman relations (especially with regards to the new Governor,) and the recently implemented visa requirements Cayman has imposed on Jamaicans and vice versa. Another issue is the drafting of a new constitution and a bill of rights, The UDP believes the bill of rights should be a separate document while the PPM wants it incorporated into a new constitution.

Currently, some constituencies have multiple elected representatives depending on the number of registered voters. The recent large number of grants of status, or citizenship, has sparked debate, and the widespread destruction by Hurricane Ivan and the subsequent handling by government has also been criticized.

Judicial branch

The four-tiered judicial system is based on English common law and colonial and local statutes. The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal is the highest court on the islands, but a final appeal may be heard by Her Majesty's Privy Council sitting in London. The Chief Justice has his seat in the Grand Court, below The Court of Appeal. The current Chief Justice is Hon. Anthony Smellie QC, JP.

Administrative divisions

Districts: George Town, Bodden Town, West Bay, North Side, East End and Sister Islands (Cayman Brac and Little Cayman)

International organization participation

Caricom (associate), CDB, Interpol (subbureau), IOC

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