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New constitution coming

 

By Carol Winker, carol@cfp.ky

Sunday 24th May, 2009   Posted: 16:48 CIT   (21:48 GMT)

Called incredible achievement

Constitutional Review Secretariat Director Su-sanne Bothwell

Constitutional Review Secretariat Director Susanne Bothwell

The Cayman Islands will get a new constitution.

Governor Stuart Jack called Cayman’s first–ever referendum “very, very well organised,” and “an incredible achievement”. He thanked the counters, talliers, observers and support staff for helping the country as voters answered the important question of whether to approve a modernised constitution.

By a ratio of more than three to two, the answer was yes for a new constitution of the Cayman Islands to replace the 1972 version and its amendments.

Mr. Jack attended the Referendum Command Centre on Thursday morning after the counting process began minutes after 10am. He returned around 5pm for a briefing of the final results before they were announced publicly.

With 15,361 persons eligible to vote as of 1 April, 11,244 exercised their right in the referendum, either by postal ballot, mobile polling or going to their polling stations on Wednesday, 20 May.

Because the Constitution is a national issue – as opposed to elections, which are district issues – what mattered was the final total. However, every district returned a majority in favour of constitutional modernisation.

Overall, 7,045 people said ‘yes’, while the ‘no’ count was 4,127. Only 72 ballots were rejected. Grounds for rejections were if the ballots were blank or doubly marked or if the voter’s intention could not be determined or if the voter chose to identify himself or herself in some way.

The ‘yes’ votes equalled 62.65 per cent of the total cast, well above the “50 per centum or more” required for the referendum to pass. Officials explained this as “50 per cent plus one” of voters casting referendum ballots.

Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez expressed satisfaction with the way two separate teams carried out two separate votes on the same day, referring to both the general elections and referendum.

Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott, who had specific responsibility for the referendum, thanked all workers and observers for their dedication.

Constitutional Review Secretariat Director Susanne Bothwell said she was pleased with the total number of voters.

“The turnout was extremely high for such a new initiative for these islands,” she commented.

A senior Crown counsel, Mrs. Bothwell was appointed to the secretariat in February 2007. Her work in the secretariat role will continue as the new constitution is implemented.

Mr. Jack explained that process in a formal statement on Friday.

“An Order in Council will now be submitted to Her Majesty in the Privy Council for consideration at its next meeting on 10 June,” he said. “The new Constitution Order will be brought into force by me by proclamation soon after it has been made in the Privy Council.”

At that time the governor will issue a further press release to explain the phased introduction of the new constitution.

“There is much work to be done, and my office will be working closely with the Constitutional Review Secretariat and others to ensure a smooth transition,” he said.

UK Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron said she was delighted the people of the Cayman Islands had accepted the new draft constitution. She predicted it will be an important step forward.

“I know that the bill of rights has been a subject of some debate in the territory,” she acknowledged. “However, I am convinced that it is an important first step in the enhancement of human rights protection in the Cayman Islands, and that it will raise awareness of and strengthen respect for human rights in the islands.

“The new constitution will also help to ensure the increasingly high standards of good governance to which the UK Government attaches considerable importance. We look forward to working with the new government of the Cayman Islands towards timely implementation of the new Constitution Order,” Ms Merron said.

The new draft constitution is the result of three rounds of negotiations between the Government of the UK, the Cayman Islands Government and Opposition along with local stakeholders, including churches, the business community and the Human Rights Committee.

Public meetings about the draft constitution were held throughout the three Cayman Islands.

District results of the referendum were:

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman— Yes, 362; No, 329; rejected, 5.

North Side— Yes, 337; No, 134; rejected, 1.

East End— Yes, 255; No, 186; Rejected, 6.

Bodden Town— Yes, 1,842; No, 837; rejected, 7.

West Bay— Yes, 1,501; No, 1,105; rejected, 16.

George Town— Yes, 2,748; No, 1,536; rejected, 37.

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