By Alanna Warwick-Smith
The Cayman Islands marked a pivotal point in its history when the Legislative Assembly was renamed the House of Parliament on Friday, 5 December 2020.
Growing up on Grand Cayman, the largest of the tri-island British Overseas Territory, history was passed on through storytelling by our elders. As a child, I would hear countless tales of the Cayman Islands’ birth and growth over the last two centuries, and how we had progressed from being ‘the islands time forgot’ to a world-class jurisdiction home to many global businesses.
I made the decision to attend the opening of the House of Parliament so that I too could become a storyteller and pass on a first-hand account of this important juncture to my children and grandchildren – recounting another stepping stone in the path of our democratic history and cementing the strength of the governance system.
The birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands is accepted as Pedro St. James Castle, a traditional Caymanian Great House and plantation, where on 5 December 1831 (189 years prior to the renaming of the House of Parliament) a group of individuals decided to form the first elected government (source).
The progression of government in the Cayman Islands continued at a consistent pace, with notable achievements such as a written constitution and women being granted the right to vote in 1959 (source).
The renaming of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, the unicameral legislature of the Cayman Islands (source), is another historic moment in the story of these islands.
Sitting in the grand room filled with politicians, dignitaries, businesspeople, and notable members of the Cayman Islands community I was struck with the question – what does this change all mean? How does it support the sustainable growth of the islands?
A proud British Overseas Territory, in short, this change allows the House of Parliament autonomous authority over domestic affairs.
In his throne speech, His Excellency the Governor, Martyn Roper, extended congratulations from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, who lauded the Cayman Islands for “how far they have come in developing into a mature democracy.” (source)
The Cayman Islands now joins the likes of other committed British Overseas Territories, Bermuda (source) and Gibraltar (source), with a House of Parliament governing domestic issues and affairs. The Governor retains power over security and good governance of these islands, maintaining a balance in the constitutional relationship which reflects the rights and responsibilities of both the UK and the Cayman Islands and working closely with other government departments to fulfil the UK government’s collective responsibility for the country (source).
I left the now House of Parliament inspired by a modern, democratic government which would continue to support and encourage confidence and stability in the Cayman Islands.
About the author
Alanna Warwick-Smith is a Senior Marketing Communication Coordinator supporting the business development and real estate marketing team for Dart. Alanna has worked in Dart’s flagship development of Camana Bay for the past eight years, when she began her career working at the town’s bookstore, Books & Books. A lover of the written word, Alanna reads and writes poetry in her spare time, and has written content for a range of platforms in the past, including her own blog and Camana Bay Times.