Cayman Islands Government
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 still a British Overseas Territory, the islands today are self-governed in nearly all respects. The Constitution, or Cayman Islands Order, that now governs the islands came into effect in 1972 and was amended in 1994.
The Cayman Islands' political system is very stable, bolstered by a tradition of restrained civil governance, sustained economic prosperity, and its relative isolation from foreign policy concerns by virtue of its colonial relationship 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.
The Cayman Islands form a British Overseas Territory with a large measure of self-government. The present constitution, which came into effect in 1972, provides for a system of government headed by a Governor, a Legislative Assembly, and a Cabinet, which administers the islands. The Governor is recruited from the U.K. Government Service, serves as the British government administrator, and retains responsibility for the civil service, defense, external affairs, and internal security.
The Governor also chairs the Cabinet and appoints to the Cabinet the Chief Secretary, the Attorney General, and the Financial Secretary, while the Legislative Assembly elects the Cabinet's other five members. Unlike other Caribbean Overseas Territories there is no Chief Minister but a Leader of Government Business. The Leader of Government Business is an elected politician, while the Chief Secretary is the most senior civil servant. Currently, the Leader of Government Business is also the Minister for District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing.
Responsibility for defense and external affairs resides with the United Kingdom; however, the Chief Secretary has responsibility for the Portfolio of Internal and External affairs, and the Cayman Government may negotiate certain bilateral matters directly with foreign governments. The elected members of the Cabinet divide the remaining administrative portfolios.
The 18-seat unicameral Legislative Assembly is presided over by an independent speaker. 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 U.K. Government also reserves the right to disallow bills approved by the Governor.
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 Her Majesty's Privy Council sitting in London may hear a final appeal.
Since 2000, there have been two official political parties: The United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's Progressive Movement (PPM). While there has been a shift to political parties, many contending for an office still run as independents. In May 2005 elections, the People's Progressive Movement won, receiving nine of the 15 seats. The next elections are due in 2009.
Principal Government Officials
- Head of State--Queen Elizabeth II
- Governor--Stuart Jack, since November 2005
- Leader of Government Business--The Honorable Kurt Tibbetts, since May 2005
The Cayman Islands are represented in the United States by the United Kingdom Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC 20008; tel: 202-462-1340; fax: 202-898-4255.
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, with offices in Miami, New York, Houston, and Chicago, also may provide travel information.