The Cayman Islands has a rich history and a vibrant culture that is constantly evolving. Due to its small geographic size, large scale changes in Cayman are felt almost immediately.
Government, History & Politics of the Cayman Islands
As a result,it is not surprising that politics is a hot topic among locals. While Cayman creates its own laws and has its own appointed government officials, the territory maintains close ties with the United Kingdom.
In 2016 major changes were made to the country’s electoral system and the “One Man, One Vote” principle was introduced. The number of voting districts were increased to 19 and each constituency now has only one Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing them. On May 24th 2017 the two political parties, the People’s Progressive Movement party (PPM), led by Alden McLaughlin and the Cayman Democratic Party (CDP), led by McKeeva Bush as well as a host of independents went head-to-head. This historic election was a contentious one. A record number of independents joined the race of which nine were elected. After the much talked about “horse-trading”— a local term for the time frame in which ministry assignments are decided following an election—the PPM secured control of cabinet. Read more about Cayman’s current political system on the following page.
Today there is no disputing that Cayman is a sophisticated jurisdiction, but it wasn’t always like that. For an interesting synopsis of the Islands’ humble beginnings can be found by jumping to the next page and exploring the Early History of the Cayman Islands.
While Cayman does celebrate Discovery Day, you may be surprised to learn that Christopher Columbus was probably not the first human to discover the country.
Historians believe that the Cayman Islands was first frequented by Amerindians, the Caribbean’s first peoples. They were superb mariners that traversed the entire Caribbean region as well as Central America. While they may have stopped for fish or rest, there is no evidence they settled in Cayman. Christopher Colombus is celebrated as being the first explorer to discover the Cayman Islands on the 10th of May 1503. The treaty of Madrid was signed in 1670 and it is speculated that the first known inhabitants arrived some time after that. The tale goes that the first known settlers were two men of Welsh descent, having deserted Cromwell's army in Jamaica in 1658, with surnames Walters (later to become Watler) and Bawden (later to become Bodden).
The Cayman Islands legal system is based on English common law, with the addition of local statutes which have, in many respects, adapted the common law to be more suitable for local application.
The Islands have a good legal and judicial system and are constantly being upgraded to enhance their safety and reputation as a leading financial centre.
The Cayman Islands is a parliamentary democracy with judicial, executive and legislative branches and holds its general elections every four years. Cayman currently has two political parties alongside a host of independents: the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), led by Alden McLaughlin and the Cayman Democratic Party (UDP), led by McKeeva Bush and the independents who were officially named the opposition in 2017 and led by Arden McLean.Read More
Relationship with the UK
The Cayman Islands have been connected to Great Britain since the signing of the Treaty of Madrid in 1670. From that time until 1962, Cayman was linked to Jamaica as a dependency. In 1962, Jamaica chose to become independent, but the Cayman Islands decided to remain a British colony.
In 2002, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office discontinued the use of the term “Dependent Territory” and the Islands are now called an “Overseas Territory”. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office appoints a Governor, whose responsibilities cover a number of areas including: National Security, Foreign Affairs, Police, Immigration, Passport Office, Postal Services and other portfolios such as Broadcasting, District Administration and Civil Service.
Currently, there is very little desire amongst Caymanians for the Islands to become independent.