Government, History & Politics
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.
So 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 country maintains a strong relationship with the United Kingdom.
In 2016 major changes were made to the country’s electoral system and the “One Man, One Vote” electoral system was brought in. Also the number of voting districts were increased to 19 and each district now only has one Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing them. So 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 and a total of nine were elected. After the much talked about “horse-trading”— what locals call the period of time following an election where ministry assignments are decided—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: Early History.
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 who were superb mariners that traversed the entire Caribbean basin and had settlements in Jamaica, Cuba and throughout other parts of the Caribbean and Central America. Christopher Colombus, however, is celebrated as being the first explorer to discover the Cayman Islands on the 10th of May 1503.
The Cayman Islands legal system is based on English common law, with the addition of local statutes which have, in many respects, changed and modernised the common law.
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 courts system is a simple one, with practice and procedure based on English law. Minor criminal and civil cases are tried by a Stipendiary Magistrate sitting in the Summary Court. All serious crimes and most civil cases, are tried by the Grand Court, presided over by the Chief Justice and Grand Court Judges permanently residing in the Islands. Appeals lie from the Grand Court to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, which sits in Grand Cayman and from there to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England.
New residents, especially those from the US, may be surprised to find that barristers in court wear wigs and gowns.
The Cayman Islands is a parliamentary democracy with judicial, executive and legislative branches and holds its general elections every four years. Cayman has two political parties, the People’s Progressive Movement party (PPM), led by Alden McLaughlin and the Cayman Democratic Party (CDP), led by McKeeva Bush. Cayman held it’s historic election in May 2017, after adopting a single-constituency electoral system.
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.