Status grants ‘reckless’

The reckless and irresponsible actions of the last government indiscriminately making more than 2,800 status grants in one fell swoop has caused more ill feeling and controversy than any other issue, it was claimed in the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Minister Alden McLaughlin made the claim when he gave his contribution to the debate on the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2005.

The previous government had shown little or no regard as to the qualifications, length of tenure, ability and other aspects of those people, Mr. McLaughlin told the House.

Power in government hands was always liable to abuse and the object of the present legislation was to ensure that Cabinet in the future would be constrained on a matter so critically important to the future of the islands.

Any country or society would not survive for long if it did not adhere to the rule of law and did not follow procedure, he said.

If citizenship could be conferred at the whim of the executive and if it could ride roughshod over legislation and interpret the law liberally, the system lost certainty and credibility, he said.

What had taken place had sent out a message to society that adherence to the law was an option, and that was not the society he had grown up in, Mr. McLaughlin said.

He pointed out that the Government of Kurt Tibbetts in 2001 had the immigration issue under review and on track before it was ousted that year.

The country could not throw the doors wide open and say that all and sundry that came here would be granted the right to be Caymanian, he said.

The right to be Caymanian ought not to have been cheapened in the way it had, he added.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush told the House that no one was more nationalistic than he, but said that without the people who came here from elsewhere, Cayman would not be where it was today.

If what had happened was reckless and indiscriminate, everyone was guilty. The Cabinet was not just him, a number of Cabinet ministers made the policy, he said.

The government, in recognition of various people and as part of the country’s 500 year celebrations, made a decision to do the proper, Christian thing and recognise those people and include them in society, he added.

The bill, outlined to the House by Acting Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks, was also designed to reduce the ever-growing workload of the Immigration Department in relation to work permits, said Mr. Ebanks.

Among the statistics he gave was that there were now 8,000 temporary work permits in effect as compared to 3,000 before last September. There were also about 200 new applications being received daily.

Consideration of the bill continued yesterday afternoon.

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