News story ‘nonsense’

Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin criticised Cayman Net News and Opposition MLA Rolston Anglin for the content of an article printed last week about an amendment to the Immigration Law.

‘The story is completely wrong,’ said Mr. McLaughlin at the Cabinet press briefing Friday, adding that if the story were not factually incorrect, the Government would ‘leave it alone.’

After reading the article in question, which appeared in the Thursday 15 February 2007 edition of Cayman Net News under the headline ‘UDP opposes PPM amendment’, Mr. Anglin said he was ‘shocked’.

Mr. McLaughlin said the article created the impression that Cabinet had somehow passed amendments to the Immigration Law.

The Net News article stated that the Government had made public the amendments to the regulations surrounding the Immigration Law on 12 February.

Mr. McLaughlin said that the amendments to the regulations had been made public in December, when they were laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly.

A Government Information Service press release issued last week noted that the amendments had been published in the Gazette on 12 February. However, the release specifically stated the amendments had been laid in the Legislative Assembly on 21 December.

The amendment allows Cabinet to designate people in certain professions as key employees, thus giving them work permits for nine years instead of seven. Key employees can then apply for permanent residence after they have been here eight years.

That amendment to the Law giving Cabinet the authority to designate key employees was part of the draft ‘White Paper’ bill tabled in the house last September. The Government then announced on 8 December that it would adopt certain regulations to guide Cabinet’s decisions on which professions of foreign workers could be designated as key employees.

After the amendments were laid in the House in December, they were also debated.

In the Net News article, however, West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin appeared to think the amendments had just been passed and had not been tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

He was quoted in Net News as saying the decision should have taken place within the Legislative Assembly where it could have been debated.

Mr. McLaughlin said the matter had already been openly debated and that Mr. Anglin spoke a length in objection to the amendment.

‘What does he think the whole process was about?’ Mr. McLaughlin asked. ‘I don’t know if Mr. Anglin has forgotten he was Legislative Assembly or what.’

Mr. Anglin had spoken out against the amendment giving Cabinet the power to designate people in certain professions as key employees as long ago as 2 October in a front-page story in Cayman Net News.

Mr. McLaughlin did not object to Mr. Anglin stating his objection to the regulations.

‘That’s fair comment,’ he said. ‘That’s the job of the Opposition.’

But Mr. McLaughlin objected to the implication that government had done something untoward just because the amendments were gazetted last week.

‘If there is such a thing as a non-story, this is a non-story,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

‘It’s completely nonsense.’

Mr. Anglin said he had made it clear to the Net News reporter who interviewed him that the enabling bill to the regulations had already been debated and passed in the Legislative Assembly.

‘My comments made to her were the same comments I had during the original debate on the amendments to the Immigration Law in Legislative Assembly,’ he said. ‘I made it clear that these were old comments and that I did not agree with the original amendments, which would have included giving Cabinet this new power.

‘To juxtapose these comments onto the gazettal of the Regulations would naturally be out of whack.’

Mr. Anglin said that in light of what happened with his remarks, he was going to examine his approach to the media in the future.

‘Stories like this make members of the [Legislative Assembly] naturally hesitant to speak with the press,’ he said.