Chuckie chastises PPM

Says no protest march support undermines party’s credibility on education reform

Former Cabinet Minister Charles
Clifford has criticised the People’s Progressive Movement for not supporting
his planned protest march.

In a press release issued late
Wednesday, Mr. Clifford announced that he was cancelling the march because of
his political party’s lack of support.

“The
PPM’s decision not to continue to support the protest march has removed a
significant part of the organisational support and resources for the protest
march,” Mr. Clifford stated. “This will prevent us from achieving success with
respect to the other part of the reason for the march, which is the reversal of
the UDP Government’s damaging changes to our immigration policies.”

Mr.
Clifford stated that the march was always planned to be a non-partisan protest
of PPM members and non-PPM members.

Originally
the PPM was going to support a march that had a second purpose other than to
protest the ruling United Democratic Party’s announced changes to immigration
policy.  However, when Premier McKeeva
Bush said he was backing away from plans to sell the now-under-construction
Government Administration Building – the other reason for the protest – the PPM
backed away from supporting the march.

Mr. Clifford said he was
disappointed in the PPM’s position, given “the significant negative impact
these immigration policy changes will have on young Caymanians and Caymanians
who are already working in major industries.

“…I
encourage the PPM leadership to reconsider their position on this matter,” he
said. “To ignore it will undermine the PPM’s focus and credibility on educational
reform because these immigration policy changes will certainly emasculate the educational
reform efforts of the PPM.”

Mr. Clifford is opposing recent
changes made to immigration policy, particularly with respect to key employees.

Most foreign workers in the Cayman
Islands are subject to a seven-year term limit. Once they reach that limit,
they must leave the Islands for at least one year before they can return.  However, people who are designated key employees
by meeting specified criteria can remain and work in the Cayman Islands for
nine years, long enough to apply for permanent residence after they have been
here eight years. 

Permanent residence is granted to
those who meet certain criteria set out in an established points system. If an
applicant for permanent residence fails to get the required number of points,
he or she must leave the Islands for at least one year.  Applicants that are granted permanent
residence can remain and work in the Cayman Islands in their given profession
for the rest of their lives. After having resided in the Cayman Islands for 15
years, those with permanent residence can apply for Caymanian Status, which
could only be denied for specific reasons.

The changes to immigration policy
published in the Cayman Islands Gazette in January define 20 specific positions
in the financial industry as key positions. A direction issued by the
government to the immigration boards is for there to be a presumption if favour
of granting a key employee designation of any foreign worker who was is hired
to fill those key positions, as long as the employee fulfils certain criteria
and there’s not a Caymanian available to fill the position.

Mr. Clifford has stated that the
UDP intends to grant the key employee designation to 9,000 immigrant workers in
financial and other industries a claim that has been vehemently denied by the
government, which has said far fewer people would qualify for the designation.

In his press release Wednesday, Mr.
Clifford said his opposition to the changes in the policy concerning key
employee status was not “an anti-expatriate protest”.

“I
have always recognised and acknowledged that our economic success is largely
the result of the correct balance of Caymanians and expatriates in the
workforce.”

But
he said allowing the policy changes to stand would ultimately result in the “deterioration
of our social harmony, which is a significant part of the foundation for our
success and attractiveness as a country”

“This
will result in an increase in social problems and various categories of crime,
which is why expatriate workers, just like Caymanians, must take a keen
interest in this issue,” he said.

PPM
member Alden McLaughlin made a short statement about the party’s decision to
withdraw its support for the protest march.

“The principal objective of the PPM
supporting the march has been achieved,” he said. “The Government has announced
that it will not proceed with the divestment of the [Government Office Accommodation
Building]. The PPM executive decided that in the circumstances we would not
march. Mr Clifford disagrees with that decision. It is as simple as that.”

Compass reporter Brent Fuller contributed to this article.

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