Premier 'disappointed' with Chamber Council

Attacks Compass publisher again over anti-corruption editorial

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin on Friday criticized the leadership council of the territory’s largest business representative organization for not condemning a Cayman Compass editorial the premier previously referred to as “treasonous.” 

“I am disappointed … that the Chamber response fell short of condemning the Compass’s offending editorial,” Mr. McLaughlin said in a statement made to the Legislative Assembly. 

On Thursday, June 11, the Chamber of Commerce Council issued a statement urging the Cayman Islands government and Compass publisher David R. Legge to resolve a dispute that erupted over a June 3 editorial in the newspaper titled “Corruption: An insidious, creeping crime.” 

“We are concerned that, as a result of the actions of both parties, this matter continues to unnecessarily escalate with the effect that it is creating negative international media coverage,” the Chamber Council statement noted. “This is reflecting poorly on the Cayman Islands and the wider business community.” 

In addition, the Chamber leadership council asked the government to rescind a ban on government-sponsored advertising in the newspaper that was approved earlier this month via a motion made in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. 

“We support the right to freedom of expression as exercised by the Cayman Compass and all local media and as guaranteed and protected under the Cayman Islands Constitution,” the Chamber council statement read. “We also support freedom of expression exercised by those within our community that disagree with the editorial or other content in the newspaper. While we may not agree with what is said or written, we believe it is important for everyone to be able to state his or her views, whether that be the premier, the editor of the Cayman Compass or anyone else. 

“We do not support, however, the financial sanction proposed and passed hastily during proceedings in [the Legislative Assembly’s] Finance Committee on Monday, June 8, as this sets a dangerous precedent and would negatively impact the important role that a free press plays in our democracy,” the council statement continued. “The council calls on the government to repeal the advertising ban immediately.” 

Mr. McLaughlin said Friday that the Progressives-led government stood by the decision to remove its advertising. 

“While I will always fight for a free media, any media house that will fight against my country unjustly to sell newspapers or to swell the ego and the coffers of a publisher while harming Cayman’s reputation is not one that, in my view, should be subsidized, in part, by public funds,” the premier said. 

Mr. McLaughlin said the government’s position might change, if both Mr. Legge and the Compass editorial board publicly apologized to “the people of the Cayman Islands” for the June 3 editorial. The apology, he said, should be “in a form acceptable to government” and must appear on the Compass’s front page and editorial page. He also sought that the apology “receive the same degree of international coverage as did Mr. Legge’s flight from these islands.” 

Earlier in the speech to the House, Mr. McLaughlin noted that while he appreciated the Chamber Council weighing in on the issue, he believed it had not properly placed the blame where it lay. 

“It is David Legge’s direct actions, histrionics and fabrications that have directly caused the international media stories that give the Chamber Council and me concern,” the premier said. “Yet I do not see the Chamber publicly stating its concern for his actions.” 

The Chamber of Commerce representatives were contacted Friday for comment regarding the premier’s speech but had not responded by press time Sunday. 

The premier’s commentary in the Legislative Assembly went on to imply that some members of the Chamber Council did not agree with the statement released on June 11: “In private, some on the council have told me that the Compass editorial of June 3 was dastardly and had potential to damage our reputation, as were the actions of the publisher when he supposedly fled Grand Cayman to the safety of Florida and then went about systematically making wild claims to the overseas media. I believe they may also privately wonder what Mr. Legge is really up to. 

“With all due respect to the good people on the Chamber Council, for whom I have the greatest respect and regard, I would suggest that, if they wish to live up to the Chamber’s vision and mission statements, then they cannot sit on the sidelines but must speak out even when the private sector gets it wrong. 

“We have enough enemies abroad. We do not need enemies within our midst seeking to undermine the entire basis of our economy and society by claiming that we are ‘culturally steeped’ in corruption.”  

8 June Alden McLaughlin, premier
Premier McLaughlin


  1. The escalation is down to the playground bully, The Premier, who hasn’t got his way. The negative international attention is because he is trying to stifle freedom of opinion and debate not because of anything the Compass, or others, has done.
    He needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

  2. I am also disappointed but not surprised that the Chamber response fell short of condemning the Compass’s offending editorial. The thing to understand about the Chamber of Commerce is that it is a "business representative organization" and as such we should not expect the Chamber to do anything other than represent its members.

  3. Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin is quite right in his statement on Friday. The Council of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce offered a lukewarm exhortation that they support the right to freedom of the Cayman media and an appeal to “encourage both parties to act responsibly to resolve this matter urgently”. They said nothing to contradict the statements and actions of the Cayman Compass “Editorial Board.” Has the Chamber Council somehow got its wheels stuck in the mud of insipid “political correctness”?

    If the international reputation of the Cayman Islands and confidence in its governance were to be badly damaged or destroyed, wouldn’t it adversely affect the vast majority of Chamber members? In the face of such a threat wouldn’t it be myopic for the Chamber Council to defend one of their members at the expense of the vast majority of their other members?

    I hope we can all agree that journalistic privilege does not mean a journalist should expect to not be called out if they unjustly insult a whole people group or ride roughshod over the public trust inherent in fulfilling the role of a free press. Let’s not forget some of the wording the Cayman Compass or its publisher chose to use:
    – in the editorial of Wednesday June 3 claiming corruption is "COMMON in the Cayman Islands", that "LURKING BEHIND THE SCENES are shadows of impropriety, influence and inscrutability", that "such behavior is SO COMMONPLACE, [people in Cayman] tend to normalize it, refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is", that in Cayman we routinely excuse corruption as "CULTURAL DIFFERENCES", that "people in Cayman have been CULTURALLY STEEPED IN [corruption]";
    – in demanding 24-hour protection and fleeing the country
    – in the dramatized front page and follow-up articles in the Cayman Compass on Monday June 8;
    – and in the statements propagated in various different international media in the days before and after the Premier”s statement on Friday June 5 and the subsequent vote in Finance Committee.

    If some of the members of the Chamber Council privately say that highly irresponsible journalism has taken place, why aren’t they publicly calling the Cayman Compass out on it?

    First the Chamber Council needs to recognize and acknowledge that it was not the local politicians who threw the first punch in this recent bust-up. It was the Cayman Compass “Editorial Board.”

    Second the Chamber Council needs to realize that it was not local politicians propagating these stories to news media around the world. The first sideswipe against Cayman and those in leadership positions here, appeared in New York Times about a week or more before the Premier’s statement in Finance Committee:
    In that article the Cayman Compass publisher is quoted as saying among other things “Because Mr. Webb was so popular and successful, THE COUNTRY hasn’t looked deeper into what else he might have been associated with.”

    Then came the torrent. Examples of how far and wide that torrent has flowed to many corners of the world are:
    USA — New York Times (sportswriter Jeré Longman):
    USA — Washington Post (Adam Taylor):
    Canada — The Globe and Mail:
    Trinidad & Tobago — Guardian:
    Italy — La Gazzetta dello Sport:
    Poland —
    Various Spanish-language — HolaCiudad/Telemundo:
    International Financial Services Community — Offshore Alert:

    Despite all that, in the “Statement from the Council” the full text of which is at
    there are three paragraphs of which one focuses solely on criticizing the actions of only one side of the two in this fight: the Government. Why didn’t the Chamber Council write another paragraph focusing on criticizing the actions of the other side in this brawl, the Cayman Compass?

    Come on Chamber Council. This latest statement from the Premier gives you another opportunity to say what you really should say. So now you get a do-over. Use this one wisely.

  4. Mr Premier, why don’t you just be the big man in this dispute since you think you are the biggest man in town, and make Mr Legge a offer that if you the premier makes an apology would you Mr Legge make an apology and get this matter over with. Or are you too big to make a mistake or to apologize. No one is.

  5. John..understand the man , Mack.. some people has a hard excepting the truth when it is said , and if that one is in any power position, he / she would do exactly what you see the premier doing. I think that the Chamber see that the premier is the one that has mess up , but can’t come out and directly tell him so.

  6. Premier McLaughlin, as leader of the country, needs to undertake some introspection on how he handles criticisms – both individually and collectively as government.

    The Chamber was absolutely correct in analyzing the issue, as it did. I guess the next step will be some form of sanction against the Chamber? Think again, Mr. McLaughlin.

    It is your attitude of "the ostrich with the head in the sands" and "playground bully tactics" that continue to destroy the reputation of Cayman and create a culture of divisiveness, whilst incubating corruption at the macro level. Your focus should be strategic image management on an international level…instead, you choose to target a local editorial that resonates global perception of the islands.

    By the way, your own enemies are within – the ones who draw international attention to loopholes in your banking sector that facilitate fraud, money laundering and all the other charges at the beginning and end of this FIFA fiasco.

  7. I endorse the actions of our Finance Committee via the House. The terms have been specified for new duscussions relative to revisiting the "advertising ban".
    The publisher should move forthwith to follow the stated guidelines.

  8. I personally think that had Alden not mentioned this article in the LA and publicly accused him of Treason for it. People would have read the editorial and just keep it moving. There are articles printed in papers daily that people even governments do not agree with or dislike. However they do not blow up publicly over it screaming Liar Liar pants on fire that just makes you sound guilty or like you have something to hide. They get their response together and address the issues as someone in the position of the leader of a nation with nothing to hide should.

    In this case Yes, I think Mr Legge quite possibly could have been concerned about his family’s safety. He had just be accused of Treason and making direct attacks on the Caymanian People. There are plenty of radicals and malcontents out there in any country that do stupid things after an announcement like this. So no I don’t blame him for leaving and as for as the hype over the police protection, give it a rest this is just another distraction from the real issues. Give me a break $300, it cost that or more for the police to respond to a home alarm or pull someone over for a traffic stop. The point is that there was nothing out of the ordinary with that, people are just trying to make something bigger than it is out of it.

    What has happened here is this Alden has effectively distracted everyone from all the other issues. This has also further driven a wedge between the Caymanian and Non-Caymanian community. He has also effectively portrayed the Compass as a Foreign owned NewsPaper that doesn’t have Caymans best interest in mind while simultaneously positioning another newspaper to take its place by hyping on their Caymanian ties. All while portraying himself as the hero protecting Caymans image.

    Very Well Played Alden, unfortunately sometimes these things tend to backfire on you…

  9. Its just time to drop this, If the CIG doesnt want to advertise in the Compass so be it. Let’s just get back to the real issues please.

    This certainly isnt one.

  10. Mr Premier be a Leader! You do not see any other Government Leader calling the media treasonous, no matter how blatant the misstatement. This statement is what made the world wide media standup and side with Legge. The Cayman Islands has enough challenges on the world stage without acting like a juvenile.

    Lets all put on our big boy pants and talk about big boy issues. Let condemn the EU for the recent blacklisting, where is the Premier on that? That is far more damaging than anything Legge said.

  11. I could not agree more with Michael Davis’ two previous comments. Both are exactly right.

    If you look back at the 3 June editorial, there were no comments at the time about the article being treasonous or even offensive. And if you go back and read the editorial, it doesn’t even really say anything offensive or untrue. Of course there is corruption all through society, same as everywhere. Does anyone here thing that corruption isn’t a serious problem in the UK, or the US? Of course it is. And if you don’t think it exists in Cayman, you are lying to yourself. Pointing it out does not make it an attack on the entire people of Cayman, or the island itself. This is people getting worked up over stupidity.

    Speaking of stupidity, let’s look at the Premier’s requirements for an apology. 1) letting the government approve the form of the apology. Is this for real? Talk about censorship — first forcing an apology, and then approving the contents? Maybe the government can insist on writing it for them and having the Compass issue the apology sight-unseen. 2) must be on the front page AND the editorial page. Really? They have to print it twice? Completely unrealistic to think that it will go on the front page, when the editorial itself was not. 3) must receive the same amount of international coverage as Mr. Legge’s flight from the islands. Not sure how the Compass could do this — they can’t force other news stories to run articles on the apology they are being coerced into giving.

    All of this shows the nonsensical nature of the government. They created this issue by responding like children instead of simply ignoring a newspaper editorial. They created all of the attention and all of the fuss. And instead of just letting the issue die (and their embarrassment along with it), they keep bringing it back to life, making themselves look stupider each time they do. It shows a complete lack of competence on the part of the administration to deal with this.

    As for the advertising ban, I suggest the Compass institute its own policy that it will no longer accept advertisements from the government. Since the government is trying to use its advertising to coerce your content, I think it is incumbent on the Compass to stand up for free press and show that it is above coercion by taking away the tool the government is trying to use to coerce it with. Ban all government advertisements (including employment listings) forever from the pages of the compass, to show the government that their attempts to influence a free and fair press will never succeed.

  12. Did Mr. Legge refuse to answer questions, or did the "journalists" from the Compass refuse to ask him questions about the Premier’s statements?

  13. We have all seem to have forgotten what an editorial really is.
    It is simply a political satire.
    It is like that world wide.
    Political figures/topics are constantly being derided.
    Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill, this gamesmanship has gotten way out of hand and it is all embarrassing for the country…all of it!!!

  14. This overreaction by Premier McLaughlin and the subsequent bad press, could have been avoided. If the Premier had addressed the issue by stating that he agreed that corruption in government or business was a bad idea, and should be routed out wherever it was found. He could have further stated, that he didn’t believe corruption was a widespread issue in the Cayman Islands, but he would be happy to see any found and stamped out.

    But he seems to have hit the ceiling, and protested too much that the problem was this one editorial. The editorial, an opinion, that corruption needed to be dealt with and stopped.

    Maybe Cayman needs an independent investigative team to route out any single or multiple instances of corruption, no matter who is involved. No Matter Who Is Involved.

  15. The premier may be disappointed with the Chamber Council, but I think most of the free-thinking world find his behavior rash and immature for someone of his political stature. This is truly beneath his office on so many levels.