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.”