Faced with a significant and complex issue, the default position for Cayman Islands governments (yes, plural) is to commission a report. As the weeks and months drag on, suspicions increase that the ostensible motive for the “study phase” is, in actuality, something else — to delay.
The most recent (and suspicious) example is the consultant’s review of the execution of Cayman’s Immigration Law, which was lambasted by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in a ruling last August concerning the permanent residence process.
Following Justice Smellie’s decision, officials hired highly regarded immigration attorney David Ritch to study the issue and write a report. Premier Alden McLaughlin, along with Attorney General Sam Bulgin, have now seen the report — but the premier doesn’t want anyone else to.
Premier McLaughlin is claiming the report, paid for with taxpayer funds, constitutes legally privileged advice — a highly specious claim that easily could be addressed with minimal redaction. (The Cayman Compass has filed an open records request that hopefully will result in the document being made public.)
Keep in mind that the parts of Cayman’s permanent residence system have been arranged, rearranged and manipulated by officials like chess pieces on a chessboard. Purposeful stumbling blocks include subjective points systems, written exams featuring farcical questions, shifting timelines and property ownership criteria.
However, in the end, the new Immigration Law, crafted and approved by Premier McLaughlin and his Progressives government, seems to have worked precisely as our ruling lawmakers intended:
Not one person has been awarded permanent residence under the revised legislation since it took effect Oct. 26, 2013.
Meanwhile, the lives of more than 600 PR applicants and their families are left “on hold.” Officials’ most recent excuse for government inertia has been they were awaiting Mr. Ritch’s consultancy report. The document was submitted in late spring but, as of yet, has not led to any action.
In the absence of “the Ritch report,” all we can do is speculate as to what it contains. Here’s our speculation:
The report most likely says that every one of the more than 600 applicants in the PR queue would have the legal standing to file suit against the government for not following its own law. Further, it probably advises that every single one of them would likely prevail in court.
The Progressives’ inaction on PR has placed Cayman at great risk, financially and reputationally. If we were one of the PR applicants, we wouldn’t petition the courts just to seek permanent residence — we’d also seek significant monetary restitution for damages.
For clarity, please note that this editorial has nothing to do with approval or denial of specific PR applications; rather, it has everything to do with government’s applying and enforcing its own laws.
If the government refuses to do so, that’s the very definition of a lack of “good governance,” and, constitutionally, puts the issue squarely in front of Governor Helen Kilpatrick. She should already have intervened, and now, with this latest provocation, should take charge of this issue immediately.
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, Britain’s new appointee charged with overseeing human rights and the Caribbean territories, should be monitoring this purposeful injustice closely (even more so since many of the PR applicants are British nationals).
In the meantime, Premier McLaughlin said this on Tuesday about the permanent residence issue: “I do understand and am deeply concerned about resolving this issue urgently.”
Mr. Premier, the clock has been ticking since October 2013. Perhaps it’s time to set the alarm.