– Premier Alden McLaughlin.
speaking about the Cayman Compass
Although it is unlikely Premier McLaughlin intended for us to take it as a compliment, being labeled “relentless” is among the highest praise a newspaper could ever hope to receive. We’ve already got the T-shirts in production.
We assure our readers that, as we pursue the truth behind the implausible narrative that the premier is promulgating relative to his government’s deliberate inaction on some 800 (and counting) applications for permanent residence, we will only become more and more relentless. So, we presume, will the courts.
The rhetorical sleight-of-hand the premier attempted to pull off during Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon was cynical and disingenuous on a number of different levels. Where to start …
One of the first things a good speaker does when preparing remarks is to assess the audience he is about to address. What Premier McLaughlin did – before a collection of the smartest, most successful and most educated business owners, managers and professionals in the Cayman Islands – was to peddle a linguistic and legalistic fiction – to a decidedly “nonfiction” crowd.
In brief, the premier attempted to excuse his government’s refusal to consider PR applications on “systems and processes in place for many years” and a continuing journey toward a “sensible resolution” to a “complex” matter.
Huh? As we say in the news business, get me “rewrite.”
Here’s what’s really happened: Three years ago, the premier’s Progressives-led government passed an immigration law establishing new guidelines for expatriates to apply for permanent residence. Since then, about 800 people have applied for PR under the new law … and zero have been approved.
In the meantime, judges – ranging from local Chief Justice Anthony Smellie all the way up to the U.K. Privy Council – have weighed in (directly and indirectly) on the miscarriage of justice when governments refuse to decide on immigration applications in a timely fashion.
Hundreds of PR applicants, and their families, have been suffering while their futures have been held in abeyance by this government – and, Mr. McLaughlin, we assure you they are highly likely to sue and, when they do, they are likely to win. The Privy Council has recently ruled (on a different, but similar, immigration matter) that monetary damages can be awarded to plaintiffs in these cases.
(As an aside, but a matter of interest, Cayman’s government is collecting – and holding – millions of dollars in associated fees from permanent resident applicants as their cases drag on.)
When our premier puts his head on his pillow each evening, we imagine he hears two clocks ticking: one on the forthcoming PR bomb and the other on the 2017 election.
In order to find a way out of this mess – and perhaps to buy more time – Premier McLaughlin sought out celebrated local attorney David Ritch to conduct a thorough review of the PR imbroglio (cost: $312,000).
Our hypothesis is that Mr. Ritch did too good a job, delivering a legally and politically explosive report to the premier, thereby creating an entirely new problem: How to keep the report secret.
The solution (let’s call it the “Hillary Clinton solution”) was obvious: Simply reclassify the document from “report” to “legal advice,” and then label it “privileged” (meaning not for public consumption).
The Compass immediately challenged that assertion using the Freedom of Information Law. The government’s response has been non-cooperation and non-compliance with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
In fact, as we report (“relentlessly”) on the front page of today’s newspaper, the Cabinet Office has refused to let FOI officials peruse the Ritch Report to determine if it does indeed contain legally privileged information.
In response, Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers has now issued a binding order to government to produce the document within 45 days.
Tick tock, tick tock …