On Friday morning, Premier Alden McLaughlin appeared on a local talk radio show where he addressed the subject of the Cayman Islands government’s mounting problems with permanent residence applications.
Given the vital importance of the matter, Premier McLaughlin’s words were welcome — or at least … they would have been, had he shared with listeners his plans for dealing with the approximately 800 people languishing on the PR waiting list and his strategy for defending against potential court claims for monetary damages suffered by the more-than-half of that group who have been waiting for decisions for more than a year.
Instead, Premier McLaughlin fell into the politically predictable, but practically unhelpful, pattern of offering facile excuses for how he and his government wound up in this legal and humanitarian quagmire (wholly of their own making). Nowhere, amidst all the deflections, diversions and defensiveness did he explain what his government is going to do about it now.
Premier McLaughlin did, however, take time to criticize this newspaper’s coverage and commentary on the PR issue. He even stated on a local TV news program that the Cayman Compass’s agenda is to compel government to grant PR to all expatriates in Cayman.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In order to edify Premier McLaughlin and others, let us again, and unequivocally, state our position on the PR backlog:
We have never argued that all, or any, of the 800 PR applications should be approved. What we have argued is that Premier McLaughlin and his Progressives government should follow the immigration law that they created, passed and enacted. That means considering, deliberating on and deciding upon those applications (either thumbs-up or thumbs-down) in a timely fashion. Their refusal to follow the dictates of Cayman law has put our government (and the public treasury) at great risk.
As important as the legal and financial consequences of government’s three years of lack of progress on this issue are the humanitarian consequences.
While the Progressives have purposefully (and we would argue politically) dawdled, the 800 PR applicants (plus their spouses and children) have been languishing in limbo, deprived not only of security of tenure, but of certainty of where they stand. Their lives are on indefinite hold as are many of their careers. Ask yourself this question: If you were a manager, would you promote an employee who could be leaving at any minute?
The attitude demonstrated by the premier and his government toward the plight of the PR applicants is telling – and appalling. Historically, when elected officials refuse to uphold a particular group’s human, civil or political rights, the courts step in to do what the legislatures will not. This is already beginning to happen in Cayman.
On television, Premier McLaughlin said new immigration legislation is being worked out, based on the “Ritch Report,” but it may not be ready before the May election — another six months from now. In other words, another lengthy delay.
We cannot reconcile the premier’s apparent lack of urgency with rulings by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and more recently, the U.K. Privy Council insisting upon the timely consideration of immigration applications.
Also, we do not see how new legislation can remedy the damage already suffered by 800 people who applied under the prevailing law. The consequences continue to accrue with each passing day.
Premier McLaughlin said on the radio he would announce his government’s plans for PR applications in another forum. We will offer him that forum — this newspaper.
With the sole proviso that Premier McLaughlin focus his remarks on what he and his Progressives government plan to do about the PR problem, we will donate as much space as necessary, free of editing and free of charge, in the Compass.
We would hope Mr. McLaughlin would cease trying to reframe this issue as a “Compass vs. Government” matter. It is nothing of the sort. Permanent residence is an issue of great consequence to our entire country, and the Compass is simply pointing out the obvious: Our government must face it – and fix it.