“I, Alden McLaughlin, Premier & Minister for Home Affairs, Health & Culture … have concluded that it would not be in the public interest for the Advice to be disclosed.”
— “Ministerial Certificate of Exemption” to not release the “Ritch Report” on immigration
Premier Alden McLaughlin and his Progressives government spent $312,000 of taxpayers’ money to commission a report on a subject — the Cayman Islands’ permanent residence system — that affects every person living in, or thinking about moving to, this country.
And he does not want you to read a word of it.
In fact, Premier McLaughlin has taken it upon himself to declare that it would not be in the “public interest” for a single syllable of the report to be exposed to daylight.
Keep in mind that some 800 or more people (plus their spouses and children) have applied for permanent residence (PR) since the Progressives government changed the immigration law in 2013, and many of those families are about to celebrate their third consecutive Christmas in Cayman while having no certainty about their immediate future in, or out of, this country.
The Ritch Report deals precisely with the PR “points” system that has led to those hundreds of applications, and potentially thousands of lives, being put on indefinite hold.
For the record, the Freedom of Information Law provides a very broad definition of the “public interest,” including information that may “promote greater public understanding or the processes or decisions of public authorities,” “provide reasons for decisions taken by Government,” “promote the accountability of and within Government,” “promote accountability for public expenditure,” “improve the quality of services … and the responsiveness of government,” “deter or reveal wrongdoing or maladministration,” or “reveal untrue, incomplete or misleading information or acts of a public authority.”
Nevertheless, Premier McLaughlin appears to be taking the position that publishing anything from the report would not be in the public interest. May we suggest an executive summary? Or perhaps a redacted version with any legal advice excised might provide a middle ground?
Certainly, if the Ritch Report is comprised in its totality of “legal advice” (and its release would not be in the public interest) then we agree it should not become a public document.
However, we are becoming increasingly concerned — given the premier’s desperate measures to keep this document secret (such as the unprecedented invocation of Section 25 of the FOI statute that now is likely to be challenged in court) — about what this report contains.
To compound our concern, remember that Premier McLaughlin is not only withholding this report from the public, he’s also attempting to shield it from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which normally acts as an impartial “referee” in disputes over records.
To keep things in perspective, it is worth remembering that the “Ritch Report” is little more than a sideshow in the matter of government’s refusal to issue one grant of permanent residence to 800 applicants under the new law in the last three years.
Which brings us to the following question: When is Governor Helen Kilpatrick going to step in to this human rights imbroglio under her constitutional obligation to promote “good governance” in the Cayman Islands?
It is true that “immigration” is a task delegated to the local government; however, when the execution of that responsibility is breached or abused to the point that it conflicts with international human rights conventions (to which the U.K. is a signatory), it becomes incumbent on the U.K., through its Foreign & Commonwealth Office and its designated representative, namely the governor, to intervene.
Many of the 800 permanent residence applicants are U.K. nationals. Who, we would ask the governor and the FCO, is looking out for their interests?
We wonder aloud whether officials in the U.K. know the full extent of Cayman’s PR and immigration misbehavior?
Do they, by their silence, condone it?