The Cayman Compass sent three reporters to the Fidelity CEO conference last Thursday. We wanted to be absolutely certain we did not miss what Premier Alden McLaughlin was expected to say.
Leading up to the event, a number of “reliable sources” told the Compass that Mr. McLaughlin was preparing to make a major announcement regarding the festering permanent residence issue, “if” (the big “if”) he and his government could agree on their new policy by conference day.
Apparently, they could not.
On the heels of the Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling that the “Ritch Report” on the Cayman Islands immigration system constituted “legal advice” to the premier and so could not be read even by Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers, the Fidelity speech would have been particularly opportune to address the backlog of more than 1,000 applicants for permanent residence that has built up since the Progressives’ new Immigration Law took effect in October 2013.
That did not happen.
What did happen was that Premier McLaughlin chose to deal with ancillary immigration issues, giving only scant mention to the permanent residence imbroglio.
Here’s what he said:
“Concomitant with preparing our people for the growth and jobs of the future is a fair and transparent immigration process. As would any country that has experienced massive immigration over the past four decades, the Cayman Islands has had its share of challenges, from issues with work permits to permanent residency.
“I have to confess that managing these issues is a task akin to walking the razor’s thin edge, but suffice it to say that we will manage it with the same resolve that has seen us rise to the top of the economic pyramid in the region.”
Why even bother? If the premier currently has a speechwriter, he needs a new one. If he does not have one, he needs to hire one.
We will acknowledge that the immigration initiatives that were announced by the premier Thursday appear positive and forward thinking. The government is going to do away with visa-related red tape for Chinese and Jamaican travelers (who already hold Canadian, U.K. or U.S. visas), has reached an agreement with the U.S. to ease passport requirements for Caymanians traveling to America, and is working on a deal so that travelers from Miami can skip immigration lines in Grand Cayman.
These are welcome initiatives and will lighten the burden for many traveling to and from these islands.
However, on permanent residence, it appears that all the public can do is wait … and wait … and wait … and possibly sue …
As we have stated previously, we believe that the permanent residence issue is a human rights issue and a good governance issue with embarrassing international implications, not to mention considerable financial exposure, for these islands.
The issue, we believe, clearly falls within the remit of the Governor’s Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth office to offer oversight and assistance to a local government that obviously cannot navigate its way out of the quagmire it has created.