Clad in the mantle of protectionism of Caymanians, the private members’ motion by MLAs Arden McLean and Winston Connolly accuses our country’s largest law firms of conspiracy and criminality. It is a broadside assault on the financial services sector, economy and community of the Cayman Islands.
Such motions, thankfully, carry no official weight. However, the mere existence of the allegations, and the publicity surrounding them, pose a significant threat to our country’s international relations and reputation. Simply put: This motion is dangerous.
What is more disappointing than the motion itself, perhaps, are the apparent motivations of the lawmakers who are proposing it.
We believe Messrs. McLean and Connolly understand fully how incendiary their accusations are. In brief, their motion alleges that Cayman law firms “are and have been for a number of years intentionally ignoring and deliberately circumventing” sections of the Legal Practitioners Law and Immigration Law in regard to the practice of Cayman law from overseas and the promotion of local lawyers to positions of partnership. In addition, the motion alleges, partners and principals in those law firms have conspired to thwart those laws.
We pose the following question: If Messrs. McLean and Connolly are so certain that our law firms – and their partners – are committing crimes, why did they bring their accusations to the Legislative Assembly – rather than to the police?
To our knowledge, there has never been a single complaint to law enforcement by these two legislators, or any other legislators, or, for that matter, anyone else, that Cayman’s law firms were breaking the law.
If such invective appeared in a performance of the annual “Rundown” comedy revue, we might consider it a bit over the top. But to broach this as a serious matter for discussion on the floor of the Legislative Assembly is irresponsible, contemptible and – up until we read the motion ourselves – utterly unthinkable.
This motion may have been born out of frustration – but certainly not naiveté. Mr. Connolly was a practicing attorney and funds director before entering office in 2013. The motion he seconded appears to be nothing more, or less, than an attempted political kamikaze attack into the hull of the HMS Cayman.
(It must not go without noting that both members enjoy the special power of “parliamentary privilege” which shields them from legal actions for libel and defamation.)
Regarding the underlying legislation – the Legal Practitioners Bill – the Compass has not taken an editorial position. For years the bill has marinated, been cooked and recooked, and the final version has not yet been made public. It is not to Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton’s credit that the bill is still being tinkered with at this late date.
However, compared with the fundamental iniquity of the independent members’ action, our quibble with Minister Panton is immaterial.
In addition to their “let it burn” approach to Cayman’s general economy, Messrs. McLean and Connolly have overstepped the boundaries of legislative decency and decorum by accusing Minister Panton – who is a former managing partner of Walkers law firm (from which he retired in 2011) – of having a personal conflict of interest in championing revised regulation of the legal industry.
Minister Panton responded to the personal besmirchment and the substance of the motion in measured and admirable fashion.
He said, “These two MLAs are not only wrong in law, but wrong in principle as well. Their actions are grossly irresponsible when international perception is critical to our continued success as a country.
“This motion is an attack on our financial services industry and an example of personal political agendas being placed ahead of the interests of thousands of Caymanians in the industry and, in fact, given the significance to our economy, the interests of the country as a whole.”
Well said, Minister Panton. If this motion makes it to the House floor for debate (it needs to be withdrawn forthwith), we would hope and expect to hear a near-identical refrain of condemnation from the remainder of the Legislative Assembly, universally.