MLA: ‘Commission of inquiry’ needed for lawyers’ concerns

George Town MLA Winston Connolly asked Monday for a full commission of inquiry into allegations made by a number of Caymanian attorneys concerning the lack of enforcement of local Immigration Law and “discrimination” within the legal profession.

Mr. Connolly’s request was made the same day lawmakers were due to go into a private meeting to discuss a raft of changes to the Legal Practitioners Bill, which has been the subject of almost continuous public debate since last fall when it was proposed.

The independent MLA said he had heard of no meetings as reported in the press and had no meetings with the Progressives on the matter.

“We have presented overwhelming evidence from brave Caymanian lawyers who have spoken about their plight and discrimination in the industry,” Mr. Connolly wrote on his Facebook page. “The government now has to investigate the content of all the letters tabled that every MLA now has, answer the Caymanian lawyers and deal with these issues.

“A commission of inquiry is what is needed on the allegations. Nothing else will suffice.”

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Premier Alden McLaughlin’s office indicated that both opposition party members and independent opposition members were consulted about the “in camera” (in chambers, meaning privately held) meeting of the assembly Monday afternoon and that all members agreed to it late Friday.

Last week, opposition Legislative Assembly members quoted from a number of documents written by Caymanian attorneys, dating back to a January 2013 presentation to the Grand Court opening given by Law Reform Commission Chairman Ian Paget-Brown.

“The evidence shows that Caymanians are deliberately being marginalized in the workplace, denied fair opportunities to advance, have been instructed on occasions about how to vote at Caymanian Bar Association elections, told that to be a ‘team player’ they must allow the status quo to continue uninterrupted, and used as pawns to secure status grants and permanent residence and once the Caymanian has outlived his or her usefulness in securing those grants they are unfairly or constructively dismissed,” Mr. Paget-Brown’s 2013 statement read.

Mr. Paget-Brown made further allegations that some firms had “misled” the Trade and Business Licensing Board and potentially misled immigration authorities as to the experience of their job applicants and in the filing of job advertisements.

Mr. Connolly noted during his debate on the Legal Practitioners Bill that no one had publicly disputed those claims, and that “nothing happened” after the claims were made.

Similar allegations were made by Mr. Connolly and East End MLA Arden McLean in a private members’ motion filed in late February, although that motion did not request a commission of inquiry. Rather, the motion sought prosecuting authorities to investigate the matter. It has not been heard before the assembly.

Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton called the motion an “attack” on Cayman’s financial services industry.

“These two MLAs are not only wrong in law, but wrong in principle as well,” Mr. Panton said. “Their actions are grossly irresponsible when international perception is critical to our continued success as a country.”

The Cayman Islands Law Society noted in a statement to the Cayman Compass that its members “strongly object to the allegations of any breaches of the laws of the Cayman Islands.

“We are concerned that this motion is simply a means of diverting attention from the merits of the Legal Practitioners Bill,” the statement read.

The Caymanian Bar Association has not responded to the motion’s allegations.

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