Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin announced late Monday afternoon that his Progressives-led government was abandoning efforts to pass a version of the controversial Legal Practitioners Bill during the current term, which ends Tuesday.
The bill’s passage was viewed as a crucial step to protect Cayman’s financial services industry and is required legislation prior to a territorial evaluation of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing safeguards set to occur here in September.
Mr. McLaughlin said the incoming government would be left to deal with the bill, hopefully before that evaluation by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.
“I am painfully aware … that following the elections the government will be under considerably more time pressure to pass legislation governing legal practitioners,” Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that the “substantial body of work” done on the bill would hopefully help the new administration in its task.
Mr. McLaughlin said he had hoped to build consensus of all members of the Legislative Assembly to support the bill, and thought that it had indeed been achieved following a private meeting of the assembly on March 16.
“Things being as they are,” he said, “I have to say … unfortunately, we have not yet been able to agree on the details of those amendments. Given the seminal importance of this legislation … this government would prefer to pass a bill with the overwhelming support of this honorable House.”
Opponents of the legislation, which included a number of local lawyers, said the current version of the bill merely cemented the “status quo” that had prevented Caymanian attorneys from advancing in the profession.
The precise wording of the legislation, following the proposal of about 200 amendments, was never agreed.
The House will be dissolved on Tuesday, which would have been the last day lawmakers could meet ahead of nomination day.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and independent opposition MLAs agreed that dropping the bill was probably the only option government had at this stage of the proceedings.
“We have to be careful what we do,” Mr. Bush said. “We have to look out for business, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Mr. McLaughlin said that had been the experience of other Caribbean jurisdictions which had passed ill-advised laws that had unintended consequences to their financial services interests or other businesses.