“If elected, the first thing I’m going to do is get that Ritch Report published.”

– Red Bay candidate Denniston Tibbetts, Cayman Democratic Party

“[I]t would not be in the public interest for ‘the advice’ to be disclosed.”

– Red Bay candidate and Premier Alden McLaughlin, Progressives, December 2016

Elections are about choices. Choices are about contrast. And in this election – where candidates’ views tend to overlap on the vast majority of issues, such as the importance of education and the scourge of local unemployment – here is a topic where, between two candidates, there could not be a greater contrast.

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Simply put: Mr. Tibbetts wants the Ritch Report to be made public; Premier McLaughlin does not.

Since receiving the report early last year by law firm Ritch & Conolly on the Cayman Islands’ system of permanent residence, Premier Alden McLaughlin has fought tooth and nail to resist sharing the contents of the report, which cost $312,000 of taxpayer funds. Premier McLaughlin claims the report constitutes “privileged” legal advice, an assertion that Chief Justice Anthony Smellie accepted in court. Shortly thereafter, Governor Helen Kilpatrick unilaterally blocked any appeal to a higher court of the Chief Justice’s ruling.

While we (obviously) have not read the report, we presume top officials have compelling (but not convincing) motivations to prevent the wider public from reading the report. Namely, we believe the Ritch Report is part-autopsy and part-playbook – containing a comprehensive critique of the shortcomings in Cayman’s current and possibly past immigration regimes, as well as a road map to how individuals who have been wronged by Cayman’s government could successfully seek restitution. With local and international courts entertaining the possibility of monetary awards for immigration-related damages, the entire situation could quickly get very, very expensive for Cayman’s taxpayers.

If true, the above may, to officials, seem reason enough to withhold release of the Ritch Report at all costs. Our perspective is the opposite. We think of ourselves as fiscal hawks, but of far greater importance than safeguarding the public treasury is protecting the rights of individuals – regardless of their immigration status.

Any tax-funded report that points out flaws in our laws or governmental procedures should be produced as an illuminating beacon for Cayman’s public, not hoarded as a secret by Cayman’s government.

As Mr. Tibbetts’ comment illustrates, even if the Ritch Report does indeed contain legally privileged advice and so is exempt from disclosure under open records legislation, that does not in any way prevent Premier McLaughlin and his government from voluntarily relinquishing that privilege, and publishing the report. That is, if they wanted to … but they don’t.

Expanding upon the relatively narrow topic of the Ritch Report, apart from the personalities of their respective leaders – on the one hand, McKeeva Bush of the Cayman Democratic Party, and on the other Premier McLaughlin (and before him, Kurt Tibbetts) of the Progressives – the singular issue that has differentiated Cayman’s two major parties is their approach to immigration.

Speaking generally, when the Progressives are in power, rules around immigration (particularly people gaining Caymanian status or permanent residence) tend to be tightened, and when the CDP is in power, those rules are relaxed (sometimes under legal duress).

The past four years have borne out that pattern, as no applicants have been awarded PR under the system implemented by the Progressives in October 2013, which has generated a backlog of about 1,000 applicants whose status is in legal limbo.

During last week’s Red Bay candidate forum, Premier McLaughlin acknowledged the problems with the immigration situation created by his government. He promised that pursuing a remedy would be a top priority if the Progressives were returned to power, and also pledged (as he did four years ago) that the Progressives would create a new authority to divorce the processing of work permits from the Immigration Department.

We agree with Premier McLaughlin that Cayman’s broken PR system is in a grievous condition requiring immediate redress. We also see the merit in separating work permits (which is really an economic or employment function) from the immigration process (which is a law enforcement or security function).

That being said … promises, promises.

To quote Denniston Tibbetts, “It’s four years on now and it’s not been done.”

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  1. I think that the Ritch PR Report would be very detrimental to the Islands if released. and Mr McLaughlin know that he has created a crisis that he could use to help him to get re-elected , that’s why he’s talking about what he would do and how he would fix the PR Law if he is re-elected .
    But if he’s re-elected he would change the Law and take the work permit system out of Immigration hands.
    Can the Cayman Islands Government handle something that is so complicated as border control and work permits from two different entities of GOVERNMENT ? That would be the biggest mess I ever seen in my life.

    How can someone make such a mistake on PR Law four years ago and today I know how to fix it ? How come he didn’t and couldn’t fix it before today ?

  2. I am writing as someone who was born elsewhere but has lived here for over 35 years. Paper Caymanian or not, this is my home.

    In that time the population has exploded from about 12,000 (9,000 Caymanian plus 3,000 ex-pat) to about 60,000 (30,000 Caymanian plus 30,000 ex-pat).

    Crime and traffic are now major problems.

    There is plenty of land for building but do we WANT to double our population? How will the infrastructure cope?

    I read a recent report that children in Barbados have a 98% literacy rate. One of the highest in the world. I DO NOT BELIEVE that Caymanian children are less intelligent than Barbadian children. How can we achieve the same educational standard?

    How can we educate our children that they can take the higher paid jobs? Not by forcing employers but because they are the best qualified job candidates.

    At the other end of the scale where are the Caymanians working in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants? Why is it necessary to import workers to do these jobs? (I am NOT knocking these imported workers who generally work very hard for not very much money ).

    • I just posted my comment on CNS on “the Education minister opposes dividing kids” article.
      I will repeat it here, for it answers Mr.Lintons’ question “How can we achieve the same educational standard?”
      Shortly -by making sure kids are actually able to learn. We assume that they are, but are they?
      Here it is:
      How hard it is to understand that the earlier their disabilities are discovered, the sooner custom made learning programs could be implemented.
      Make it mandatory for each child starting a school to be professionally evaluated. ArrowSmith school in Toronto does just that. Either contract them each year to do the evaluation or “grow” your own professionals by sending them to Toronto to learn.
      Almost all children have one or another disability such as : having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.
      They might not hear or see well and the regular doctors do not do these kind of testing. There are no optometrists specializing in learning-related vision problems in the Cayman Islands. Many school-aged children who struggle at school may actually have one or more of these learning-related vision problems. Most of these children actually have “perfect” 20/20 vision. Even if they have had a complete eye exam, children with vision-related learning disabilities would not be diagnosed because most optometrists and ophthalmologists do not specialize in this area, so they do not test for these problems.
      This also applies to the so called “unemployable”. Do we know why they are unemployable? May be they want to work, but with modern technology advancing by a minute and learning disabilities that never got corrected they simply can’t? Instead of facing an embarrassment they simply quit. Nobody wants to look like fool and admit that they are “having difficulty with reading, writing and mathematics, comprehension, logical reasoning, problem solving, visual and auditory memory, non-verbal learning, attention, processing speed and dyslexia.”
      That is what your leaders are missing.

    • Mr. Linton , yes Caymanians are Educated in and can take those jobs . When you have the Government ready to sell a work permit and is making so much revenue from it , then cheap labor is in the equation . How do you expect educated or qualified Caymanians to get the job then ? Alot of the problems that exist in the Cayman Islands Government and politicians has created ,

      There are so many problems and bureaucracy that Government has created against the Caymanian , I don’t have space on this page to explain them .

  3. About the literacy rate in Barbados? If we want to know why it is so high, ask how many teachers in the Education Department there are not Barbadian. We import accents from all over the world. Our children have difficulty understanding the melange of voices. It also helps if a child arrives at school ready to learn. This means being fed breakfast, having had a comfortable night’s rest, not reflecting the parent/parents’ stress. We are falling way too short of the goal for basic needs for our children while wasting money on yet more reports that are not ever going to get seen or used. Let us start there.