Cayman’s leaders seek constitutional reform

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in Westminster Palace in London. Members of Parliament passed an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill on Tuesday that will require Cayman and other British Overseas Territories to create public beneficial ownership registries.

Cayman Islands leaders continued to push for constitutional reform in a series of meetings in London following the U.K.’s decision to impose public beneficial ownership registries on its overseas territories.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has described the decision as “constitutional overreach” and is lobbying for changes in the relationship between the Cayman Islands and the U.K.

Mr. McLaughlin, along with Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers and a delegation of Cayman Islands government officials, met with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, Monday for “bilateral talks” on the issue.

The premier has indicated he would like to see section 125 of the constitution – which gives the U.K. full power to make laws for the “peace, order and good government of the Cayman Islands” – either dropped or revised.

Following last month’s beneficial ownership decision, he believes this clause needs to be clarified to make clear that the U.K. should only intervene in the territory’s affairs, for matters involving “the most serious of circumstances [such as] a fundamental breakdown in public order or endemic corruption in the government, legislature or judiciary.”

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The Cayman group also met with two leading barristers in London Monday as they considered their strategy ahead for further constitutional discussions.

Sir Jeffrey Jowell, QC, who advised on the drafting of Cayman’s constitution, and Lord David Pannick, QC, advised the Cayman Islands team about “desired outcomes, formulation of a plan for the way forward and setting time lines necessary for the Cayman Islands,” according to a press release on the meeting.

“We talked about the way forward with constitutional talks,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

“We are concerned about the actions of the House of Commons in seeking to legislate for the Cayman Islands, which amounts to constitutional overreach by forcing the Cayman Islands to adopt public registers of beneficial ownership.”

Eric Bush, Cayman’s representative in London, said the meetings had gone well and the territory was “making progress” in developing desired improvements to the constitutional relationship.

Mr. McLaughlin has previously indicated that Cayman’s main goal is to ensure that, provided the Cayman Islands is not in breach of international standards, the power of internal self-governance is absolute.

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