Manderson: Complaints about Gov. Choudhury ‘belong to UK’

Anwar Choudhury

Acting Governor Manderson defers open records request

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Cayman Islands Acting Governor Franz Manderson has deferred any public release of the contents of staff complaints made against withdrawn Governor Anwar Choudhury, stating all such records belong to the United Kingdom government.

Mr. Manderson responded Thursday to a June 14 Cayman Compass open records request seeking the publication of details of those allegations.

“The governor … has determined that the Freedom of Information Law does not apply in this instance as the requested records belong to the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” the response received Thursday morning under the governor’s seal read.

The Cayman Compass filed a separate open records request with the U.K. government seeking a summary of, or copies of, the staff complaints made against Mr. Choudhury.

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The Cayman Islands governor is paid by the taxpayers of the Cayman Islands, although he or she is appointed by Her Majesty, the Queen of England via the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

However, some of the staff members in the governor’s office are actually foreign office employees, paid by the U.K. and it is understood in this matter that all complaints against Mr. Choudhury were made directly to the foreign office. Mr. Choudhury’s appointment was “temporarily withdrawn” on or about June 12 while an unspecified investigation proceeded against him.

U.K. officials said last month that the review was expected to take between four and six weeks.

Multiple government sources contacted by the Cayman Compass since Mr. Choudhury’s sudden removal indicated that complaints had been made internally within the governor’s office in Cayman and concerned his behavior while in office. Head of the Governor’s Office in Cayman, Matthew Forbes, has declined to discuss specifics surrounding the allegations.

Other media reports in the U.K. stated that Mr. Choudhury “abused” staff and had gotten involved in a “drunken row” with his mother-in-law during his brief time in Cayman, which lasted less than three months, between March and June. The Compass has been unable to independently confirm those reports.

The Compass has attempted to call, text and email message Mr. Choudhury since his temporary withdrawal, but has received no response.

Governor Choudhury, 59, arrived in Cayman on March 26, making history as the British Overseas Territory’s first non-British-born governor and its first Muslim governor.

The Bangladeshi-born U.K. diplomat had a far more public persona than previous U.K.-appointed representatives had done, advocating for monthly meetings of the National Security Council, backing the creation of legally recognized civil unions in Cayman, and taking a leadership role in Cayman’s discussions with Britain concerning the future of its financial services industry.

Mr. Choudhury had also stated his intention to work with Cayman on the formation of a strategy to address U.K. requirements that the territory adopt a public register of company ownership by December 2020.

The new governor had also announced plans to significantly reduce the amount of bureaucracy Cayman residents often have to wade through in dealing with government.

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  1. Call yourself a ‘newspaper of record’ when you bizarrely and mistakenly (a mistake only a 3rd grader would make) refer to the UK Head of State as ‘the Queen of England’?

    I know that the flights from ORA fly to London Heathrow in England, but Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Yesterday, for example, Her Majesty was resident in Holyrood, Her palace in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    Her official title is:

    Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

    I do not expect the Compass to trot this out on a regular basis BUT I would expect you to use ‘ United Kingdom’ or ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

  2. Sadly this appointment was doomed from the start. Even before he arrived here the knives were coming out and malicious rumours were being spread about him. After he dared to take on the Cayman Islands seemingly untouchable public sector bureaucracy his days were effectively numbered. What is so disappointing is that it isn’t the first time this has happened in these islands and I very much doubt it will the last time we see something similar.

    It all reminds me of the headline for an article published earlier this year criticising the NI Assembly, ‘Transfixed by their obsessions without progress, they ignore the real politics of the future …’ Bluntly, it may be very comforting for the people running these islands to try to live in the past, blocking progess and reforms, but there’s a real world out there and it’s not just moving forward but in danger of leaving them in its dust.

  3. Well then since the information can’t be got through the Cayman government . Cayman Compass can you apply for the information through the UK Freedom of Information Act ? I think it is important for the people of the Cayman Islands to know what took place , why the Governor was removed from his post . Since the government won’t release it . Then did anyone read the Freedom of information act laws to see the part in which Mr Manderson is quoting from ?

    • @ Ron Clair Ebanks

      Sadly, the Compass has no chance of getting a usable responce to any request made directly to the FCO. I can tell you from personal experience that the UK’s FOIA contains far more ‘get out’ clauses than the Cayman Islands’ FOI Law when it comes to matters like this. The UK’s ICO also has a long and well-documented track record of closing ranks with the FCO on refusals to release sensitive material so turning to them for help tends to be a complete waste of time.

  4. Given the circumstances, I consider it somewhat naive of the Compass to file open records requests in this case. Like everyone else the Compass will have to wait for the official report. However I do recognise the value of the FOI legislation and the contribution the Compass has made over the years in obtaining information of great interest to the public, which otherwise would have never seen the light of day.