Cayman Islands not ready for independence, says premier

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Premier Alden McLaughlin

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) — The decision by the British government to amend the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to require its overseas territories to establish public registers of the beneficial owners in their jurisdictions has stirred up the topic of independence again, but Premier Alden McLaughlin said the Cayman Islands is not ready yet.

Speaking about the UK taking the view that it can legislate for Cayman when there is a disagreement, he said the islands would have to consider its options but that there was much merit and benefit in retaining the British association.

“I don’t think we are at this stage ready, as country, as a people, as a government, for independence,” McLaughlin said.

“Independence requires a whole new set of skills and abilities that we are still developing. There are only relatively few of us who have the international experience to deal with it,” the premier told Orrett Connor, the host of Radio Cayman’s For the Record and a former Cabinet Secretary, who offered to come out of retirement should independence happen.

McLaughlin said he wasn’t saying that Cayman should never contemplate independence.

“But if that is what we want, we must plan for it and we must be ready for it,” he said. “There are a whole range of countries that have stepped off the precipice before they were fully ready. We can look around and see a number of what I would call failed states who were not ready for that massive step.”

But McLaughlin indicated that independence was not the only option and that the government was not going to simply lie down and let the UK do whatever it wants.

“We are the subject of a constitutional order. All of us are creatures of that constitution… and all of us are subject to it, starting with the governor. The governor does not exist in a vacuum; the office is a creature of the constitution and the UK is as bound by that constitutional order as we are,” the premier said. “We are going to hold them to it.”

With plans to take on the UK government’s decision in the courts, the premier said his government was planning a sustained campaign because it was wrong in principle for members of the British parliament to decide on things that affect the Cayman Islands so fundamentally when most of them don’t even know where Cayman is.

McLaughlin said that it was a very serious matter, but whether Cayman would be forced down the road of beneficial ownership or not, the financial sector was resilient enough and would survive. The issue, he said, was about the UK’s willingness to discriminate against and legislate for the overseas territories.

“We have to sort those things out as our continued survival, let only prosperity, depends on those sorts of things… We cannot go back to the colonial days… We have come too far,” he said, as he noted the amount of time he spent working on and fighting for the new constitution in his earlier political career, which gave Cayman much more autonomy.

“We can’t go back to the days where a British government takes the decisions for this territory,” he added, as he pointed to the top constitutional lawyers government has retained. “We are going to fight this with everything we can,” the premier promised.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service

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