(Cayman News Service): The four members of the UK parliament who visited the Cayman Islands this weekend have offered their support for constitutional change regarding how all of the British Overseas Territories are managed. They described the governance as “a bit of a muddle” and emphasised the need for equality across the “British family”. All of the Conservative MPs said they did not support the recent amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill and raised concerns about the threat to the autonomy of the territories with the imposition of an order-in-council, if that was to happen.
Andrew Rosindell, Henry Smith, Col. Bob Stewart and Martin Vickers were representing the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Cayman Islands. They were invited to Cayman by the government here in order to enlist their support in the battle to prevent the imposition of a public register for beneficial owners and for the Unity government’s goal of amending the Constitution.
After just 24 hours on Grand Cayman and several meetings here, the four MPs all seemed on board with the CIG’s position that the situation is unfair and that there is a need for intervention before the register is forced on the people of Cayman against their will.
Smith said it was important to have a level playing field, not just with regard to the different way the Crown Dependencies are being treated from the BOTs, but also the inequity between how beneficial ownership information is managed in the UK and how it is managed in the territories.
“Transparency is very important, but what is also important is a level playing field and fairness between the UK and the Cayman Islands …and with the current legislation we don’t have that. I don’t think it recognises all the work that has been done and the law that exists in the Cayman Islands already. It’s not a very well thought through piece of legislation,” he said of the bill passed in the UK by their own party.
He added that the discrepancies between the Crown Dependencies and the BOTs was “untidy and needs further revision”.
The MPs all agreed that there had to be some changes to the law, which they felt had been forced upon the UK government, and to have the same rules in all the “British family”.
Rosindell said that it was not fair to impose rules on Cayman that were much more rigid than those in place in mainland UK. “We all hope the UK government will take a fresh look at this,” he said. “An order-in-council would be a direct challenge to the autonomy of an overseas territory to make its own decisions in its own interests.”
The MP spoke about the need to modernize the overseas territories’ constitutional arrangements, which this issue demonstrated.
“There are so many inconsistencies in how the UK government manages the overseas territories. It has turned into a bit of a muddle,” Rosindell said, adding that there were misconceptions and a vacuum of knowledge in Britain about how the BOTs are governed. He said the visit was part of the group’s goal to show that the territories are an equal part of the British family. He said Cayman was a perfect example of a well run and well managed territory that is not drain on UK taxpayers.
Responding to questions about the suspension of Governor Anwar Choudhury and the possible appointment of a local governor, Rosindell said the territories should have a say in the choice of governor. However, he said the primary role of a governor is to uphold good governance and needs to be someone who is independent of that territory.
But he said they could not comment on the current investigation into Governor Choudhury.