A call to action for independence should the mother country overstep set boundaries.
Fighting words from the Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin on Thursday (21 February) as he responded to the release of a UK parliamentary report Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship.
That report calls for an overhaul of voting rights, setting a date for legalising same-sex marriages and implementing public beneficial ownership registers by 2020.
Mr. McLaughlin tackled the issue at Thursday afternoon’s Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon, calling it “shameless and shameful”.
The Premier said that he found the report “shameful” because it seeks to impose a new era of neocolonialism on the Overseas Territories.
He said attempting to control areas like voting in the OTs was something that had been devolved a long time ago.
But he also cautioned against reading too much into the Foreign Affairs Committee’s recommendations.
“The day the UK government seriously considers that persons who are not Caymanians can stand for office is the day, if I’m still able, if I’m alive, I lead the charge for independence,” Mr. McLaughlin vowed before the assembled guests.
He added: “I think it demonstrates a lack of regard for the nature of the constitutional relationship and the significant autonomy which has been given to territories like the Cayman Islands, autonomy which we are hoping to increase.”
The report was the culmination of an inquiry into future of the relationship between the UK and OTs.
The Premier said he will not stand for the potential removal of belongership.
“From my stand point, were the UK government to insist that non-Caymanians were allowed to stand for government, I think that would be a breaking point in the relationship,” Mr. McLaughlin predicted.
And it is a breaking point he believes could spark a push for independence:
“If I am around at that time, I would lead the charge for independence. I think that would be what pushed us over the line because it would be a clear indication of an attempt to take over the territory by persons who don’t have a real invested interest in the territory,” Mr. McLaughlin explained.
He cautioned not to set too much store by the report, since the UK government is not obliged to accept it.
“It’s not a government committee, it is merely recommendations which the government can accept or not accept or ignore. I know everyone is a bit exercised but I would caution not to get too excited, it is not the view of the government,” he stated.
Mr. McLaughlin proceeded to stress in his talks with the UK government, the report’s stance is not matched.
“The report does not reflect the current UK government’s position when it comes to these matters,” he promised.
He reiterated he was “not being flippant,” but insisted he was “not according the report a great deal of importance.”
He did say one potential concern could be if members of the Foreign Affairs Committee ended up in cabinet and, given the current turbulence, in Westminster, he cautioned that could be a possibility.
He told Cayman 27: “politics being what politics is, anything can happen”.
The Premier gave a State of the Nation address at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon.
The recommendations in the Foreign Affairs Committee report have far-reaching repercussions for all OTs should the UK government accept them.
The Cayman Islands has a constitution in place, but the question is: how will these recommendations impact what is enshrined?
Cayman 27’s Tammi Sulliman and Reshma Ragoonath explored the report and its political implications.