(CNS): The closed-door ‘pow-wow’ between the government and opposition benches planned for Monday to thrash out some of the concerns about the controversial Legal Practitioners Bill failed to materialise, CNS has learned. It is not clear why the meeting did not happen. Premier Alden McLaughlin released a statement Friday evening saying that he had asked members to sit down and reach a compromise and that they had agreed. However, on Monday morning Winston Connolly claimed in a post on his Facebook page that he didn’t know anything about the meeting.
“I have had no meetings with the PPM on the LPB and have heard of no meeting today as reported in the press,” the independent opposition member for George Town wrote on social media. “We have presented overwhelming evidence from brave Caymanian lawyers who have spoken about their plight and discrimination in the industry, what the premier himself has said on the issue in the past and the CBA memos to government and immigration.”
He continued with his call for government to investigate the claims made about the inequities in the sector and possible wrongdoing, as he called for a commission of inquiry.
CNS understands that although government was waiting to meet the opposition, no one turned up.
MLAs were expected to return to the Legislative Assembly Tuesday morning to continue the debate, but most members of the opposition have already made their contributions and slated the law for various reasons. Government plans more than 50 committee stage amendments and the opposition has paged a huge amendment document that suggests more than 130 changes.
There are two major issues at the heart of the bill. The first is the discrimination against Caymanian attorneys and the failure of larger firms to push local lawyers through the ranks, bypassing them for overseas lawyers. The second is the question as to whether the major law firms are breaking the existing law by practicing Cayman law in overseas jurisdictions without being licensed.
But while there is significant opposition to this latest version of the law, which has been presented by Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, it is clear that there is significant division on the opposition benches.
Winston Connolly, a former attorney who worked in the sector before being elected to office, believes the new law must pave the way to legalize and regulate the practice of Cayman law overseas under a controlled environment.
Conversely, Ezzard Miller told CNS that he is “absolutely opposed” to the principle of lawyers of any firm practicing Cayman law outside of the islands — a major point of disagreement in the allied group of independents. Asked about those differences, Miller pointed out that as independents they are at liberty to disagree, but this adds to the challenge of trying to find consensus on the controversial law.
The LPB has already taken up several days of this final LA session and it is now expected to take up more of the packed business agenda. There are now only 11 working days to complete the government’s long list of new bills and amendments before this parliament is prorogued at midnight on Tuesday 28 March.