Discontent is growing across a number of British overseas territories in the Caribbean, with the citizens in some islands even reigniting the call for independence, following the United Kingdom Parliament's approval of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill last month, which, in effect, mandates public beneficial ownership registries.
The decision is being viewed by the government's of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Bermuda and Cayman as an insult to their right to self-government, manage their economies and other domestic affairs.
Alden McLaughlin, the Premier of the Cayman Islands, said Thursday the country would not sit quietly and accept the UK government’s plans to impose a public register.
McLaughlin said the public register, if implemented in Cayman, would constitute a constitutional overreach by the UK Parliament.
“So Mister Speaker, I have said many times since the amendment passed in the UK Parliament that the Cayman Islands will not accept that the United Kingdom Parliament has any right to legislate for us when it comes to domestic matters that are devolved to local government,” said McLaughlin in the Legislative Assembly.
Thomas Christopher Famous, an MP from Bermuda who was visiting Cayman for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, said: "We have said no, we are not doing it. We are not going to take orders from England. We will open up our books when everybody else does when it becomes a global standard."
“Our constitution is a little bit different to the Cayman Islands. It is 50 years old and provides for self-government. We can’t be governed by Westminster.”
The long-term goal of Famous' Progressive Labour Party is full independence from Britain. “I personally feel Bermuda is heading towards total sovereignty because the U.K. will, in one way or another, continue to impose its will on us.”
While acknowledging that divisions still exist among the question of independence, he did note that “people realize the days of being dictated to by England need to come to an end.”
The feeling of discontent was shared in the BVI, where residents boycotted the Queen's Birthday celebrations in a show of protest against the U.K., according to the Cayman Compass. Frustration is still prevalent in the country following the U.K.'s lax response to the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.
The BVI's speaker of the House, Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe, characterized the mandated public beneficial ownership registries as being yet another “direct hit” on the island, one that prompted fresh talks about the issue of independence.
“I call it Hurricane U.K.,” added Alvera Maduro-Caines, another BVI lawmaker.
The new U.K. amendment requires that the government take measures for British Overseas Territories to implement registers that would make the beneficial ownership of companies public, according to Caribbean 360.