Log In

Reset Password

Bermuda joins forces with islands to fight new register

Showing the flag: four Bermudian MPs attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association regional conference in Cayman Islands. Shown from left is Dennis Lister, Susan Jackson, Nadine Place, a Bermuda Government administrative officer, Tinée Furbert and Christopher Famous

British Overseas Territories have united in a bid to fight a proposed public register of company ownership.

Now the territories, including Bermuda, the Caymans and the British Virgin Islands, plan to pool ideas and expertise to block the move.

Christopher Famous, Progressive Labour Party MP, said delegates at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic region had pledged to co-operate.

Mr Famous is one of four Bermudian parliamentarians attending the event in the Cayman Islands, where he is joined by Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, as well as PLP MP Tinée Furbert and Susan Jackson of the One Bermuda Alliance.

The conference has also discussed ways to boost support for women in politics, security for government bodies, education systems and population growth.

Mr Famous said the debate on Britain’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, designed to force British Overseas Territories to set up a public register of beneficial ownership, which has won approval from both the House of Commons and House of Lords, was of vital importance to the island.

The Devonshire East MP said the mood of the conference was that the OTs “need to work together with one voice — versus this island doing one thing and another island doing something else”.

He added there was also a general desire to increase the “amount of collaboration between the islands”.

Mr Famous said: “The initial thing is leaders and representatives having conversations and communications, sharing ideas.

“For example, if you need a consultant for something in the Cayman Islands you could get somebody from Bermuda to do it, versus us bringing in somebody from America or Canada.

“There’s a united stance. The challenge for some islands is that Bermuda’s Constitution is a little bit more advanced than theirs, so we have a little bit more of a leg to stand on. But even if they were as advanced, you’re still facing the threat of the House of Lords and the House of Commons attempting to impose their will upon us.

“So yes, there is a united stance, it’s just finding that one voice to deal with it.”

Mr Famous said comparisons were often made between the Caymans and Bermuda.

He added: “Cayman Islands is looking to vastly increase their population, whereas we need to increase it to help repay our debt but do not want it to expand as rapidly as Cayman has. That’s one of the challenges we would have.”

Mr Famous said: “One of the challenges that I see — and I’ve got to speak to native Caymanians — is that a lot of them are feeling that they have been left behind in the development of their country.

“The infrastructure has developed but they themselves are struggling to pay rent. They feel excluded out of the job market or they feel they’re not reaching their full potential. There are a lot similarities there in Bermuda.”

But Mr Famous said Bermuda had stronger immigration policies than the Cayman Island, which is in the process of trying to bolster its own. The gathering came after the sudden recall by the UK Foreign Office of the Cayman Islands’ governor.

Anwar Choudhury took up the post in March but was “temporarily withdrawn” last week while a number of complaints against him are investigated.

Mr Famous said most Caymanians were mystified by the Governor’s recall. He added: “They said he was a very welcoming person. He’s been here a few months and no one I’ve heard spoke negatively of him, no one said ‘glad he’s gone’.”

A Foreign Office spokeswoman yesterday said: “Anwar Choudhury, Governor of the Cayman Islands, has been temporarily withdrawn from his post to allow the FCO to investigate a number of complaints against him. It is inappropriate to comment further while an investigation is ongoing.”