With a resounding chorus of ‘ayes’ followed by handshakes and hugs across the aisle, the fifth meeting of the 2004/05 session of the Legislative Assembly came to an end Wednesday evening.
‘This adjournment is indeed historic,’ said Deputy Leader of Government Business Gilbert McLean.
Wednesday’s sitting was most likely the last time the House will meet before its dissolution on 15 March, but Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Linford Pierson reminded members they could be recalled if need be.
Mr. Pierson also advised members they could be recalled by the Governor after the dissolution of the House in the case of an emergency.
All elected members of the Legislative Assembly in attendance Wednesday afternoon took the chance to thank their constituents for the opportunity to represent them, to speak about the past term and about the future.
Absent with apologies from the proceedings were the Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush and West Bay MLA Cline Glidden.
Cabinet minister Frank McField was absent from the chamber in the afternoon.
Many of the members spoke about the unprecedented occurrences during this Legislative Assembly.
‘Four and a half years ago, when I was elected, I thought it was going to be a challenge,’ said West Bay MLA Eugene Ebanks. ‘But after 9/11/2001 and 9/11 and 12/2004, it turned out to be more challenging than I thought.’
Several members also mentioned some of the other difficult happenings during this Legislative Assembly, including the European Union Savings Directive, the Eurobank trial affair, the usage of three different Speakers, the relinquishing of a Cabinet office by Mr. Pierson, and the vote of no-confidence that led to a change in government one year into the term.
George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin also spoke of the internal events of the House since Election Day 2000.
‘This has been the most controversial and contentious period of the House ever,’ he said. ‘Any examination of history will lead all to that conclusion.’
Minister of Education Roy Bodden was the first to broach the vote of no-confidence against then Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, as he acknowledged that there still might be residual bitterness because of what happened.
”But I believe that whatever transpired should be put behind us,’ he said, adding that everyone shared the same goal of doing what was best for the country.
‘I hold no ill-will or malice toward anyone,’ he said. ‘I have good friends on the other side, including the Leader of the Opposition. I hope sometime… we can laugh, and talk and be good friends again.’
Mr. McLaughlin said it would be ‘a travesty if we allowed what happened 8 November 2001 to happen again.’
Minister of Health Gilbert McLean acknowledged that he had started the term as a member of the Opposition, but an opportunity arose that allowed him to contribute in a way he thought was best for the country.
‘I don’t see it like the Opposition,’ he said. ‘I don’t see it as if someone were wronged. It is the dynamics of politics.’
West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin said he does not engage in talking badly about the Opposition with his constituents.
‘I don’t believe that there is one single person who is putting themselves up for election who intends to do this country any harm,’ he said. ‘We all want what’s best for the country. It takes courage to put yourself up for election, and anyone who does should be respected.’
Mr. Anglin spoke of the respect he earned for Opposition MLA Anthony Eden while working with him on the Public Accounts Committee.
‘He’s a gentleman who understands politics is politics, but at the end of the day, doing what is right is the bottom line.’
Mr. Anglin called for less animosity between the two sides, especially when leaving the confines of the House chamber.
‘If we are seen in public with a member of the Opposition, so what?’ he said. ‘We must remember politics is a subset of life. Life is not a subset of politics.’
Chief Secretary George McCarthy, speaking on behalf of all three official members of the House, said there is a misconception about the acrimony between the two sides.
‘The public at large often thinks there is a large level of animosity among members because people judge the situation by what occurs in this Honourable House,’ he said. ‘I’d like to say to the people of the Cayman Islands that that is not the case. I have often observed friendly and respectful exchanges in the sitting room outside of this chamber.’
East End MLA Arden McLean said that despite some of the contentious and trying times in the House, he also held no ill-will toward anyone.
‘In the end, this august body is made up of nothing but Caymanians,’ he said. ‘We will forever be a part of this landscape. You can find people who love this country as much as we do, but no one who loves it more.’
First term MLA from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Lyndon Martin said he gained much experience and knowledge during the term.
‘I learned something from each and every one of my colleagues, and each day in Parliament, I learned something new,’ he said.
Another first-time MLA Alden McLaughlin spoke about how rewarding the experience of being a legislator was.
‘Nothing I have ever done in my life has given me more satisfaction, made me feel more whole, than representing the people of these Islands, and in particular the people of my district of George Town.’
Long-time legislator Edna Moyle, an acknowledged expert by both sides of the House on Parliamentary procedure, spoke about some of the anomalies during the term.
‘When you add up the suspension of standing orders during this term, it will probably surpass the number in the entire history of this House,’ she said.
Mrs. Moyle had praise for Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Linford Pierson.
‘I have been impressed with the way you have operated in the Chair,’ she said to him.
Leader of the Opposition Kurt Tibbetts also lauded the job Mr. Pierson did.
‘You have brought the position of speaker to new heights,’ he said.
Mr. Tibbetts spoke about Mr. Bodden’s earlier comment about sometime being friends again the in the future.
‘I have news for him,’ he said. ‘We’re still friends now.’
Minster Gilbert McLean also noted some of the procedural problems during the term, calling for a ‘better use of time and more respect for the House’ in the future, earning a show of approval from many of the member.
The upcoming election campaign was also something about which several members spoke.
‘The people of this country do not deserve to be driven into a frenzy,’ said Mr. Tibbetts. ‘Let this campaign be issue driven instead of about personalities.’
Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden also warned about smear campaigns. He read a quote from a book he said he often keeps with him: ‘Never throw mud. You might miss your mark and you’ll end up with dirty hands,’ he said.
Minster of Planning Julianna O’Connor-Connolly warned against something else she said was part of Cayman’s election culture.
‘In this time of great need of basic necessities… people must view very carefully those who come bearing alms or gifts, for those being them could think their votes are for sale.’
Just prior to adjournment, Speaker Linford Pierson spoke about his many years in public service, and the past 17 months as Speaker.
‘The hardest part was not getting involved in the cut and thrust of the business of the House,’ he said. ‘I sometimes think they should change the name of this position to Listener instead of Speaker because I thought I might get to do more speaking.’