The resumption of the Meeting of the Legislative Assembly brought heated exchanges when the motion to suspend Standing Orders was brought to the House in order to allow for the debate of the Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Bill before 28 December.
Before the motion was voted on, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush rose to express objection to the suspension of Standing Orders.
Mr. Bush criticised Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts for not indicating the Government would move to suspend Standing Orders when the House adjourned on 6 December.
‘[Mr. Tibbetts] should have recognised that there were important matters, which need attending to by 31 December 2006, and this would have allowed the Bill to come before this House in a timely manner, therefore allowing the principles of democracy to take its course,’ Mr. Bush said.
‘What is concerning me now with this move to suspend Standing Orders at the last minute is that over the last 19 months with all these reviews, the Government failed to recognise the serious consequences of those matters, which they now say is grave.’
Mr. Bush recalled the time when the People’s Progressive Movement was in the Opposition and the Opposition was the Government there was a suspension of Standing Orders for important matters.
‘The public will remember the huge outcry from these very same people; that the Government of the day was running roughshod over the democratic process.’
Mr. Bush said the Government had blundered its way into the situation they now had, and claimed they told the public the Opposition could have suspended Standing Orders to allow the Bill to come to the House.
Mr. Tibbetts rose to deny he had said any such thing, and Speaker of the House Edna Moyle asked Mr. Bush to either withdraw the comment or prove its validity.
Mr. Bush then read from a Cayman Net News report of 12 December, which stated Mr. Tibbetts said the Opposition could also call for the suspension of Standing Orders, but was making every effort to turn the issue into a cat and mouse game.
Mr. Tibbetts said he had merely stated that there could have been a consensus for the suspension of Standing Orders.
When Mrs. Moyle again asked Mr. Bush to withdraw the statement, Mr. Bush said that nothing Mr. Tibbetts had said had disproved he had said it, and regardless of whether Cayman Net News has misreported the statement, the tenor of what he had said seemed to indicated the Opposition had some role in suspending Standing Orders.
‘Never before can I recall in these Islands or any other democracy has the Opposition moved a motion to suspend Standing Orders to allow the Government to bring a Bill to the House, in particular a Bill to implement detrimental economic policies, which the Opposition can’t support, in any event, as the public knows.
‘We have five Members; Government has a total of 13 votes. So stop talking about consensus.’
Mrs. Moyle asked Mr. Bush to stick to the issue of debating the Motion to suspend standing orders. Mr. Bush said he was, and claimed he was having his rights curtailed.
With the situation heated, Mrs. Moyle suddenly suspended proceedings for 15 minutes, before the actual debate on the Bill had begun.
Upon resumption, Mr. Tibbetts rose to speak and Mrs. Moyle called on him to do so. Mr. Tibbetts said that when the House was suspended on 6 December, there had never been an intention to suspend Standing Orders with regard to the Immigration Amendment Bill on that day.
‘The only question was whether there was enough time to allow a full 21 days before debating the Bill.’
Standing Orders require a Bill be circulated to all members of the Legislative Assembly at least 21 days prior to debate. The Immigration Amendment Bill was given to Members on 6 December, which meant the earliest the Bill could have been dealt with without suspending Standing Orders was 28 December.
The Government said there were several important reasons why the Bill had to be enacted and implemented before the end of 2006, and last week it stated that if they left it until 28 December, there would not be enough time to pass it by the end of the year.
Opposition Member Julianna O’Connor-Connolly stood on a point of order to ask why Mr. Tibbetts was allowed to wind down the debate of his Motion when not all of the Members had been asked if they wished to speak.
Mrs. Moyle apparently realised the error and then asked if any other Members wished to speak.
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly questioned how she could speak after Mr. Tibbetts had already begun winding down the debate.
Mrs. Moyle then called for the vote on the motion.
‘I think people are just playing politics,’ she said.
All five Opposition members voted against the Motion to suspend Standing Orders. The Motion passed in any case.
‘See, I told you we only had five votes,’ Mr. Bush called across the floor afterwards.