Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush is considering establishing a weekly opposition press conference, to follow Government’s Cabinet press briefings, which are now being broadcast live on television and radio.
Government claims the live broadcasts demonstrate its commitment to openness and transparency in government, but Mr. Bush thinks the live broadcasts are all about electioneering.
‘They are taking the government’s money and campaigning with it,’ he said.
Mr. Bush envisages running the press conferences on Thursday afternoons or Friday mornings, after the Government’s Thursday morning briefing.
He is discussing the idea with other opposition members and would like all of them to attend the briefings, when possible.
‘We are the opposition and we look at government and examine government policies. We have to comment on what the government says and does,’ he said.
‘If they are going on television, wasting government money, we will host a press conference to comment on government policy and make any recommendations of our own.’
The weekly Cabinet press briefing was broadcast live on television and radio for the first time last week.
The move to live broadcasting has required Government Information Services to order $48,000 of equipment. GIS say the new equipment will allow it to transmit information at all times, including during national disasters.
While they wait for that equipment to arrive, CITN 27 television is providing broadcasting equipment free-of-charge.
Speaking at the beginning of last week’s Cabinet press briefing, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the live media briefings are part of the Government’s drive to be the most visible, approachable and transparent government the Cayman Islands has experienced.
He pointed to the Freedom of Information Law as further evidence of this.
‘We instigated these press briefings to give the media the opportunity to pose questions directly to Government’s leaders on any issue related to the governance of this country; a practice that was not only unheard of in this country, but is a rare occurrence in the vast majority of others,’ he said.
‘While willingly placing ourselves in front of journalists hasn’t always been an easy or pleasurable experience, it is one that we feel strongly is necessary and right.’
Commenting on last Thursday’s press briefing, Mr. Bush said the three participating ministers – Kurt Tibbetts, Anthony Eden and Alden McLaughlin – had answered some questions inadequately, and some were not answered at all.
‘Alden McLaughlin was asked about the Global Financial Centres Index, where Cayman had dropped to [position] 24. He said he didn’t know anything about it. But he is the minister responsible for international financial policy.’
Mr. Bush questioned why the government did not use the press conference to address concerns about dengue fever, after the Department of Public Health confirmed one case on 15 October – three days before the Cabinet press briefing.
‘What are they saying at these press conferences? They are saying things people already know. They are not saying anything new. It’s purely electioneering. They are going on television and spinning it to suit them.’