Cayman’s political leaders exchanged verbal salvos this week in the wake of an announcement that a commission of enquiry would be formed to look into accusations about files that were allegedly taken from the Ministry of Tourism and given to a local newspaper.
The opposition United Democratic Party on Wednesday called for Tourism Minister Charles Clifford’s immediate resignation.
Mr. Clifford has been revealed as the source of several stories that appeared in the Cayman Net News in the run up to the May 2005 elections. The paper’s publisher has said Mr. Clifford gave copies of minutes of meetings and other government documents to the Net News, which the publication used to support those stories.
Mr. Clifford has said many times that the files were personal documents.
‘With a commission of enquiry being appointed to investigate whether he violated the civil service regulations and Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law, the honourable thing for any sitting minister of a government to do is resign,’ a statement from the UDP read.
Minister Clifford has previously said he would not resign. A statement he issued over the weekend said he would not be distracted from his legislative duties or in his role as Minister of Tourism by the commission of enquiry.
The UDP statement urged government ministers to insist that Mr. Clifford resign if he refused to do so.
‘For him to assert that he would not be distracted from his duties as tourism minister is utter rubbish and total nonsense,’ the UDP statement read.
At press time, leaders of the ruling People’s Progressive Movement party had not responded to numerous requests by the Caymanian Compass for comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clifford sent a formal request to Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack on Tuesday asking that he expand the role of the commission of enquiry to look into the public disclosure of the minutes of Turtle Farm Board of Directors meetings on two occasions by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush.
Mr. Clifford said Mr. Bush had openly disclosed those documents on a radio talk show in July and later this year in the Legislative Assembly.
‘The Leader of the Opposition’s primary complaint is that I disclosed minutes of board meetings,’ Mr. Clifford said.
The tourism minister had previously expressed surprise that ‘this matter would take such prominence over the more serious police…investigations into the UDP’s affordable housing scheme and the Boatswain’s Beach financing arrangements.’
Both Mr. Clifford and Mr. Bush were members of the Turtle Farm Board of Directors when it approved a financing agreement that Auditor General Dan Duguay said amounted to a ‘wanton disregard’ of the use of public funds. The AG’s office has referred its information in that case to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service for further investigation.
The RCIPS has been investigating an affordable housing initiative that was approved by the National Housing and Community Development Trust at the time when it was chaired by former UDP Minister Dr. Frank McField. That police investigation of the housing scheme has been ongoing for more than two years with no conclusion.
The UDP has characterised Mr. Clifford’s claims as an attempt to distract the public. The tourism minister has said the same about Mr. Bush’s calls to investigate the Ministry of Tourism files.