Alden claims Opposition silenced

Claiming that opposition lawmakers
were effectively being “silenced” by the ruling United Democratic Party
government, opposition MLA Alden McLaughlin hit out at Premier McKeeva Bush’s
administration in the dying minutes of Monday’s Legislative Assembly meeting.

Opposition members had filed two
private members motions prior to the commencement of the assembly meeting on 24
February. One dealt with a proposed national crime prevention strategy; the
other with government’s proposal to sell off, or divest, certain public assets.

Neither motion was discussed in the
LA’s recently-ended session.

“Both are critically important
issues…the motions were filed in time, the government was given the required
notice,” Mr. McLaughlin told the House on Monday night.

“I am protesting what I believe to
be a breach of protocol in this House which has had the effect of shutting up
the opposition.”

Mr. McLaughlin’s statements led to
a shouting match between himself and Premier McKeeva Bush in which Speaker of
the House Mary Lawrence eventually had to intervene.

“When I am standing in this House,
all of the other members are sitting,” Mrs. Lawrence said, urging both members
not to quarrel over the point and stating that tempers appeared to be a bit
frayed late in the day.

Mr. Bush responded to Mr.
McLaughlin’s statements by wondering why he and other opposition party members
had not raised these issues in the House prior to late February. Mr. Bush said
government had made its intentions to divest certain government assets like the
government office accommodation building known early on.

“If it was so important, why didn’t
he bring this before?” Mr. Bush asked, referring to Mr. McLaughlin.

Mr. Bush has previously implied
that the opposition party, smarting from a defeat at the polls last spring, had
decided to limit public statements until they felt their popularity had improved.

Mr. McLaughlin said the Premier and
other members of the ruling government have spoken “at every opportunity” about
their anti-crime plans and asset divestiture options. In fact, Mr. Bush told
the Caymanian Compass earlier in the week that he would not support government’s
motion to create a separate committee to address crime prevention issues.

Cayman’s new Constitution has
already created a National Security Council, Mr. Bush said. Appointments to
that council have been made and the council was due to meet this week.

Mr. McLaughlin was not the only House
member with a gripe about how the issues they wished to raise had been dealt
with by the government.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said
he had presented nine parliamentary questions to the government which were not
listed in the order paper governing the proceedings during the recently ended House

Mr. Bush said that civil servants
needed some time to research substantive answers to those questions. He
undertook to have answers for all Mr. Miller’s questions by the next meeting of
the House – tentatively set for later this month.

The Premier also noted that there
were some questions he asked as opposition leader to the previous government
which had often been delayed in getting an answer.


Mr. McLaughlin
Photo: File