United Democratic Party members said Thursday that they maintain full confidence in Premier McKeeva Bush, both as the country’s leader and as political party leader.
The comments were made at a press conference held in response to a private members motion filed with the Legislative Assembly Wednesday afternoon by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin. The motion seeks a ‘lack of confidence’ vote in the current United Democratic Party government.
UDP members said government would entertain the motion, but refused to comment on any of the specifics of it Thursday. They also indicated that UDP elected members would vote no on such a motion.
“The fundamental tenet of democracy is for members of legislatures to have the opportunity to challenge the position of the government,” said Education Minister Rolston Anglin. “The ultimate way to do this is via a no-confidence motion. This tool, however, should be used…with due care. We believe this motion is reckless and unwarranted.”
Attending the press conference were all elected members of the United Democratic Party, save Premier Bush – who is off Island – and Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who was hospitalised Wednesday with high blood pressure.
Although the motion is written stating reasons for a ‘lack of confidence’ in the ruling government, the practical effect of such a vote – if passed by two-thirds of sitting elected lawmakers – would be either to remove Premier Bush from office or to dissolve parliament and force the holding of elections prior to the scheduled May 2013 date.
According to Section 51 of the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution: “The governor shall…revoke the appointment of the Premier if a motion that the Legislative Assembly should declare a lack of confidence in the government receives the affirmative votes of not less than two-thirds of the elected members of the assembly…”
The constitution also gives the governor the power to dissolve the assembly rather than revoking the appointment of the Premier.
Two-thirds of the current 15 elected Legislative Assembly members means 10 votes. Presuming none of the five elected ministers who currently run the government would vote against themselves, opposition members have to gain the assent of all four backbench government members and North Side independent MLA Ezzard Miller for the motion to pass.
Mr. McLaughlin was coy on Thursday about whether he thought his proposal would actually garner ten votes, but he said people shouldn’t assume that all of the current government ministers would vote against such a motion.
“There is understandably considerable dissatisfaction and disillusionment within the government ranks,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We believe that there are a number of government members who understand that the leadership must change and this motion offers them the opportunity to make that happen.”
“We unequivocally support Mr. McKeeva Bush as the Premier of this government and the leader of this party,” Mr. Anglin said Thursday. “If we didn’t, we wouldn’t sit in Cabinet.”
“Mr. McLaughlin knows full well there is no chance of a vote of no-confidence succeeding,” said West Bay MLA Cline Glidden, Jr.
The motion, to be seconded by East End MLA Arden McLean, sets out a list of two dozen grievances against the ruling government. It could be brought up and debated during the next meeting of the assembly, which had been tentatively set for 6 May although insiders have indicated that start date is likely to be pushed back.
Premier Bush was out of the country in the UK to attend the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at the time the motion was filed.
There are 24 separate issues addressed in the opposition motion where government is alleged to have failed in its conduct. All are listed below as they appear on the motion:
The Premier’s handling of the published operational deficit of the Government for the 2008/2009 financial year, suggesting that the country was bankrupt
The presentation of surplus budget projections for the 2009/2010 financial year which proved to be unrealistic instead of developing and adopting a 3 year plan to eliminate the operational deficit of the government;
The failure to adequately address the issues and concerns raised in the Miller/Shaw Report regarding the fiscal sustainability of the Government
The failure to get government accounts up to date
Announcing that the Ministry of Finance would not be producing accounts for the 2008/2009 financial year
Failing to hold regular meetings of the standing Finance Committee of the Legislative Assembly
Significantly increasing fees and taxes on businesses and the people of the Cayman Islands in 2009 and 2010 amidst the worst recession the world has known in 80 years
Re-imposing in 2009 the 20 cent per gallon import duty on fuel used by CUC which had been removed in 2008 in order to reduce the costs of electricity to consumers
Further increasing the cost of electricity in 2010 by adding a further 25 cents duty per gallon to the cost of diesel fuel
Proposing to sell off significant government assets such as the new Government Administration Building and the Cayman Water Authority
Overriding the decision of the Central Tenders Committee and awarding to Cohen and Company LLC a contract for government financing in the sum of US$185M, then subsequently having to terminate that contract because Cohen was unable to meet its terms regarding a rate-cap on interest
The Premier declaring at a recent conference that Dart Enterprises would be conducting the remediation of the Landfill and creating a new one in Bodden Town, thereby overriding the announcement the previous week by the Central Tenders Committee that the contract had been awarded to Wheelabrator of the USA
Persisting in the announcement of major projects without a reliable assessment of feasibility, costs, benefits or economic or environmental impact
Promoting and supporting major dredging of the North Sound, including a channel to accommodate mega-yachts and the creation of 2 islands in the North Sound
Promoting and supporting the excavation of a large area of the East End sea coast and inner land
Promoting and supporting the development of an oil refinery in Grand Cayman
The incidence of crime
Unemployment levels among Caymanians
The proposal not to adopt an electoral system based on one person, one vote
The Premier’s attitude to the Freedom of Information Law and his threats to impose fees and fines on certain sectors of the media
The extent and cost of official travel
The breach of contract proceedings brought against the government by Tom Jones International arising from the contracts to construct the John Gray and Clifton Hunter school projects
The failure after almost 2 years in office to complete either the John Gray High School or the Clifton Hunter High School and the hurricane shelter facilities which they include;
The failure after almost 2 years in office to secure a contract for the construction of much needed cruise-ship berthing