LA session a month away
The motion made for a lack of confidence vote against the ruling United Democratic Party government will not occur until at least August, since the Legislative Assembly won’t meet again before then.
Staffers at the assembly building as well as elected lawmakers have confirmed that the LA is next set to meet on 3 August. Although that date is subject to change, it seems unlikely that a meeting will occur prior to that day.
In late April, Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin filed a private members motion seeking a ‘lack of confidence’ vote against the current government; the effect of which would be to either remove Premier McKeeva Bush from office upon Governor Duncan Taylor’s orders, or cause the dissolution of parliament and call for new elections.
However, the legal requirement for such a vote sets the bar for success quite high.
To be successful, Mr. McLaughlin’s motion would have to gain 10 ‘yes’ votes from the 15 sitting elected members of the LA.
That means all government backbenchers, as well as independent member Ezzard Miller, would have to vote in favour of the motion in order to either remove Premier McKeeva Bush from office or dissolve the government and hold new elections, since it is unlikely that any of the five elected ministers would choose to vote against their own government.
By 2013, Cayman’s Constitution calls for 18 total elected members and envisions there will be seven elected government ministers selected from that group. For a two-thirds vote on a lack of confidence motion at that stage, 12 of the 18 elected members would need to vote in favour – that means at least one government minister would have to oppose themselves in order for such a vote to succeed.
Even without the two extra ministerial positions, former Leader of Government Business Truman Bodden and former Minister John McLean noted in a letter to the Caymanian Compass in September that the current situation makes it very difficult for a vote of no confidence to be approved. Their comments came in relation to a government proposal at the time to increase the current number of elected ministers from five to six.
“The backbench … cannot remove the premier and the government on a vote of no confidence because it takes two-thirds of the MLAs to do so and with six ministers there are only nine backbencher MLAs,” Messrs. Bodden and McLean wrote. “This is undemocratic and the government in practice cannot be removed by the non-Cabinet members.”
This is precisely the situation that will occur once government moves to 18 elected members with seven ministers including the premier being appointed from among them.
“All democratic Westminster constitutions have a majority vote (51 per cent) for a no confidence in government resolution,” Messrs McLean and Bodden continued. “In Cayman [currently], this would be eight of the 15 MLAs.”
UDP says no chance
Shortly after Mr. McLaughlin’s motion was filed, United Democratic Party members – without their two leaders Premier Bush and Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly present – said that they would continue to back Premier Bush as political leader.
“We unequivocally support Mr. McKeeva Bush as the Premier of this government and the leader of this party,” Education Minister Rolston Anglin said in April. “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.
Since those statements, it has been revealed Premier Bush is the subject of a police investigation that involves payments he requested from a US-based developer on what he described as a “real estate bill”.
Government prosecutors are said to be looking into two previous payments made regarding the real estate transaction while Mr. Bush was Cayman Islands Leader of Government Business in 2004.
Mr. Bush has also approved the removal or resignations of a handful of Port Authority Board members following the body’s apparent refusal to approve an agreement with a Chinese government-owned company to construct or improve three cruise ship docking facilities on Grand Cayman.
“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.”
Mr. Bush has said the opposition was embarking on a “misinformation” campaign regarding himself and his administration.
“The country must suffer so they can get at me,” the Premier said.