Opposition, independent: Let us speak

    MainLead2

    By preventing motions and questions from the minority members of the Legislative Assembly from being addressed, the United Democratic Party government is threatening democracy in Cayman, Opposition and independent members of parliament declared on Thursday. 

    According to members of the opposition People’s Progressive Movement party and independent member for North Side Ezzard Miller, seven motions and 30 questions brought by them have not been dealt with in the Legislative Assembly because the Standing Business Committee, chaired by Premier McKeeva Bush, which decides what business the House deals with at individual meetings and sittings, has repeatedly failed to put those matters on the order paper or agenda. 

    Mr. Miller, describing the failure of three of his motions and those of the opposition to be brought before parliament as an “abuse of power by the premier and his UDP majority against the people that I represent”. 

    He said he and members of the PPM would write to Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence asking for a special sitting of the House to be held to debate the outstanding private members motions, some of which have been waiting to be dealt with since May 2009. If she did not use her discretion to agree to such a sitting, he said he hoped he could find at least one UDP member to sign a letter calling for this 
special meeting.  

    Under the rules of the Legislative Assembly, if seven members call for a special meeting, the Speaker shall be required to hold one. Since there are only six minority members in the House, without the support of one UDP member, Mr. Miller and the PPM would not be able to force a meeting to be held. 

    Mr. Miller said he also intended to write to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Affairs Committee and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Secretariat to ask for guidance or for intervention. He admitted that those bodies had no power to insist that private members motions are debated, but said that intervention by those bodies might “embarrass” the government into carrying out correct procedures during parliamentary meetings. 

    Since the latest meeting of the Legislative Assembly began on 23 May, it has met for seven sittings, during which time no private members motions have been dealt with, said Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin. “We submitted 33 questions. Three were answered on 3 August,” he said. 

    Included in the opposition’s outstanding motions – two of which were submitted in time to be considered in the latest meeting and two from earlier meetings – is a lack of confidence in the Premier motion. Mr. McLaughlin said that if that motion had been dealt with and voted on in May, there would have been fewer matters of concern relating to the Premier’s actions than there are currently. Since that motion was submitted, it has come to light that the premier is subject to a criminal investigation. 

    During a press conference held Thursday, three members of the opposition People’s Progressive Movement party – Mr. McLaughlin, Arden McLean and Kurt Tibbetts – and Mr. Miller said the work of the Legislative Assembly was malfunctioning. 

    They cited the government’s suspension of standing orders on several occasions to bring bills before the Legislative Assembly without the normally required 21 days’ prior publication of those bills as another instance in which usual parliamentary procedure was not being observed. 

    “Parliament is simply becoming a place where the policies of the government are rubber-stamped and the opposition is effectively being shut out,” said Mr. McLaughlin, adding that the role of the opposition is to debate and question the government on behalf of the people. 

    He said the Westminster system of parliament, which allows for debate, was being ignored.  

    Mr. McLean, the MLA for East End, who is a member of the Standing Business Committee said he had become disillusioned with the committee and described Cayman as “heading down the road of becoming a one-party state”. 

    Mr. Tibbetts acknowledged that when he was Leader of the Government Business, a title that has since changed to Premier, there may have been times when motions from the then opposition UDP party may not have made it onto the order paper for Legislative Assembly meetings, but he insisted this had not been done to purposely sideline private members motions. He added that his party, when in government, had been “very conscientious” in ensuring that 21 days notice was given when presenting bills to the House. 

    During the press briefing, Mr. Miller also revealed that through a Freedom of Information request, he had found out that a new talk show called Community Voices hosted by Dr. Frank McField and Lorna Bush on Radio Cayman, the publicly funded radio station, had been launched late last month following a “verbal directive” from the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development, which is headed by Premier Bush. 

    “How can any minister utilise what is a public asset for the promotion of his own party’s interest?” asked Mr. McLaughlin. He and the other politicians at the press conference said they would not appear on the show. 

    Mr. Miller also revealed at the press conference that another Freedom of Information request had disclosed that the no traffic management reports had been done into the proposed closure of part of West Bay Road which is being considered as part of a land-swap deal with the Dart Group. 

     

    Premier Bush dismissed the accusations by
    Mr. Miller and the opposition members, saying their strategy in bringing
    motions was to “tie up the government up in such a way that we have to spend an
    enormous amount of time doing research and study on the matters of their
    motions”. 

    He said bringing a budget that did not
    involve taxing the public took priority over the motions. 

    “Government also has to weigh these matters
    as against the urgent needs of the people and the amount of work that it is
    taking the government to deal with the economy and the various projects on the
    table. These essential projects will create employment opportunities and help
    people to pay their mortgages,” Mr. Bush said. 

    He said Mr. Miller’s three motions, which
    call for a 50 cent decrease in import duty for fuel, a removal of duty on
    medicine and medical supplies and a minimum wage, had already been discussed at
    length. “These matters are being dealt with, his problem is that he wants to take
    credit for what our ministers are now doing,” the premier said.  

    “The Opposition needs to stop this petty
    and, to put it quite frankly, dirty political campaign. They are doing nothing
    but hurting our Islands and our people. They are doing nothing to address the
    problems that they created and compounded, and they have no plan for correcting
    them. Timing of House meeting as they are now, are not new to members.
     These are housekeeping matters, which predates this government,” said Mr.
    Bush. 

    Mr. Miller and the Opposition members at
    the press conference were critical of the number of times the Legislative
    Assembly had been scheduled to meet. Mr. Tibbetts said that the Legislative
    Assembly had sat for 10 days in the current meeting, during a time span that
    will be 107 days by the time it resumes on 7 September. 

    However, Mr. Bush said not all the work of
    government was done in the Legislative Assembly. “As to the timing of when
    meetings start, this is not new for the assembly and is no more than what
    various governments have done to be able to carry on the business of governing.
    Work is done in the [Government] Administration Building, and other government;
    talk is done in the LA,” he said. 

      

    PPM

    From left, Kurt Tibbetts, Ezzard Miller, Alden McLaughlin and Arden McLean at a press conference where they said they were being prevented from representing their constituents in the Legislative Assembly. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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    15 COMMENTS

    1. Our Constitution is not tailored in defending the people against Mac or Uk dictatorships and a majority rule in our Legislative Assembly. This is just pathetic! And this is the flimsy Constitution we voted for?? And now here is Alden and Ezzard seeking mere internal change and power. lol…. the party system really got us by the balls! What a system we weaved to deceave and divide ourselves! God help us!

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    2. The original constitution draft amendment by the Concerned Citizens of Cayman was a constitution that afforded rights and protection to the people and also the Legislative members allowing them to speak.It in its original draft the constitution would serve well the people of the Cayman Islands. According to the West Minister system also allows the opposition to speak so why not consult the UK on that note.
      Our constitution was a well thought out draft, preceded by extensive research. Comparable studies were made of other constitutions that were tested and proven to work very well. This criticism is a result of ignorance on the part of people who did not get involved in the process at all and consequently there were way too many wrong hands that spoiled the pot.
      The strong teeth of the important aspects engrafted in the Cayman Islands constitution draft in its original form was chipped away by people who should not have been allowed near the document not to mention should not have been allowed any input because of their corrupt mentality. Bottom line is this like any other newly introduced constitution is a framework that can be amended as many times as necessary. The US constitution has been amended over l3 or 14 times already.The opposition members mean well, but they need to stop wining and amend the constitution where necessary if their rights are being violated Alden is an Attorney and he knows exactly what to do to fix this problem.

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    3. I am sick of every one of you for not having the guts to support the vote of no confidence months ago. Government needs to decrease its revenue from GOLs and enforce companies’ Business Plans so that qualified Caymanians can vie for jobs that are currently subject to a GOL and the not qualified can get a chance to train on the job. It is the locals who have mortgages to pay, teenagers to go to college, retirement funds to sustain, elderly to look after, etc.! If we have jobs that pay us well, we will be happy to spend it in local businesses and in so doing everyone benefits. Stop saying one thing in our face and doing something else behind closed doors. Caymanians need jobs!!!!!

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    4. I personally am not happy with our constitution. There should be a referendum on having it change. I know many people who elected UDP ministers, are not backing them now. Many people are dissappointed in the UDP. Can we not have shorter terms in office than four years? And where is the democracy when the electorate has change their minds and have become anti-bush? The constitution needs to be rewritten and include the people more.

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    5. Bodden at it again, when you had your chance to contribute to your country during the process you distanced yourself because of bitterness, now you are joining the critics
      Guess you can’t defend Big Mac in all his troubles so you have nothing to pick on now but the constitution. You should know better.

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    6. BT, I remember you being an old colonial minded person that sympathizes with the English and was and is not at all interested in Caymanians having a constitutionthe first place. You are quit happy keeping Caymanians down and subservient to the rich and elite and the UK you seem to want more of Yesa Massah, keeping Caymanians as hostages to a regressive system of era of the Dark Ages.

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    7. You have a great constitution with a lot of rights and privileges protecting the Caymanian people. BUT YOU ELECTED A DICTATOR WHO REFUSES TO LET THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS TAKE ITS COURSE!

      If you handed him the B-I-B-L-E as a guide you would still have problems with the premier doing what is right in everybody’s eyes.

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    8. Dubai, your cry for peace and safety is obvious. The fact that the constitution allows for a dictatorship, shouldnt that raise red flags that something is not right with the the supreme law of the land?

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    9. Apprentice you are making absolutely NO SENSE, Only in Utopia is where anything goes. The people screwed up in electing this man repeatedly.They screwed up all the more….in making him the leader of the party who generally becomes the leader of the country. Its the party system that needs to go, not the constitution. Who’s your coach? Fire him! Voting this man over and over again is what is screwing up this country. His campaign pitch is I got saved I changed I go to church, and people are stupid enough to believe him.
      Then he turns on them once he gets a good hold on the reins of his high horse. ITS CALLED BAIT AND SWITCH!
      The constitution is Cayman’s only hope if you can just get it properly implemented. The governor is careless too in not ensuring the proper implementation and full functioning of a document that is more than equipped to protect the people, but instead they run scared of his big mouth and his daily threats.

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    10. Sorry Dubai, the Constitution is not our only hope. A new one is! To change and ensure a better party system with checks and balances, you have to change the Constitution! Dubai, you can fool the people sometimes, but not all the time – ever heard that saying? 😉

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    11. The LA has become a dictatorial, as the late Honorable J.M. Bodden once said and got scolded for it , but as he replied a rose by any other name is still a rose, the fact Premier Big Mac has to go, personally anyway he has to go, really doesn’t matter , once he’s gone!

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    12. Apprentice, you need to listen, as I stated earlier
      Constitutions are always presented in its framework.
      The correct term you should be using is amended not changed. Amendments need to be made where necessary.
      If you try to change the constitution you may wind up with not getting one at all. the correct term you should be using is Amend where necessary. No constitution anywhere in the world will be changed just because you made the suggestion. It has never happened.
      Get used to the term ‘amendment. (in other words adjustments). where and when necessary.

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    13. Dubai, to amend is to make minor changes. But when you have a Constitution that needs so many amendments, it just doesn’t make sense to amend. You need a big change, reword the document, and ensure more anti-corruption provisions therein. As to you, making fabulous claims as to who I am and folks giving you ratings as they know what you are talking about, I challenge you to state my full name? The answer is you can’t – you know nothing about the major changes this constitution needs.

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    14. BT you seem to be very passionate about what you are saying about change. Mind posting a list of changes that need to be made to the constitution, we need to know what you’re talking about. Stop firing blank shots. I agree we need more anti-corruption laws, but those laws should have already be on the books so stop pointing fingers at the constitution. You very well know people got their hands into the consultation process who do not mean the people any good. in its original form there were numerous provisions protecting the people. I am sure the UDP and the PPM leasers alike removed much of those aspects to suit themselves in their quest for power. Stop blaming the constitution and blame those who butchered it and then went to the UK with it for approval, you are making no sense except where there is need for more anti-corruption laws.Now, as you are aware no one dreamed or expected that this level of corruption the people of the Cayman Islands now face coming from the powers that be, was even anticipated even remotely. One single individual has exceeded expectations, this is a very rare specimen.

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