Flanked by fellow United Democratic Party members, an energised Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush vigorously defended his government’s actions and riposted against opponents’ recent criticisms of his ongoing major proposals.
More than 100 supporters gathered in Celebration Park next to the courthouse in George Town on Tuesday evening for the public meeting, billed as an update on cruise dock negotiations but which effectually served as a UDP rally on multiple fronts.
Mr. Bush poked fun at plans by independent MLA Ezzard Miller and opposition MLA Arden McLean to travel to London to discuss concerns about the Cayman government.
“Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen. Pussycat, pussycat, what did you dare?” Mr. Bush said, to supporters’ approval.
Saying critics had “stirred the old fire in me”, Mr. Bush dispelled any speculation that he was planning to leave government quietly. “I did not say I am going to go, and I am not prepared to go now,” he said.
He said he is unafraid of accusations that he or his government have ever acted inappropriately or illegally.
“If your hands are clean, then the truth will come out at some point,” he said. Speaking after Mr. Bush, MLA Ellio Solomon, who is leading negotiations with China Harbour Engineering Company, addressed the state of George Town cruise berthing plans. Mr. Solomon said concerns raised in an April 2011 KPMG memo about hyper-inflated cruise passenger fees of US$35 were unfounded. Mr. Solomon said that, if the China Harbour deal goes through, the per passenger fees will be equal to or lower than current fees, which total US$16.76, he said.
Mr. Solomon said the cruise port would still be operated by the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands. The project, with two finger piers, would include retail space to help fund the port authority. He said construction will involve some 1,200 to 1,500 workers – mostly locals, not Chinese. Also, Chinese workers will rent existing housing stock, rather than live in temporary work camps, he said.
Mr. Bush said the Government has just signed a contract with Miami consultants Bermello Ajamil & Partners to examine the draft framework agreement before it is sent to the Central Tenders Committee.
Mr. Bush also defended the ForCayman Investment Alliance agreement between government and the Dart Group. He broke down allocation of the CI$5 million received from Dart for social/community programmes as follows: CI$2.05 million for mortgage assistance; CI$200,000 for sports and youth programmes; CI$600,000 for projects at Savannah and Bodden Town Primary Schools; CI$650,000 for a housing repairs programme for the elderly and needy; CI$450,000 for the new Hospitality Training School; and CI$150,000 for Cayman Brac playfield capital works.
He said new hotel construction at the Courtyard Marriott site will begin in 12 months.
Regarding Dr. Devi Shetty’s proposed medical tourism hospital, Mr. Bush said developers purchased 200 acres near High Rock and are going through the lands and survey process for the first 50 acres, which will encompass a 140-bed hospital. He said the planning application will be submitted within three months, and construction is scheduled to begin in August, with 12 months to completion and up to 300 workers on the construction site.
The project’s master plan will include an assisted-living/retirement community, school, commercial/retail area (town centre), resort and hotel area, and biotech park, Mr. Bush said.
Additionally, Mr. Bush promised to investigate into what has delayed the proposed divestment of the Water Authority’s sewage operations. A 25-year lease of the system would generate $50 million up front, plus $5 million per year thereafter, Mr. Bush said.