Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said last week that comments in the local press regarding East End political hopeful John McLean Jr. being his “preferred candidate” for elected office in that district were misconstrued.
Mr. Bush said his statements during a public meeting in East End were an attempt to refute claims by current East End legislative representative Arden McLean that John McLean Jr. was the premier’s preferred candidate.
What Mr. Bush told a crowd of East End residents on 28 February was: “Mr. McLean, Arden McLean came here the other night and told you nonsense about my preferred candidate. Well, let me just tell you about preference. Anyone can be an improvement to the embarrassment as a representative that [Arden McLean] brings to the good people out here. John McLean Jr, has run as an independent in the last election … but he’s continuing as an independent. He comes and asks to get help for East End people and I feel that he should be congratulated for his attention to the district, even though he lost the election in 2009.”
Premier Bush said his comment regarding “my preferred candidate” was quoting from a statement Arden McLean made at an earlier public meeting in East End.
Mr. Bush said he did not intend that comment to mean John McLean Jr. was his preferred candidate for the District of East End in 2013. Arden McLean referred to John McLean Jr. as a United Democratic Party candidate at the earlier meeting.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughiln said the clarifying comments by the premier amounted to “classic political spin”.
“I don’t think there’s ever been any question with John McLean Jr’s association with the UDP,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The issue of Mr. Bush’s support for John McLean Jr. has led to criminal allegations by members of Cayman’s opposition party.
Mr. McLaughlin has said he would write to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor and Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick asking them to look into Mr. Bush’s support for candidate John McLean, who is expected to run for office in the upcoming May 2013 elections.
“This must be official corruption,” Mr. McLaughlin said of the matter.
Mr. Bush told supporters in East End on 28 February that he had essentially by-passed MLA Arden McLean in favour of candidate John McLean, Jr. in working to secure funding for several public projects for that area of Grand Cayman.
“With John McLean, we put [these projects] in place for this district,” Mr. Bush said.
Arden McLean said earlier this month that support for those public projects – some $200,000 worth – was paid for out of a $5 million fund provided to the government by the Dart group of companies.
MLA McLean alleged that the practical effect of providing that money at the request of John McLean, Jr. amounted to vote-buying.
“It’s a sad day in this country when the premier announces that the richest man in this country is financing the candidates’ election,” Mr. McLean said earlier this month.
“How can we have fair elections in this country?”
According to a letter sent to the Caymanian Compass earlier this month, Premier Bush denied that any funds provided to government by the Dart group had been paid directly to John McLean, Jr. or any other individual.
“Certain members of the media and the opposition are trying to create the impression that I am doing something wrong when there is nothing wrong with allocating government money to community projects,” Mr. Bush said.
“What I said [during the 28 February meeting in East End] was that we were going to allocate $200,000 of this [Dart funding] for projects in East End and although I did say some of those projects were brought to my attention by John McLean, Jr., at no time did I say the funds would be given to John McLean Jr.
“For absolute clarity these funds will not be given to John McLean, Jr.”
MLA Arden McLean has said that he presented a number of recommended projects for East End to Cabinet members back in 2010.
He said only one project he recommended, improvements to East End Primary School, had been completed.