Once again, it appears – if the Speaker of the House agrees – that the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly will debate a no confidence vote on the current government.
From Premier McKeeva Bush’s vantage point, certain United Kingdom civil servants are using local opposition politicians in an attempt to bring down his government and the Cayman Islands along with it.
According to Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, that statement by the premier is a “distraction”; an attempt by Premier Bush to divert from the issue of whether he should step down for the good of the territory in the wake of three criminal investigations involving him.
“[The opposition and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller] are so blinded by their thirst for power and control,” Mr. Bush wrote in a statement released to the Caymanian Compass on Thursday. “The only way to get that is to destroy me, so they joined forces with our common adversary, the [UK] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to their supposed good, yet to the detriment of these Islands.”
Mr. McLaughlin said Friday it is statements such as this one by the premier that will be to the detriment of the Cayman Islands.
“On Thursday night [19 April], we had the premier extolling the virtues of the minister [referring to UK Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham] … that over the course of the last few years they’ve forged these friendships and relationships. Now, what we have is the generation of a huge number of conspiracy theories.
“There’s no question that the [foreign office] and the UK’s involvement in matters such as these [investigations] in the territories have not been good,” Mr. McLaughlin admitted Friday. “We had Operation Tempura and Operation Cealt; both which have been disastrous. Before that we had the situation with David Ballantyne and Eurobank. Some would say the way they’ve managed the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands is anything but exemplary.
“Certainly, nobody on my side is saying the premier is guilty of anything,” Mr. McLaughlin added. “It is his continuing in office under the weight of these investigations is doing serious damage to the country internationally … and it’s going to continue as long as he remains premier.”
Mr. Bush responded that Mr. McLaughlin and the tenure of his previous government’s administration were “no better”, leaving the Cayman Islands government in a weakened financial state with massive debts and two high school projects that, once again, look in danger of not being finished.
“In fact, if certain officials were worth their salt, much more would be uncovered with contracts on the two schools and its related contracts,” Mr. Bush said.
In a lengthy statement provided to the Caymanian Compass last week, Premier Bush sought to establish a long history of events citing reasons for why certain “civil servants” within the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office simply didn’t like him.
Attempts to elicit a response to these claims from Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor last week were not successful. The Compass will publish any such response from the governor’s office in the future, if and when it is received.
The statement, in part reads: “In 1980-84 Roy Bodden, AJ Miller, the late Jim Lawrence, and I had to battle against the dirt and injustice of the then commissioner of police. He didn’t resign or step down, he left when the government changed in 1984. Between 1984-90, I led the charge against a governor and I managed to move him as President of the Assembly.
“In 1990-96, I fought the officials of the FCO against the removal of capital punishment. In 2001-05, I refused them the introduction of homosexual marriages. I fought them and broke up the scandal of the spy operation and the bugging of the chief justice’s phone and their spy operation in the closure of Euro Bank – by their chief operative (senior police officer) Brian Gibbs and our then Attorney General, David Ballantyne. We retained one of London’s best QC’s for that battle. We refused to offer them support for the ‘early release’ of the life sentence murderers.“In 2005-09 Alden [McLaughlin] allowed all kinds of transgressions by the FCO against the wishes and without the knowledge of the people of these islands. This included giving away to the FCO our financial sovereignty in all our budgetary matters.
“They wanted me to sign these islands up to the European Savings Directive in it’s original form, relating to taxation. I said no and they offered to give me constitutional changes if I would support their efforts, I said no, and took them to the EU court of first instance – and we won, they lost!”
On Friday, Mr. McLaughlin said all of the claims by the premier regarding civil servants in the foreign office being “his enemies” were an attempt at distraction.
“The issue which is being skirted by the premier and those who say we shouldn’t have these calls for the premier to step down until he’s been charged … is the convention which exists throughout the Commonwealth, which is based on Westminster principles. When the allegations are such that they call into question the reputation of the government and of the country, the honourable thing to do … is for the MP or minister to step aside until those investigations are concluded.
“We are not seeking to take the government down. We are more than happy to wait for the next elections in May. It is entirely possible for [the United Democratic Party] to do the internal reshuffling for the deputy premier or somebody else to assume the helm and the business of government continue as usual.
“Even if the lack of confidence motion carries … what the Constitution provides for is for a new government to be formed from the existing members of the house. It is only when the governor concludes that can’t happen is when he would call for the new elections.”
Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Miller on Friday filed a motion of “lack of confidence” in the government of the Cayman Islands.
Both men threatened the motion’s filing a week ago if Premier Bush had not stepped aside from his leadership position by Thursday in the wake of three separate criminal investigations.
On Friday, just before noon, the motion was filed. It was the second such lack of confidence motion to be filed against Mr. Bush’s government during its current term in office. The first taken in the Legislative Assembly failed on a party line vote.
According to the 2009 Constitution Order, a two-thirds vote of assembly members is required to effect the removal of the government. If 10 out of 15 “yes” votes on the motion are received, the governor would have two options – reform the government under his own authority or dissolve parliament and call for a general election.
Mr. McLaughlin admitted Friday that the opposition party does not particularly care for either option. He urged the ruling United Democratic Party government members to act and replace Mr. Bush as premier with either Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly or another Cabinet member.
The UDP has not issued any statements on the matter, although both publicly and privately members have defended Premier Bush. Mr. Bush has refused to step aside.
The motion filed by Messrs. McLaughlin and Miller will require a formal waiver of the five days notice given to LA motions by the Speaker of the House.
“This is not a matter which we could have anticipated prior to the start of the current meeting,” Mr. McLaughlin said, asking for the Speaker to set aside the normal timeline to hear the motion as a “matter of national importance”.