Two days after the May 2009 elections gave the United Democratic Party control of the government, The Caymanian Compass ran a front page headline ‘Bush vows transparency’.
The ‘Bush’ referred to is Premier McKeeva Bush, before he officially became premier. In hindsight, we have no idea what he meant by “transparency”.
Immediately after the election, Mr. Bush promised to hold Cabinet press briefings every two weeks. The government sporadically held a few of these in which Mr. Bush did most, if not all, of the talking and then abandoned them completely.
At the time, Mr. Bush also said the government would continue supporting the Freedom of Information Law. Not only has he subsequently railed against what he considers abuses of the FOI Law, two of the ministries under Premier Bush’s responsibility routinely ignore and delay information requests made to them. Other government ministries, like some under Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, have been equally evasive to FOI requests.
In addition, Mr. Bush virtually declared war on the Auditor General’s Office, a key government financial watchdog, not only by hurling a variety of insults toward its staff, but through a serious cutback in funding that has left that office with barely enough employees to do its job.
If anything, the UDP regime is the antithesis of a transparent government, releasing information only when compelled by negative media reports and then doing so with antagonism and insults. And the situation is getting worse.
Recently one of our reporters was told by the head of a government department that he had been forbidden to speak to the media and that all inquiries should be made to the ministry under which his department fell. That’s one of the ministries that routinely doesn’t respond to inquires unless forced to do so by the Information Commissioner.
Mr. Bush may call the efforts of those who try to hold the government accountable “pure, unadulterated, bureaucratic harassment”, but what we see happening is a systematic effort to keep the workings of government as far from the public eye as possible.