With the arrest Tuesday of Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush on suspicion of committing a number of crimes, attention now turns to what may happen next with the United Democratic Party government.
Within hours of his arrest, radio talk show callers were calling for Mr. Bush’s resignation or removal from the office of premier.
Just because he has been arrested does not mean Mr. Bush must step down from the office of premier or his Cabinet position. Nor does it disqualify him from being a Legislative Assembly member.
With regard to his Legislative Assembly seat, Mr. Bush would not be disqualified even if he were charged with crimes. Section 62(e) of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 would require Mr. Bush to be convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment – even if suspended – of at least 12 months before he would be disqualified.
Given the circumstances, Mr. Bush could, of his own volition, step down as premier, as a Cabinet member and even as a Legislative Assembly member.
If Mr. Bush does not decide to do step down and the rest of the government wants him to, they could simply tell him they have lost confidence in him as premier and/or a Cabinet member and request he resign. However, Mr. Bush would not necessarily have to agree, forcing the rest of the government to take additional actions.
Section 51 of the Cayman Islands Constitution, which deals with the tenure of the office of the premier, states that the governor “shall … revoke the appointment of the premier if a motion that the Legislative Assembly should declare a lack of confidence in the government receives the affirmative votes of not less than two thirds of the elected members of the assembly.”
With the Legislative Assembly comprising 15 members, 10 of them would have to declare a lack of confidence if such a motion were brought. Since the United Democratic Party controls nine of the 15 seats, at least four UDP members would have to vote in favour of the motion, assuming all four of the People’s Progressive Movement members and both independent members voted in a favour of it. However, if all eight of the remaining UDP members voted for the motion, it would represent a majority of the Legislative Assembly assuring that it would remain the sitting government.
However, even if a motion were successful, Section 51(1) also states that before the governor revokes the premier’s appointment, he “shall consult the premier and may, acting in his or her discretion, dissolve the assembly instead of revoking the appointment”.
This action would bring about early elections.
Since the House was just adjourned late Monday afternoon and the next meeting of the House is not scheduled until sometime in January, any members of the Legislative Assembly wishing to bring a motion of no confidence could potentially call for a meeting earlier.
Section 8(2) of the Legislative Assembly Standing Orders (2006 Revisions) states that the Speaker of the House may, at his discretion, “summon a meeting of the House and shall do so on the written requisition signed by not less than seven members, stating the terms of the motion or motions which they wish to debate”.
Section 9(1) of the Standing Orders also allows for a special meeting during an adjournment of the House if “it is represented by the government to the presiding officer that the public interest requires that the House should meet on an earlier day than that to which it stands adjourned, the presiding officer may direct accordingly”.
Mr. Bush was arrested just prior to the scheduled weekly Cabinet meeting. It was unknown at press time if the Cabinet met to discuss any business on Tuesday’s agenda. However, under section 46(5) of the Constitution, it could have still met if there were at least three members – a quorum – present.