Why Mr. Bush resigned in ’97

He was relieved of ministerial duties, remained as MLA

On 1 October, 1997, William McKeeva Bush was the first elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for West Bay and Minister of Community Development, Sports, Women’s Affairs, Youth and Culture. 

Then news emerged of problems at First Cayman Bank and its parent bank in the Bahamas. The headline in the Caymanian Compass for 14 October, 1997, read, “First Cayman Bank shut down”. Mr. Bush was listed in the MLAs’ Register of Interests as a director of First Cayman Bank. MLA Roy Bodden called for an explanation on behalf of the estimated 3,000 Caymanians and residents who had accounts at the bank. 

Then there were allegations of irregularities at the bank and on 17 October, the Cabinet of the day – known then as Executive Council – decided to revoke the bank’s licence and apply to the Grand Court for liquidation immediately.  

On 21 October, Mr. Bush issued a statement clarifying his position. He said he had never accepted any appointment as a director of First Cayman Bank, although he had accepted appointment as a director of Gulf Union Bank, its parent bank. He said the listing in the Members’ Register of Interests was an error, which he had since sought to have rectified. 

Meanwhile, depositors began organising a petition calling for his resignation. On 22 October, colleagues on the National Team, as the political group was known, requested Mr. Bush to resign as a minister of Executive Council. The next day, Mr. Bush was relieved of his ExCo duties by the Governor, John Owen. He then temporarily transferred Mr. Bush’s responsibilities to Anthony Eden, minister for Health. 

Richard Coles, attorney general at the time, explained that Mr. Bush continued as MLA and as a Member of Executive Council, but with no ministerial responsibilities. Because ministers are elected by the Legislative Assembly, it was expected that the Assembly would deal with the situation when it sat again, which was originally scheduled to be on 31 October but was postponed until 5 November. 

West Bay constituents held a rally in support of Mr. Bush on Thursday, 30 October, at the West Bay playing field and invited supporters from all districts. Over 400 people were counted at the beginning of the evening, with more people arriving as the event continued. 

That night Mr. Bush announced his intention to resign from Executive Council and the Governor’s Office subsequently confirmed that the resignation had been received that day. 

“I will resign not as a bitter man but as someone who has accomplished something for the people of these Islands,” he said. 

He told the attentive audience that the good of the country was larger than himself. In any national crisis, patriotism, love of country and honour demand that the interest of the country should be placed before his own interest. 

He said he had never done anything while in ExCo to line his own pocket. He revealed his recommendation to the Governor – that no minister or MLA become a director of any entity that has the potential of conflicting with the collective and individual responsibilities of government. 

He said it was not the end of the world because he would be better able to look after the needs of West Bay and the Islands as a whole. “It is hard to be asked to step down or resign, but whatever is best for the county I am willing to do.” 

He also asked people not to pay attention to rumours, as he had not done anything wrong. “When the time comes, my name will be cleared,” he said.  

The election of a new minister was the first order of business when the House met the following week and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, first Elected MLA from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, was chosen. 

In the November 2000 General Elections, Mr. Bush was again returned as first elected MLA for West Bay, and again elected by legislators to be a minister in the new Government.  

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3 COMMENTS

  1. In those days Mr Bush was a green Horn and had just entered Politics. He should have had a good Political advisor and he would not need to resign. But again trying to please everyone, and people who obviously was cutting his throat. He has had people worked with him who underminded him from day one. Worning right under his nose and stabbing him in the back. Same thing happening here.
    He has come a long way, and has seen the same people envy this little West Bay Bush Boy because he was caring for his people. I remember comming across a letter once where one Lawyer from the Cayman Law School was writing to a Banker, saying some of the most awful things about Bush, and at the same time Bush was treating them to Chamber lunches.
    I have known this man for a long time and Caymanians you should be ashamed of yourself for clapping hands because of this, when you know full well what it is all about.

    Editor’s note: For the sake of accuracy, Mr. Bush was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1984, so he had been a sitting member of the House for 13 years when the First Cayman Bank issue came about. That’s hardly a political greenhorn.

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  2. It is a pity that Mr. Bush apparently no longer holds the principles that caused him to resign in 1997:

    He told the attentive audience that the good of the country was larger than himself. In any national crisis, patriotism, love of country and honour demand that the interest of the country should be placed before his own interest.

    And thank you, Editor, for correcting that misinformation from Hunter.

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