Update 7am: United Democratic Party government members have signaled that they wish government to continue through the regularly scheduled May elections. In a statement released early Wednesday, the five-person group that defected from Premier McKeeva Bush’s camp Tuesday urged lawmakers to work together to keep a form of government intact. “We will continue to put Cayman first and work together
with all Members of the Legislative Assembly in order to ensure that there is a
functioning government and legislature,” the UDP statement noted. “We need united and mature leadership at this time. “The Cayman Islands has always risen to the occasion in
challenging times.We are confident that
we will take our country to even higher heights once we all work together.”
The Cayman Islands should know Wednesday morning if it still has a UDP government with a new premier at its head or whether there will be early elections.
Following Tuesday afternoon’s passage of a no confidence vote in the ruling United Democratic Party government, the next step is for the Governor of the Cayman Islands Duncan Taylor to either revoke McKeeva Bush’s appointment as premier or to dissolve parliament, in accordance with the constitution.
Section 51(1) of the 2009 Constitution Order reads: “The Governor shall, by instrument under the public seal, 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; but before so revoking the Premier’s appointment, the Governor shall consult the Premier and may, acting in his or her discretion, dissolve the Assembly instead of revoking the appointment.”
According to the Governor’s Office, the governor was due to either meet with or write a formal letter to Mr. Bush Tuesday evening and a decision on whether parliament is to be dissolved would be likely to be announced Wednesday morning.
If parliament is dissolved, a general election must be held within two months, according to the constitution.
A general election is scheduled for 22 May, with parliament due to be dissolved in preparation for that election on 26 March.
Cayman Islands lawmakers voted 11-3 Tuesday afternoon in favour of the no confidence motion. Premier Bush abstained from voting on the motion.
Just as Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin, who brought the motion of no confidence to the House, began his opening comments, the premier and his three colleagues who supported him – Mike Adam, Eugene Ebanks and Ellio Solomon – crossed the Legislative Assembly floor to take seats in the opposition benches, leaving the five remaining UDP members isolated on the government benches.
Despite the no confidence vote, Mr. Bush remains as premier until Governor Taylor revokes his appointment.
The vote brought out supporters of both parties and the independents as well as curious onlookers in one of the biggest turnouts seen in the public seats of the Legislative Assembly.
There was also a large police presence inside and outside the Legislative Assembly as the debate was taking place.
Prior to the debate, supporters waited outside the Legislative Assembly building for Mr. Bush and the three elected members of his party who continued to back him and cheered loudly as each arrived, with the loudest cheer reserved for the man whose future as premier of the current administration was about to come to an end.
Speaking to reporters after the vote had taken place, Mr. McLaughlin reiterated that the People’s Progressive Movement would not be joining the UDP government to form a coalition government.
If the government continues, it will be as a minority government of five in a parliament of 15 members.
Mr. McLaughlin said he did not know if the governor would dissolve parliament, paving the way for early elections, but he thought he should.
“I think seeking to continue with a government that, at the moment, only has five members and which will have to rely on the goodwill of the rest of the House to get any motion passed, to get any bill passed, is placing the country in a position where we’re still going to be experiencing issues of instability and concern and lack of confidence and lack of credibility,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin described the no confidence vote as a “very sad occasion… that ought not to have happened”.
Echoing comments he made in his motion speech, Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Bush could have avoided the entire situation by offering his resignation “a long time ago”.
Ellio Solomon, one of the three UDP members who crossed the parliament floor with Mr. Bush, told reporters that the other members of the UDP caucus, in meetings over the past week, had given Mr. Bush an ultimatum to resign or else they would support a vote of no confidence. “I never supported that,” said Mr. Solomon, who admitted that he had in an earlier caucus meeting supported putting “three or four options” that included resignation to Mr. Bush.
He denied that he had held out supporting the UDP government members in ousting Mr. Bush because he wanted a Cabinet seat. “There’s no truth in that and, in fact, I already had the offer from the majority of persons in my caucus that they would give me a ministerial position, but I refused it.”