“Minority government” members resigned from the United Democratic Party on Saturday, effectively splitting the group’s nine-member legislative majority and raising new questions about the legality of the Cayman Islands’ governance arrangement.
Meanwhile, what remained of the UDP agreed on Saturday to expel the members who voted to support a “no confidence” motion against their own government in the Legislative Assembly on 18 December. George Town Member of the Legislative Assembly Ellio Solomon was named deputy UDP leader on Saturday, according to party members with former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush remaining as party leader.
Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor did not dissolve parliament following the 18 December no confidence vote as he was requested to do by both Mr. Bush and members of the opposition People’s Progressive Movement. Rather, Mr. Taylor opted to continue a “minority government” scenario where the five now-former members of the UDP took Cabinet positions while agreeing to work with the opposition and the legislature’s two independent members to maintain a quorum and continue to hold meetings.
Former Premier Bush has questioned the legality of such an arrangement – calling it a “sham Cabinet”.
However, Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin said Saturday that his five-person government still had more members than any other group in the now-fractured assembly and urged all legislature members to get on with the country’s business until parliament is officially dissolved in late March. General elections are scheduled for 22 May.
“We have a perfectly legal government in place,” Mr. Anglin said Saturday. “If anyone persists in making these petty arguments, the public ought to look carefully at those people and their motives.”
The UDP did not respond immediately Saturday to requests for comment about any move to challenge the status of Cayman’s minority government.
There was also some uncertainty on Sunday as to whether Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly had formally resigned from the UDP. The premier could not be reached for comment over the weekend.*
The argument in favour of dissolving parliament and calling for early elections rests with the notion that, with some of the government members no longer in the United Democratic Party, the party does not maintain a majority of seats in the assembly.
Section 49 (2) of the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution Order states: “Where a political party gains a majority of the seats of elected members of the Legislative Assembly, the governor shall appoint as premier the elected members of the assembly recommended by a majority of the elected members who are members of that party.”
Governor Taylor said last week that he was satisfied with the minority government arrangement and that he had taken appropriate legal advice before proceeding with it.
Mr. Bush said the appointment of a five-person minority government to run Cayman’s affairs until the election represented an “undemocratic and unconstitutional decision” by Governor Taylor. “The constitution can’t be half right and half wrong,” Mr. Bush said during a public meeting in George Town on 20 December. “It can’t be right to revoke my appointment, but say that five Cabinet members is a majority.
“I am going to insist that the constitution must be upheld,” he said, although the premier did not mention any specific remedies he might seek for what he believed to be the unconstitutional act.
All five members of the Cayman Islands minority government resigned from the United Democratic Party on Saturday via letters delivered to district committee chairpersons, according to Mr. Anglin.
The resignations came just hours before UDP district committees were due to have meetings to discuss what they termed the members’ “undesirable conduct” in voting to support a no confidence motion brought by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin against the UDP government.
The UDP district committees had invited the government members to attend those meetings and explain their votes. “The bottom line is … that we couldn’t caucus together,” Mr. Anglin said. “Our colleagues walked across the floor [of the Legislative Assembly] for whatever reasons [prior to the no confidence vote being taken on 18 December]. We did what we had to do.”
Mr. Anglin, Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Health Minister Mark Scotland, Tourism and Development Minister Cline Glidden, Jr. and Community Affairs Minister Dwayne Seymour joined the four opposition party members and two independent members of the assembly in voting 11-3 in support of the no confidence motion; which effectively removed Mr. Bush as Cayman Islands premier.
Opposing the no confidence motion were former Cabinet Minister Mike Adam, Mr. Solomon and West Bay MLA Capt. Eugene Ebanks.
Mr. Bush abstained on the vote. According to a copy of one of the resignation letters sent Saturday to the West Bay UDP district committee: “After deep consideration surrounding the recent developments within the membership of the Legislative Group of the United Democratic Party (“UDP”) I feel I have no other option but to resign as a Member of the Legislative Group,” Mr. Anglin wrote. “Please accept this letter as formal notification of my resignation as a Member of the UDP Legislative Group and Party. “Let me take this opportunity to thank you and every member of the UDP District Committee for West Bay, and wider UDP, for your friendship and support over the past eleven years. I wish each of you and your families well,” the letter continued.