MLA and former Premier McKeeva Bush has come under considerable political pressure, but retains support in his native West Bay, where many reserve judgement until a courtroom trial.
Arrested on suspicion of theft, breach of trust, abuse of office and conflict of interest on 11 December, forced to step aside on 19 December, and replaced the same day by a breakaway faction of the United Democratic Party, Mr. Bush has steadfastly battled public opprobrium, maintained his innocence and questioned the motives of both the governor and the commissioner of police in the events.
“I come from a policing background,” said Gillard McLaughlin, director of his own Shoreway Builders Ltd in West Bay. “It’s a trying time and I simply remain steadfast that a man is innocent until proven guilty.
“It’s complex, and if you’re going to arrest the premier or the prime minister of a country, you cannot sit on it. You have to charge him within 48 hours. Would the government arrest the British prime minister or the US president like this? I remain in support of Mac,” Mr. McLaughlin said, using the former premier’s nickname.
The 7am police raid in which Mr Bush was arrested and removed for questioning, followed by a daylong search of his home, left a sour taste in Graham Rankin’s mouth.
“They had to come at 7 o’clock in the morning to search for books? They went through his entire life looking though drawers. Then they took him for more questioning the next day? I thought it was disrespectful,” said the former quarry worker of 28 years and now independent businessman.
He was sceptical of accusations surrounding the explosives shipment involving Mr. Bush, saying Port Authority or National Roads Authority officials – responsible for importing the material – were seldom dockside to oversee shipments.
“I guess the only thing we can do is wait for the police. They’ll have to charge him, and if they don’t, his lawyers are likely to go for a lawsuit,” Mr. Rankin said.
“That is not something he would support, though. He works hard and people take advantage of his generosity. He’s a very kind and generous person and people like to do business with him because he gets things done,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alice Mae Coe, West Bay community figure and among the leaders of the opposition to Mr. Bush’s move to close a portion of West Bay Road, said she regretted the difficulties embroiling Mr. Bush, but that “it would have been better and would have been more statesmanlike if he’d stepped aside and gotten out of the way until the investigation was over.
“But it dragged on and on, and probably damaged him. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” she said, “and I am not rejoicing; I am really saddened that it had to come to this.”
Ms Coe was nonetheless sceptical of the five breakaway MLAs that replaced Mr. Bush’s Cabinet, wondering about their announced “country first” motivation.
“That is commendable, but why not before?” she asked. “Why not have put ‘country first’ all along – unless this is some kind of self-preservation. They’re going against the ex-premier, and it was a shame that it took three years.”
Sarah Orrett, 46, former legal-office manager, said she has known Mr. Bush all her life and had been “a personal supporter of Mac for 20 years”.
She conceded they had not always agreed on issues, “but Mac has been good to a lot of people. He has worked tirelessly for the county for many years.”
Pointing to the lack of charges against Mr. Bush, Ms Orrett said “we have to look at the fact that this is all a suspicion — and you can’t condemn someone on a suspicion.”
The accusations, she said, “are a little petty. I am not passing judgement on Mr. Bush until a court tries and convicts him.
“He’s a very kind-hearted man and no one is going to take that away. I won’t let anyone take that away from him,” she said.
Isaac Rankine, a West Bay telecommunications contractor, has known Mr. Bush, he said, “for 25 years. I used to talk to him on a number of different subjects.
“A man is innocent until proven guilty. [Mr. Bush] is a good and decent person and I won’t stop supporting him just because he’s been arrested. It could’ve been anybody.”
He declined to discuss the political events that unseated the former premier, saying that “it happened for whatever reasons. Mac decided what to do and I’m not going to debate that. He had his reasons and the others had theirs.
“I can’t speak definitively because I don’t really know what happened, but I think a lot of politics were involved,” he said.