Former Premier McKeeva Bush, who has questioned whether the creation of the Cayman Islands’ “minority government” was constitutional, asked Thursday whether the territory’s opposition party leadership is valid.
During a debate on various legislation related to the financial services industry Thursday afternoon in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bush referred to Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin as the “purported” Opposition Leader.
“I don’t know whether to call him the Leader of the Opposition … I don’t know whether he’s the Leader of the Opposition with four members or I am,” Mr. Bush said.
Following the no-confidence vote in Mr. Bush’s administration on 18 December, the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly was essentially split into four factions. Those included the ruling minority government consisting of former United Democratic Party members Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin, Minister Mark Scotland, Minister Cline Glidden Jr., and Minister Dwayne Seymour; the People’s Progressive Movement members Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin and MLAs Moses Kirkconnell, Kurt Tibbetts and Anthony Eden; the United Democratic Party members MLAs Mr. Bush, Ellio Solomon, Mike Adam and Capt. Eugene Ebanks; and independent members Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean.
None of the factions form a majority eight members of the assembly, so Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor appointed the five-member minority government, leaving the other 10 elected members sitting on the opposition benches.
The PPM members and the two independent members signed an agreement with the five-member interim government to meet with them so a quorum could be maintained and the assembly could legally continue meeting until its dissolution on 26 March.
UDP officials have argued that signing this agreement is tantamount to forming a type of coalition government and that their membership is now the true opposition.
Following Mr. Bush’s comments in the assembly on Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin asked Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence for permission to address the concerns raised by the former premier.
“This is a matter of real importance, it’s a constitutional issue,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We cannot proceed in this House with the question as to who is the Leader of the Opposition. I invite…anyone who believes that I continue in this post unconstitutionally to take the measures to deal with what [Mr. Bush] believes is an irregularity.”
Speaker Lawrence advised the House that she had received no directives from Britain-appointed Governor Taylor with regard to a change in opposition leadership.
“I will have to move with what we have at present,” Mrs. Lawrence said. “If there is going to be a change, it will have to come from the governor, not here.”
Theoretically, under the constitution, if Mr. Bush was able to get one member of the PPM or one of the independent members to join his legislative group, that group could then petition the governor to change opposition leaders, as the UDP faction would then have more members on the opposition side of the aisle than anyone else.
Mr. Bush jokingly referred to this possibility during Thursday’s debate. “I think [Mr. McLaughlin] better behave himself or we’ll appoint the member from East End the Leader of the Opposition,” Mr. Bush said, referring to Mr. McLean.
Mr. McLean gave no indication in the House on Thursday that he would even consider such a possibility.
“The matter is in the governor’s hands … it is not necessary to debate it at this point,” Speaker Lawrence reiterated.
New deputy speaker
There was one new key appointment made in the assembly on Thursday; that of deputy speaker of the House.
Previously, the position was held by West Bay MLA Cline Glidden, Jr. However, with the government re-shuffle Mr. Glidden was made the Minister of Tourism and Development.
Legal requirements state that a minister of government cannot also serve as speaker of the House or deputy speaker.
Legislative Assembly members voted unanimously on Thursday to elect veteran Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden to the deputy speaker’s position, to act when and if Mrs. Lawrence is not in attendance.