Members of the former ruling United Democratic Party in West Bay look to regain some momentum tonight in the party’s political stronghold after a few months of what former Premier McKeeva Bush might describe as “taking some licks”.
A public meeting, the first general public meeting the party has hosted since mid-December, is set for Tuesday evening at 8pm at the four-way stop.
Not only did the UDP lose a majority of members from its former government following Mr. Bush’s arrest and a subsequent no-confidence vote in the Legislative Assembly on 18 December, its former chairman and founding member, Billy Reid, resigned his position in the months prior to the government split.
In addition, the party has seen within the past week two key younger members declare themselves as candidates for election – just not on the UDP slate.
One of the members, businessman Stefan Baraud, declared his candidacy in the pages of the Caymanian Compass last week. Mr. Baraud, the former chairman of the George Town UDP branch, had a well-publicised feud with the party following a dispute over the George Town cruise port negotiations. The disagreement caused Mr. Baraud to resign as both chairman of the UDP in George Town and as chairman of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands board of directors.
He said last week that he has officially quit the UDP altogether and will move on as an independent candidate, seeking the endorsement of the Coalition for Cayman political advocacy group.
“Regrettably, with a party, you sometimes have to toe the party line and take the party position,” Mr. Baraud said. “There was obviously a very public split, there’s no disputing that.
“Over the last four years … there’s been some poor decisions and we’ve seen a lot of people suffering with cost of living and issues like unemployment, these are things that I haven’t seen addressed and are extremely important to the future of this country.”
Also joining the race as an independent on Friday was local businessman and former Young UDP member Matthew Leslie, who announced his candidacy on Facebook – at 2.25am no less – to friends, family members and supporters.
“It is not who I am running with … it is who I am running for that really matters,” Mr. Leslie wrote on the page. The various twists and turns of political fortune have left the UDP with four sitting members of the Legislative Assembly, including Mr. Bush, West Bay MLA Capt. Eugene Ebanks, George Town MLA Ellio Solomon and George Town MLA Mike Adam.
However, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Solomon have said on numerous occasions that the UDP plans to run a full slate of candidates in the upcoming May elections. Names being bandied about now, none of which have been officially confirmed by the party or publicly announced include: local businessmen Bernie Bush and Renard Moxam, former television weather caster John Foster, Dr. Steve Tomlinson, as well as 2009 UDP candidates Jonathan Piercy and Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden. [*]
[*] Editor’s note: Story edited to reflect the fact that John McLean Jr. was not a UDP candidate in 2009.