Update 11am: Cayman Islands Premier-elect Alden McLaughlin is set to reveal who will hold which ministerial post in his new Cabinet tomorrow, Tuesday, 28 May. In a short statement released to the press Monday, Mr. McLaughlin said: “Please be advised that I will announce the new Cabinet for the Cayman Islands at a press conference tomorrow morning at the Progressives headquarters at 10am.”
It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows.
Cayman Islands Premier-elect Alden McLaughlin announced Saturday that his nine-person Progressives contingent had agreed to form a government by adding a 10th elected Legislative Assembly member, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman representative Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and making her Speaker of the House.
Such a move effectively takes one elected member out of most of the assembly proceedings in order to preside over them and leaves the Progressives with nine members on the government side of the House. That leaves – for the moment – three United Democratic Party members, three Coalition for Cayman-supported members and two independent members on the other side, making eight in opposition.
Mr. McLaughlin said during a Saturday press conference at Progressives headquarters in George Town that his government had offered one coalition-supported candidate, West Bay representative Tara Rivers, an undefined ministerial position with the government. He said Ms Rivers was considering the offer and hoped she would make her intentions known before government was officially sworn in on Wednesday.
Neither Ms Rivers nor Ms O’Connor-Connolly would be required to switch their allegiance to the Progressives party in order to form the government, Mr. McLaughlin said.
Meanwhile, Ms Rivers and the other two coalition-supported legislators, Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolly, were said Saturday to be seeking support for an alternate coalition with independent assembly members Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller.
However, with only five elected members to start, the group would have to gain another five members – including at least one person from the newly-elected Progressives party – to form a 10-person coalition. This speculative scenario would also likely require members of the United Democratic Party, including former Premier McKeeva Bush, to join up with Messrs. Miller and McLean, as well as the coalition-supported candidates who all campaigned heavily against Mr. Bush’s former government during the election season.
How far discussions had proceeded along these lines wasn’t known by press time Sunday. However, Mr. McLaughlin said as far as he was concerned, his Progressives party had the numbers and would go ahead with forming a government this week.
“We’d be delighted if all the other members who aren’t with the UDP would come and sit on the government backbench,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Politics is the art of the possible … you have to be pragmatic about things. Both [Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean] are very able legislators … with a wealth of experience, I think it would be a travesty, if not a tragedy, that they were to beat about on the opposition benches for another four years.
“I’d much rather that they work with us, in a number of ways, to help move the country forward.”
Mr. McLaughlin said in previous discussions about forming a government, coalition-supported and independent members had “insisted on more than [the Progressives] were prepared to offer”.
“There are five of them and we were offering two [ministerial] seats,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We think we’ve been more than fair.”
The Caymanian Compass contacted Mr. McTaggart, Mr. Connolly, Ms Rivers, Mr. McLean and Mr. Miller Saturday evening for comment. A spokesperson for Mr. Connolly said he would issue a press release, but didn’t say when. The other four didn’t return calls or text messages by press time Sunday.
The Progressives government was partially announced at the Saturday press conference.
Mr. McLaughlin will be premier and also minister of home affairs. That new ministry position has, among other things, direct responsibility for the finances of police, immigration and customs services. Previously, those areas had been delegated directly to the appointed deputy governor.
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman lawmaker Moses Kirkconnell will be deputy premier and serve as tourism and district administration minister. Mr. Kirkconnell said the appointment of himself as second-in-command and Ms O’Connor-Connolly as speaker will give the Sisters Islands a great deal of influence in government affairs.
Freshmen legislators Marco Archer and Wayne Panton will be named minister of finance and minister of financial services, respectively. Mr. Archer will be responsible for the purse strings of government, while Mr. Panton will have oversight and work with the international financial services industry.
Bodden Town representative Osbourne Bodden will also become a Cabinet minister, but in what role is as yet unknown. Depending on what Ms Rivers decides, there will be another one or two Cabinet positions open.
Mr. McLaughlin said he wanted to hold Saturday’s press briefing to inform the country “who will be taking responsibility for what I call ‘the big issues’,” he said.