West Bay tells Rivers to take Cabinet post

Buoyed by overwhelming support of those who attended a town hall meeting in West Bay Monday night, independent legislator Tara Rivers looks set to accept a ministerial position in Alden McLaughlin’s government.

Ms Rivers had turned to her constituents to get their feedback on whether she should accept a post in the People’s Progressive Movement government’s Cabinet. If she takes a post in Cabinet, she will be the only non-PPM representative in government.

The message from the 300-400 people in the packed Sir John A. Cumber Primary School hall to Ms Rivers was “Go for it.”

The Coalition for Cayman-endorsed politician, flanked by Paul Rivers, her election running mate Mervin Smith and moderator Eddie Thompson, said she wanted to let people know that by accepting a Cabinet position, she would not be joining the PPM, but would remain an independent Member of the Legislative Assembly.

She said that since being elected on 22 May, she’d had a “baptism of fire” in the form of the many meetings and negotiations that had taken place since.

Ms Rivers said she had pushed for more involvement from the C4C-endorsed legislators in Cabinet, so that the government would an inclusive, coalition government.

“We campaigned hard for a coalition government and I still believe it is the best way forward for the people of these islands,” she said.

Explaining her hesitation in accepting a Cabinet role, Ms Rivers said Mr. McLaughlin had offered her a ministerial post, with the understanding that all other Cabinet positions would be filled by PPM politicians. “That, in my estimation, did not represent the coalition government that we were hoping to achieve,” she said.

Ms Rivers told the audience that she had initially declined the offer and instead had suggested a meeting of the independent elected members and the Progressives “so we could all sit down at the table and try to determine what was the best way forward”.

“That offer was regrettably declined and so we never did have the sit-down with the nine [Progressives] plus five independent members. Nonetheless, the discussions continued, as they should, with respect to trying to form a government which is inclusive, which is clearly both of our aims, that of the Progressives and the independent candidates,” she said.

On Saturday, Mr. McLaughlin announced in a press conference that his party would be forming the government and that Ms Rivers had been offered a Cabinet post. She admitted the announcement took her by surprise as she thought the issue was still being negotiated. “It accelerated those discussions to some degree,” she said, adding that it had put her in a difficult position and created controversy.

Admitting she would face challenges as the lone independent among a Cabinet of Progressives, she said she was advocating the government to allow for more input from her colleagues, Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolly, two other C4C candidates who won seats in general election last week, to support her if she were to take the ministerial job on offer.

Asked what ministerial portfolio she had been offered, Ms Rivers said she had been offered her choice of posts.

“The offer as it stands is pretty open and they pretty much have said I can choose the areas that I would like…,” she said.

“I am willing to serve in whatever capacity you, the people, want me to serve in,” she told the audience.

When the floor was opened for comment, everyone who spoke urged Ms Rivers to take a Cabinet position.

About half way through the 90-minute meeting, one audience member asked whoever thought she should take a ministerial post to stand and almost every person in the room rose to their feet, cheering and clapping as they did so.

“I guess we can go home now,” joked Ms Rivers.

Speaker after speaker in the hall urged Ms Rivers to take a Cabinet role, with some asking her to become health minister, while others wanted to see her in the role of education or gender affairs ministers.

As the meeting drew to a close, the new West Bay legislator said the feedback from the audience had made her decision easier.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Rivers told the Caymanian Compass that she would meet a deadline set by Mr. McLaughlin of 8am Tuesday morning. In the meantime, she said further discussions would have to be undertaken.

“We still have to work out the details… I’ll make sure that my decision reaches him [Mr. McLaughlin] in time,” she said.

The PPM leader is scheduled to hold a press conference at 10am Tuesday morning to announce the new Cabinet positions.

Tara Rivers listens to feedback from the public on whether she should take a Cabinet post. - PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY

Tara Rivers listens to feedback from the public on whether she should take a Cabinet post. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY

Coalition for Cayman-endorsed candidates, from left, Jacqueline Haynes, Winston Connolly, Sharon Roulstone and Roy McTaggart were in the front to support their colleague Tara Rivers

Coalition for Cayman-endorsed candidates, from left, Jacqueline Haynes, Winston Connolly, Sharon Roulstone and Roy McTaggart were in the front to support their colleague Tara Rivers at a packed town hall meeting in West Bay Monday night. Mr. Connolly and Mr. McTaggart, along with Ms Rivers, were elected to office in the 22 May election. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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6 COMMENTS

  1. While Tara might want to negotiate more power and control for her fellow C4C party members she needs to understand that it is not her job to subvert the decision made by the people of the Cayman Islands during the last general election.

    This is simply a case where the losers still want to be the winners.

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  2. #Justsaying OMG the new Government has not even been sworn in and already there is bickering and ill feelings and people making demands, I want this, and if I don’t get this I am not going to do this!

    Tara, I can’t tell you what to do; and I am glad that you decided to take the post but you have to make sure you read all the fine print, because you dealing with the RED GOVERNMENT and Alden McLaughlin someone that a lot of Caymanians have no faith in, and don’t feel that he is the right person to be at the helm to take this country forward.

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  3. I was very, very pleased to see Ms Rivers win a spot in the election. That she was offered a ministerial position speaks volumes about her perceived ability to lead. That she called for a meeting to see what her constituents would think of her accepting the position is one of the most responsible, admirable things I have seen a politician do in a long, long time. Tara Rives is a breath of fresh air!!

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