Former Premier McKeeva Bush has said he harboured great hopes for the United Democratic Party, forecasting a strong future for the group despite the end of its stranglehold on political power in West Bay.
While promising to support the new government, which increasingly appears to be in the hands of the Progressives, he was sceptical about party leader Alden McLaughlin.
“I do not want to see Alden as premier,” Mr. Bush told the Caymanian Compass. “I don’t think he’s the man for the job.
“He will have my respect and my support,” he said, indicating he would refrain from attacking him, but, at the same time, joked that should Mr. McLaughlin move to renew his 2005-2009 service as minister of education, he would indulge him “just as long as he doesn’t build any buildings,” a reference to massive cost overruns that have plagued the new John Gray and Clifton Hunter high schools.
Describing himself as “tired and exhausted” after the events of the last week, Mr. Bush said that despite a West Bay ballot ending the United Democratic Party’s sole ownership of district political power, the future remained encouraging.
Voters on Wednesday re-elected both Mr. Bush and his long-time district running mate Captain Eugene Ebanks for another four years. UDP newcomer Bernie Bush, a perennial independent candidate in the past, placed third after joining the United Democratic Party earlier this year, while independent Tara Rivers achieved a breakthrough for nonaligned candidates, gaining second place.
“I will help her,” Mr. Bush said. “Tara can be very capable and very responsible and I am giving her my support.”
He rejected rumours that Ms Rivers might prove ineligible for office, disqualified by excessive time spent in residence in the UK.
“I don’t know much about that, and there have been questions asked, but I don’t know.
Bernie Bush, he said, was one of the UDP’s hopes for the future, precisely the kind of candidate the former premier had sought to recruit.
“The UDP has a lot of young people who are very good and very astute,” he said. “I kept saying in the campaign that we are looking for young people. I do not worry about the UDP. Bernie was elected with the party. He’s an honourable and capable person and is one of those young people who will be there for a long time.
“I will be a good legislator, and will not be in opposition for the sake of opposition. I will offer the right hand of fellowship. This is my commitment, and I will not do to this government what they did to me,” Mr. Bush said, alluding to four years of consistent policy challenges, two no-confidence motions, persistent calls for police probes and, ultimately, his ouster as premier.
Saying he had a lengthy agenda to pursue, Mr. Bush cited his legislative legacy.
“I started a lot of good things and left this country on a sounder footing than when I [was ousted from power]. There is unemployment, yes, but I found solutions, investors for that,” he said. “Let’s now see what happens.”
In 2011, Mr. Bush signed the Dart group of companies-government ForCayman Investment Alliance, one of several so-called public-private partnerships for hotel, community and associated infrastructure development. East End’s Health City Cayman Islands, a partnership with Bangalore-based physician Dr. Devi Shetty, scheduled for a 2014 “Phase One” opening, has been another while a proposed international free-trade zone, Cayman Enterprise City, is a third.
“I will do what I have been elected to do. I am not going to stand in anybody’s way,” he said, although stopping short of declaring support for the PPM. “They won. The people chose you, is what I say to them.”
Asked about 11 pending corruption charges against him that could culminate in expulsion from the Legislative Assembly – and a June date with local police – Mr. Bush claimed he was “not worried at all about it”.
”You are asking about the credit cards,” he said, speaking of a series of unauthorised withdrawals and disbursement of government funds from official Cayman Islands accounts.
“Was this a criminal act? They have no case and I’m not worried about it.
“I used them as premier and as minister of finance, but it is all being repaid by me; I have paid every month.”
He declared himself ready, if called upon, to work with his brief replacement as premier and head of the new People’s National Alliance, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the only one of four PNA candidates elected on Wednesday.
The two of them, he said, had “always had a good relationship, right up until this morning,” saying she remains “a force on Cayman Brac”.
Looking forward to 2017, Mr. Bush speculated that the UDP would remain not only relevant, but important in national political life and government.
“We have some very capable young people, and they will want to make their own decisions,” Mr. Bush finished. “Let’s see what happens. A lot will happen in the next four years.”