Opposition leader goes after UK, premier
Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has alleged “unconstitutional interference” and “violation of the indigenous population’s rights” involving the territory’s former governor Duncan Taylor, Premier Alden McLaughlin, Police Commissioner David Baines, and other unnamed local politicians and civil servants in connection with the 2013 general election.
Mr. Bush’s allegations were made Tuesday in a private members’ motion filed with the Legislative Assembly in which he asked for an independent review of “the involvement of the [U.K.] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Office of the Governor, Commissioner of Police and the then-Leader of the Opposition [referring to Mr. McLaughlin] in the conspiracy to remove the then-constitutionally elected premier [referring to Mr. Bush].”
The motion stated that Mr. Bush had in his possession “irrefutable documentary evidence” of interference by the governor’s office in conspiring, along with local elected representatives and civil servants, “to topple a democratically elected government while misusing the power of the state and its judicial and law enforcement arms.”
Mr. Bush did not make any of this “irrefutable evidence” public on Tuesday when he held a press conference to discuss details of his private members’ motion, but promised to do so if the motion was heard by the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Bush, while under a criminal investigation, was removed from the premier’s office in December 2012 following a no-confidence vote of the Legislative Assembly against his government. An interim government, made up of five members of Mr. Bush’s former United Democratic Party, led the Cayman Islands between late December 2012 and May 2013, when the current Progressives-led coalition was voted into office.
“The indigenous people of these islands have had their rights infringed by using the jurisdiction as a[n] instrument to further the economic designs that were contrary to the interest of the indigenous people and, through systemic policies of discrimination, that constitutes a gross violation of their fundamental human rights protected under the United Nations Charter and the European Union regulations,” the motion read.
In addition to calling for an independent commission of inquiry, Mr. Bush’s motion also sought to mete out “appropriate responsibility” by making the inquiry public and allowing it to initiate legal action, if required, “at the appropriate international legal forum.” Mr. Bush also asked for what he called an “independent historical review” of legal measures taken by U.K. authorities “that has led to the marginalization of the indigenous Caymanian population and disrepute of its financial industry.”
Asked Tuesday for a response to Mr. Bush’s motion, Premier McLaughlin said, “I think the Leader of the Opposition has finally taken leave of his senses.”
The governor’s office noted it was aware of the private members’ motion, but said the decision whether to debate the motion was left with the Speaker of the House. Police Commissioner Baines had not commented on the motion as of press time.
Premier McLaughlin said his government could consider, in due course, whether to accept the opposition leader’s motion. It is not legally required to accept it, but Mr. McLaughlin indicated his administration might do so.
“[Mr. Bush] best be careful what he wishes for, he just might get it,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Secret meetings alleged
Mr. Bush alleged that during 2011-2012, while he was under investigation in various criminal probes, certain meetings were held that discussed removing him as the then-premier from office and who might form the “interim government” if he were replaced.
Asked to clarify what “irrefutable evidence” he possessed, Mr. Bush said he had written correspondence between the various parties – including former Governor Taylor, then-Opposition Leader McLaughlin, Commissioner Baines and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Some of the correspondence may be considered legally privileged, Mr. Bush said, but he noted that would not prevent him from discussing it within the Legislative Assembly’s confines.
Some of Mr. Bush’s allegations are based on evidence that came out during his criminal trial on corruption allegations last year. Mr. Bush was acquitted of charges relating to allegations that he used his government-issued credit card to withdraw nearly US$50,000 in casinos in the U.S. and the Bahamas, using at least some of the cash withdrawn to gamble at slot machines.
During the trial, a series of emails were read out by Mr. Bush’s defense team which lawyers suggested showed a conspiracy to “bring down” the former premier.
Former Governor Taylor suggested in one email that a “quiet bottle of bubbly” would be in order if Mr. Bush was charged with criminal offenses. In one email, dated March 20, 2013, Mr. Taylor intimates to an official, named only as Tony, that Mr. Bush is about to be charged that afternoon.
“I’m not opening any quiet bubbly until it is confirmed,” he wrote. “When it is, there will be a huge sigh of relief across the Cayman Islands, including a loud one from this office.” He followed up with confirmation that the charges have been brought, writing “Good day for Cayman.”
Visiting Judge Michael Mettyear, in summing up the trial evidence, said that it was possible the former governor’s comments could be taken in a less negative way.
“If you think the former governor believed, rightly or wrongly, that [Mr. Bush] was corrupt and his actions were to the detriment of the Cayman Islands, you may view his apparent enthusiasm to have Mr. Bush charged and his celebratory attitude … in a different light,” Justice Mettyear said.
Mr. Bush was asked during Tuesday’s press conference whether he thought the “violations” described in the private members’ motion were serious enough for the territory to consider voiding the results of the 2013 vote and holding new elections.
He responded that he did “not necessarily” want fresh elections, but indicated that he did have concerns – in light of the correspondence he had received – as to the fairness of the vote.
“I do not believe the election last time was held above board,” Mr. Bush said.
A group of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association observers brought in for the 2013 general election gave Cayman a clean bill of health as far as its balloting and organizational processes, although they did opine that the current hybrid voting system was out of step with international norms.
Mr. Bush was asked what he would do if the local government refused to hear his motion. He inferred that the next step would be taking the matter to the U.K. parliament.