'Conspiracy' motion accepted, lawsuits threatened

A parliamentary motion alleging a “conspiracy” to influence the results of the May 2013 general election in the Cayman Islands has been accepted by the Speaker of the House.  

However, whether Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s private members’ motion will ever make it to the Legislative Assembly floor for debate remains uncertain.  

Mr. Bush’s motion, filed with the assembly clerk’s office on April 14, was accepted by Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly last week. That puts the motion before the House Business Committee, which must then decide whether to place it on a meeting agenda and when that might occur. 

The business committee consists of five members, the majority of whom are members of the Progressives-led government. Mr. Bush is the leader of the opposition Cayman Islands Democratic Party, previously called the United Democratic Party.  

The motion, which makes various allegations against named and unnamed individuals, has been called “libelous” by Premier Alden McLaughlin and could result in Mr. McLaughlin taking legal action against Mr. Bush. The premier warned of pending litigation in a letter sent to local press organizations on Friday. Mr. McLaughlin said he has asked Mr. Bush to apologize over his accusations contained in the motion or face further action.  

Generally, private members’ motions filed with the House are considered absolutely protected speech under what is known as parliamentary privilege. However, Mr. McLaughlin argues that the manner in which Mr. Bush’s motion was made public – in a press conference on April 14, the same date it was filed – exempts it from that privilege. Therefore, anything said in the motion and at the subsequent press conference is subject to claims of defamation, Mr. McLaughlin said – defamation referring to untrue and damaging allegations made publicly by one person against another. 

The letter sent to the local media Friday advised that Mr. McLaughlin was asking the press to refrain from publishing the details of Mr. Bush’s motion or subsequent statements about it.  

Mr. Bush had not responded to requests for comment by press time Monday.