If it had happened in a classroom, it likely would have been treated as bullying – in fact, cyber bullying. It had all the ingredients: It was meant to be hurtful, it was done anonymously, and it was distributed and ultimately posted on social media.
We refer to the photo which was taken on the floor of the Legislative Assembly last week. It showed Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush purportedly asleep at his post in a most unflattering pose.
The photograph then appeared on the Facebook page of Chris Wight, a highly visible and highly vocal PPM supporter. It was subsequently sent to the Cayman Compass by Premier Alden McLaughlin’s press secretary, Tammie Chisholm.
The image drew the ire of House Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who said the taking of such photographs is in contravention of Legislative Assembly rules. (The Cayman Compass published a short article, but not the photo, on the incident because Ms. O’Connor-Connolly addressed the issue publicly on the House floor.)
The angle of the photograph taken of Mr. Bush clearly indicates it was taken from the floor of the Legislative Assembly and, more specifically, from the area of the government bench.
We do not know who took the photo, but we have submitted the digital file to two independent experts for analysis in the United States. They have already extracted meaningful information from deeply embedded metadata in the image that may link the photo to the device – and ultimately to the individual who took it.
On Friday, we queried Premier McLaughlin twice, asking directly if he himself had taken the picture or, if not, whether he could enlighten us as to who did. He chose not to address those questions.
Whoever took the photograph then passed it on personally (or through an intermediary) to Mr. Wight, who, in turn, made it available globally via his Facebook account.
The intent of all this, we believe, was clear, incontrovertible – and ultimately successful. It was to embarrass Mr. Bush, to expose him to ridicule and disparagement both in Cayman and beyond. It was amateur, gutter politics, not reflective of the kind of behavior we should expect from the “hallowed halls of our honorable house.”
Which brings us to the following observation. Compass reporters spend so much time in the Legislative Assembly that government legitimately could be charging us rent. The behavior we observe – but too often in the past have not reported – is often appalling.
We have witnessed a number of the lawmakers sleeping in the Legislative Assembly chamber during proceedings. (For the record, Mr. Bush denies he was asleep in the photograph now on Facebook. He is opening his own probe into the origin of the photograph and whether it was digitally altered.) Members often occupy their time reading newspapers, texting on their smartphones or chatting amicably among themselves, paying scant attention to the floor debate.
More importantly, even though their attendance in the Legislative Assembly during meetings is one of their primary functions as elected representatives, all too often the members are either not in the chamber during debates or absent all together.
For those lawmakers who engage in such behavior, shame on them. For those of us at the Compass who have not reported this behavior more vigilantly, shame on us.