Former Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor is accused in court documents filed Friday of “conceiving” what Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush alleges was a long-running and wide-ranging conspiracy to remove Mr. Bush from public office.
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin is accused in the documents filed with the Grand Court of assisting former Governor Taylor by not contesting the formation of a “minority government” following Mr. Bush’s removal as premier in December 2012.
The statements made in the court records are part of a legal response made by Mr. Bush’s attorneys to a defamation lawsuit Mr. McLaughlin filed against the West Bay MLA in May. Mr. McLaughlin’s lawsuit was filed after Mr. Bush presented a private members’ motion in the Legislative Assembly that accused a number of individuals, including the former governor, the local police commissioner and Mr. McLaughlin of conspiring to “topple a democratically elected government” during 2011-2012.
Mr. McLaughlin’s lawsuit stated Mr. Bush intended to infer that the premier and others had “conspired together wrongly” and “by abuse of executive power … institute and maintain the prosecution of [Mr. Bush]” against any evidence that existed “for their own personal political ends.”
The response to Mr. McLaughlin’s initial writ of summons denied that any such specific accusation of unlawfully instituting or maintaining a prosecution against Mr. Bush had been made against Mr. McLaughlin. Rather, the response to the lawsuit states that the various alleged conspirators all played different roles in attempts to remove the former United Democratic Party government.
“[Mr. McLaughlin] had correspondence in his possession which showed that [Mr. McLaughlin] was indeed party to discussions about, and had agreed to, an undemocratic plan to ensure that [Mr. Bush] was permanently removed from office,” the lawsuit response states.
Mr. Bush was arrested on Dec. 11, 2012 on suspicion of theft and various corruption-related offenses being investigated at the time by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. A week later, a majority of Legislative Assembly members approved a no-confidence motion against the then-United Democratic Party government, leading to a split in the party – some staying loyal to Mr. Bush and others veering off to form their own group known as the People’s National Alliance.
Between mid-December 2012 and late March 2013, when the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly was dissolved ahead of the May 2013 elections, a “minority government” of five MLAs – all members of Mr. Bush’s former UDP led by Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly – governed the country. Meanwhile, four other UDP members – including Mr. Bush – sat on the opposition benches with Mr. McLaughlin’s Progressives party and independent MLAs Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean.
Mr. Bush was charged with common law misconduct in public office and corruption related offences on March 18, 2013. Theft charges initially filed against him were later dropped. Mr. Bush was acquitted of all charges against him following a jury trial in Grand Cayman last year.
The lawsuit response states: “Prior to [Mr. Bush’s] arrest … [Mr. McLaughlin] held secret discussions with the police commissioner, the governor and/or others acting on behalf of the governor, and agreed with them a plan of events as far ahead as the general election in May 2013, which was designed to bring about [Mr. Bush’s] removal and to ensure that he was not re-elected and/or able to form a new government as premier after the election.
“It was an essential feature of the plan conceived by the governor, which was part of the events as planned until May 2013, that, following [Mr. Bush’s] removal from office, [Mr. McLaughlin] would not take the steps available to him in the Legislative Assembly to bring down the minority government under [Ms. O’Connor-Connolly], and so to force a general election, before criminal charges were able to be brought. [Mr. McLaughlin] agreed not to do so.”
According to the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, if a no-confidence motion succeeds in the Legislative Assembly the territorial governor has two options: The governor can accept a new majority government or can dissolve the Legislative Assembly and immediately call for new elections. In December 2012, Mr. Taylor agreed to accept the five-member alliance as the ruling party until the dissolution of parliament on March 27, 2013.
The response to Mr. McLaughlin’s lawsuit filed by Mr. Bush’s attorneys also makes a number of allegations against Mr. Taylor, including that he conducted himself contrary to the constitutional duties of his office by “interfering in and manipulating the political, democratic and criminal justice processes” in the following ways:
Ordering an accelerated police investigation aimed at causing “maximum political damage” to Mr. Bush
- Leaking confidential police information to journalists, both in Cayman and abroad
- Ensuring the media was present to film and broadcast Mr. Bush’s arrest
- Directly or indirectly exerting pressure on the director of public prosecutions to bring forward criminal charges
- Putting personal pressure on elected MLAs within Mr. Bush’s party to support the ‘no confidence’ motion brought before the LA in December 2012
- Secretly agreeing to a plan with the defecting UDP MLAs to allow them to continue to govern until the May 2013 general elections.
Evidence of these claims, the lawsuit response states, was given during Mr. Bush’s criminal trial in October 2014.