Replacing the opposition leader on Cayman’s Public Accounts Committee and leaving what he termed a “junior minister” on the committee amounted to government hypocrisy, West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush said last week.
A majority of government and independent Legislative Assembly members voted late Thursday in favor of a government motion to remove Opposition Leader Bush from his position as a member of the committee. Mr. Bush argued against the motion Thursday evening, stating it was hypocritical of the ruling Progressives-led government to leave George Town MLA Roy McTaggart – a councilor in two government ministries – on the accounts committee as deputy chairman while forcing out Mr. Bush, an opposition member, due to perceived conflicts.
The move has been precipitated since June 2014 when Mr. McTaggart, the former chairman of the committee, asked Mr. Bush to resign.
Mr. McTaggart said he has felt since that time that Mr. Bush’s criticism of the auditor general’s office amounted to “slander” and made his position on the committee “untenable.”
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller – an independent – is the new chairman of the PAC, which reviews and makes recommendations to government based on reports from the auditor’s office. Mr. McTaggart will become deputy chairman of the committee. The remaining members will be independent backbench member Winston Connolly, Progressives backbench member Joey Hew and opposition member Capt. Eugene Ebanks.
Nine Legislative Assembly members, including eight government members and Mr. Miller, voted to remove Mr. Bush from the PAC. Two opposition members and government backbench MLA Anthony Eden voted against the motion. Mr. Bush abstained. Four members of the assembly were absent.
Mr. Bush, speaking during the debate on the motion, inferred that the government’s statements regarding “objectivity and fairness” toward the auditor general were largely political posturing.
“Bad blood? McKeeva Bush don’t hate nobody,” Mr. Bush said. “Not even the premier … who has attacked me more than anybody else I’ve come across politically. He’s desperately trying to get me out of the way. But I don’t need the PAC committee to deal with him.”
“[Mr. McLaughlin] is a hypocrite. The bad blood is because I recognized what was going on in this country, and what is going on.”
Mr. Bush referred during the debate to his long-held belief that his former United Democratic Party government was toppled in late 2012 by a conspiracy between some British and Caymanian officials who wished to remove him from power.
Premier McLaughlin denied all such accusations. “This motion has become necessary because the Leader of the Opposition [Mr. Bush] has, over the past year or so, consistently made derogatory statements regarding the integrity and professionalism of the former auditor general and his office,” Premier McLaughlin said.
“Our concern is that those statements demonstrate the inability of the Leader of the Opposition to consider the reports and oversight of the Office of the Auditor General with any sense of objectivity.
“We are even more concerned now that the committee is about to consider the Auditor General’s report on the Nation Building Fund. The Leader of the Opposition has a history of bad blood with the Office of the Auditor General and the contention is not limited to the one who has just recently left Cayman.” Mr. Bush has feuded publicly in the past with former Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick, whom he has referred to as a “hit man,” current Acting Auditor General Garnet Harrison, whom he has accused of seeking media celebrity, as well as former Auditor General Dan Duguay.
The opposition leader said Thursday that he believed the audit office had “singled out” his former United Democratic Party government, and himself personally, as part of a campaign waged by former Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Premier McLaughlin has sued Mr. Bush in Grand Court over the opposition leader’s allegations that the premier was part of the “conspiracy” to topple the UDP in 2011-2012.