Top stories of 2015: Bush, McLaughlin take legal action

Allegations of wrongdoing, libel and conspiracy were flung about in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly as well as in the courts as the fallout from the May 2013 general election continued well into 2015.

It started with Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s decision in mid-April to file a private members’ motion in the 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 now-Premier Alden McLaughlin] in the conspiracy to remove the then-constitutionally elected premier [referring to Mr. Bush].”

The legislative 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 April 15 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 for a response to Mr. Bush’s legislative motion, Premier McLaughlin said, “I think the Leader of the Opposition has finally taken leave of his senses.”

The next month, Premier McLaughlin sued Mr. Bush in the Grand Court for defamation – the act of making public allegations of wrongdoing that are untrue. The lawsuit alleged Mr. Bush had attempted to “destroy the political and legal career” of Mr. McLaughlin by way of various public statements.

“[Mr. Bush] falsely and maliciously stated that he had written correspondence between the various parties including [Mr. McLaughlin] thereby asserting that [Mr. McLaughlin] was party to correspondence which proved his involvement in the undemocratic plan to remove [Mr. Bush] from office,” the writ of summons filed in the case claimed.

Premier McLaughlin stated in his writ that both the private members’ motion filed by Mr. Bush and subsequent statements published by the local and international media essentially accused Mr. McLaughlin of committing a number of criminal offenses. The lawsuit listed among those potential allegations that Mr. McLaughlin had been accused of offenses contrary to section 17 of the Anti-Corruption Law (abuse of office), misconduct in a public office and criminal conspiracy offenses under the Cayman Islands Penal Code.

“[Mr. Bush] will have known perfectly well, and it is the case that the above allegations against a public figure, in this case the premier of the Cayman Islands, would be highly destructive of public confidence and likely to destroy the political and legal career of [Mr. McLaughlin],” the lawsuit states.

Then in October, Mr. Bush filed a lawsuit of his own against Cayman’s Police Commissioner David Baines and former Governor Duncan Taylor, who left Cayman in 2013 to become Britain’s ambassador to Mexico.

The writ alleges there was no legitimate basis for Mr. Bush’s arrest and charge and that the investigation set out to destroy him politically. “The prosecution of the plaintiff was malicious,” the lawsuit stated.

“The defendants wanted to bring him down politically and to have him arrested and charged prior to the 2013 general election, so that he would be forced to resign as Premier before the election and to ensure that he was not re-elected as Premier of the Cayman Islands.”

Governor Taylor did not respond to the lawsuit.

Mr. Baines denied that he was involved in any conspiracy to unseat Mr. Bush’s political party in 2013.

“I welcome the opportunity to respond fully to the misrepresentations made by Mr. Bush in his court writ and the legal process it has initiated,” Mr. Baines said.