The shifting sands beneath the government’s feet

The stability of the Cayman Islands government is a point of pride for residents — and a selling point for potential investors. It is true that, as an array of bureaucratic institutions, there is great constancy in our civil service, judiciary and law enforcement — in other words, the practical aspect of government.

However, in terms of the political aspect of government — i.e., elected lawmakers and the successive administrations that emerge to rule — in recent years we have had more than our share of instability.

Recall, for example, the fate of Cayman’s first Premier McKeeva Bush, whose United Democratic Party government toppled after his arrest in late 2012 on corruption-related charges, of which he was later acquitted on all counts by a jury. An interim People’s National Alliance administration, led by Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, watched over the House until the May 2013 elections, after which the current Progressives government, led by Premier Alden McLaughlin, was formed.

Mr. Bush, of course, is now the Leader of the Opposition, while Ms. O’Connor-Connolly allied herself with the Progressives and became Speaker of the House.

With about a year-and-a-half to go until the 2017 elections, the ground is once again trembling beneath the feet of Cayman’s elected government.

At the epicenter of the tremors is the departure of veteran Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden from the Progressives government in late November, because of his disagreements with the party over its approach to same-sex marriage rights emanating from European courts. (Mr. Eden, in case you need reminding, is against it.)

A month later, just before the close of the year, freshman Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo followed Mr. Eden out of the Progressives party and into the opposite aisle of the Legislative Assembly.

As it currently stands, there are 10 members of the elected government (eight Progressives and two independents), plus Speaker O’Connor-Connolly, and there are seven members of the opposition, including three from Mr. Bush’s Cayman Islands Democratic Party and four independents. If just one more MLA abandons the Progressives-led government, it throws potential procedural wrenches into the Legislative Assembly’s ability to take unalloyed action. (For additional background, read today’s Compass news story on the topic.) If more leave, then it could lead to the government’s dissolution and calling of early elections.

One alternative to the government’s collapse would be a shuffling of power within the Progressives, meaning an internal mutiny against Premier McLaughlin.

While none of the other remaining members of government have publicly stated their intentions to leave the ruling coalition, make no mistake that earnest closed-door conversations continue to occur, and despite any assurances of “business as usual” in the Legislative Assembly, individual dominoes are still wobbling.

Until now, this Editorial Board has refrained from commenting on the future of Premier McLaughlin’s government. One reason for our reserve is that we wish to avoid the appearance that we are attempting to sway the decisions of any particular politicians. We are not. Whether a lawmaker stays, or goes, is a matter of personal conscience and conviction.

Another reason is that, in our view, the broader structure of the Cayman government (comprising our laws, offices and institutions) is founded upon solid bedrock, that is the Cayman Islands Constitution, and is bulwarked by the United Kingdom. Cayman’s government, in the sense of our democracy, remains solid and unassailable. In that respect, a potential change of elected government, even if it is abrupt, poses no real threat at all — it is merely change.

There is still time for this government and this premier. The die has not yet been cast. But it will, soon, if not by legislators choosing sides, then by voters choosing representatives in May 2017.

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  1. Mr. Eden and Mr. Suckoo are representing their beliefs and (more importantly) the beliefs of the majority of their constituents. They did the right thing to step aside when they did.

    What we need more of is political leadership that understands that the people are in charge and that it is the will and desires of the people that must be respected.

  2. The sand will shift beneath many feet in 2017, especially in the district of Bodden Town.
    I follow on the heels of politicians very closely, and My concern is, and always has been, to try and picture "What really is an independent" and the other C Party.
    I can clearly understand UDP and PPM, strong stance. But what part does the other parties play beside being an extension to the Government. Sands shifting in the government now is not solely because of same-sex marriage, the Picture is much bigger, and the "LEFT_BEHIMD SWEET_TOOTH" of it all is just to obtain and secure power and money.
    So far all Bodden Town district has seen in three years, is a Parking lot which cost a fortune, and it is not being used. Imagine it is built in Look out garden with the intention to support parking for the Harry McCoy Park which is located almost a mile away. did that make sense? Government made sure to acquire two homes in the Cumber/GunSquare area, just to please political voters. Has anyone visited the mission house, the Harry McCoy Park, the Josie Center and the other acquired house lately? Please do so and see what we are getting. At least one of those homes could have been used to house our elderly. The Bodden Town elderly is taken either to George Town or East End, and it is very difficult for their families to be going to these two districts on a daily baisis to visit their families. The Koshia Huts on the public Beach is a big sore eye. The property for the Old clinic has disappeared into the hands of private citizens. There will be many who are lining up to run just for a seat in the house, but I do not see any of you preparing the way, and I do not read or hear your plans. My suggestion is let me hear you now, show me what you can do now.

  3. Twyla…

    I’ve never read political commentary over the years that hits home hard and closer to the truth than these that you have made here…kudos to you for your honesty and bravery.

    The real issue is…Cayman has so much money floating around that the politicians can play real-life monopoly with it…and people’s lives as well.

    Cayman is one of the few places on the face of the earth where this is the case.

    Even the poorest of the poor, by Cayman’s standards, have food on their table, clothes on their back and a roof over their head and in so many cases now..totally for free at the expense of the public purse.

    A political career in Cayman is a path to riches…not a commitment to public service and the good of ones country and people.

    Even after just one 4-year term in the LA, any politician can write their own meal ticket for the rest of their lives…its almost an open checkbook, given the status and business opportunities that it creates after leaving office, even if one only get that one term.

    And a life-term pension on an MLA’s salary is nothing to frown at either.

    Given these conditions, how many real problems do they have to solve or how much real work do they have to do.

    The answer to both questions, is…very little.