Bush: Stop blaming party system

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush listens as Premier Alden McLaughlin delivbers his budget policy address on May 30. - Photo: Matt Lamers

Cayman’s Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush criticized repeated attacks on the territory’s two-party political system Friday, warning that individuals or groups outside the Legislative Assembly could end up controlling the government following the May 24 general election, rather than the candidates voters choose.

“There’s a serious attempt to discredit the party system in this country,” Mr. Bush said during a ‘personal explanation’ statement in the assembly Friday. “It is being done to try and throw out the party system and get the independents elected and control of the Assembly … is exercised from somewhere else.”

Mr. Bush raised similar concerns during the 2013 political campaign that saw the rise of the Coalition 4 Cayman political support group. The coalition backed certain candidates for office without forming its own political party.

A handful of other political groups – aside from the ruling Progressives party and Mr. Bush’s Cayman Democratic Party – appear to be forming, although specific candidates have not been keen to declare allegiance with those loose coalitions.

The opposition leader did not reference any specific groups, but it is understood that former Chrissie Tomlinson Hospital co-owner Dr. Steve Tomlinson is heading one group that is backing several candidates, while several current independent members of the Legislative Assembly are attempting to form another group.

Mr. Bush said supporters of these groups should take a refresher history course.

He referenced the period of the former National Team government between 1996-2000 when there was “all out war” between the Leader of Government Business and the opposition leader at the time.

In elections between 1965 and 2000, Mr. Bush said largely “team” governments consisting of independent MLAs were elected to represent voters. “There was never more bitterness, anger and hatred than existed in this country … between 1965 and 2000,” he said.

Dr. Tomlinson, who served as an MLA during the 1990s, but who insists he’s not running for public office this time around, painted a different picture when he spoke to the Compass last month.

“We didn’t have to walk lock-step with what the rest of the team thought, [MLAs] represented the constituents,” Dr. Tomlinson said. “I urge voters in the upcoming election, don’t think about the party, think about the individual … which one can serve us best.”

The aftermath of the November 2000 election is generally cited by Cayman’s historians as the time when political parties rose to prominence, although the territory did have some political parties in the early to mid-1960s.

Following the defeat of the National Team government, a coalition Cabinet that included Mr. Bush and former Progressives leader Kurt Tibbetts. The government lasted one year and two distinct groups – which became known as the PPM (now the Progressives) and UDP (now the CDP) – were formed.

“A party was created … to lead effectively, for discipline and the development of policies,” Mr. Bush said. “[The formation of the 2000 government] was such a confused attempt … because there was no cohesion, no planned policies in advance.”

Premier Alden McLaughlin did not make a comment regarding Mr. Bush’s statement Friday, but has long expressed the view that political party platforms and candidates should be well known and stated before a general election “so the country knows what it is voting for and knows who the leader [of the government] is going to be.”

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