Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin is not running against his former political assistant Kenneth Bryan in the May election, but you would not know it from the recent political rhetoric.
Premier McLaughlin, who is running in Red Bay, alleged Saturday that Mr. Bryan, running as an independent candidate in George Town Central, was “arrested more than once” during the time he served as Mr. McLaughlin’s political assistant between 2013-2015.
Mr. Bryan denied the allegation of another arrest when told about the premier’s comments Monday.
“That never happened,” Mr. Bryan said. “If [the Progressives] are attacking me, that means I must be doing something well. Politicians don’t go after weak candidates.
“What the Progressives are trying to do is derail my focus. I’m going to stick to the issues and do what I need to do.”
Mr. McLaughlin has spent a significant amount of time in his speeches during recent political meetings on Cayman Brac and in Prospect, George Town criticizing Mr. Bryan, but he made new allegations on Saturday during the Progressives political meeting in Prospect. The allegations were made to a crowd of dozens of people and rebroadcast on Cayman Life TV.
Mr. Bryan was arrested in October 2014 on suspicion of assaulting a police officer following an incident outside a George Town nightclub. Mr. McLaughlin said he subsequently learned that it was not the first time police had taken his then-political assistant into custody.
“They had arrested him previously for obstructing police in the course of their duty,” Mr. McLaughlin said Saturday night, speaking of the earlier incident. “They warned him more than once not to interfere … and when he wouldn’t stop they arrested him.”
When asked for clarification about his Saturday night comments, Premier McLaughlin said that former Police Commissioner David Baines informed him of the first incident shortly after Mr. Bryan was arrested in October 2014. He said Mr. Baines did not provide specifics of the earlier incident, but on Saturday Mr. McLaughlin said that officers involved in the earlier arrest incident “gave [Mr. Bryan] a talking to,” and released him without taking any further action.
“The officer in charge understood full well the implications of charging the political assistant to the premier … and so he gave him a talking to,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The Cayman Compass asked the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service about the other alleged arrest. A spokesperson indicated, generally speaking, that the public would usually not be informed of any incident if criminal charges did not result from an arrest.
The Compass filed an open records request Monday seeking more information.
The enmity between Mr. McLaughlin and his former political assistant is generally known. Mr. McLaughlin fired Mr. Bryan in early 2015. A judge later found in February 2016 that he had committed the offenses of disorderly conduct and assaulting police from October 2014. [*Editor’s note]
When contacted Monday by the Cayman Compass about the premier’s statements, Mr. Bryan said they were not true and no such “second arrest” had occurred.
Mr. Bryan said he had long expected the Progressives political campaign to come after him hardest among all the independent candidates on the ballot for May 24.
“I am the one candidate in this race that knows the truth about … what he’s done to the people in this country,” Mr. Bryan said, referring to the premier. “Hence the reason that [the premier] is going to attack me. This is a person who is willing to use anybody that is convenient for him to stay in power. When they’re no longer of any use to him, they’re discarded.”
Mr. Bryan said he was trying to “do his best” not to fight with his former political party-mates and keep the campaign about the issues in George Town Central. However, he has noted previously that Mr. McLaughlin changed his narrative since the 2013 general election, when Mr. Bryan was supported as a Progressives party candidate for George Town.
Mr. Bryan is running against Finance Minister Marco Archer, widely thought to be one of the Progressives party’s most popular candidates. Mr. McLaughlin had said he would contest the seat in central, but switched at the last moment to Red Bay, leaving Mr. Archer to face Mr. Bryan, who has been campaigning in the district since last year.
On Saturday night in Prospect, Premier McLaughlin told the audience he had no choice but to terminate Mr. Bryan’s employment from the premier’s office. Although the judge in the case found Mr. Bryan had committed certain offenses relating to a dispute outside a George Town nightclub, no conviction was recorded against him and so nothing remained on his permanent record.
“I gave Kenneth every opportunity I possibly could,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Editor’s note: Corrects the date of Mr. Bryan’s firing from the premier’s office.