Today, Alden McLaughlin is to be sworn in for his second term as premier of the Cayman Islands. Congratulations are in order.
They say that the hardest thing to do in sports is to “repeat” a championship in consecutive years, and similarly, in novel-writing, to follow up on a first best-seller with a second.
Premier McLaughlin has now achieved that feat politically, and through the most improbable of scenarios, by forging an alliance with his chief adversary, McKeeva Bush, who will become Speaker of the House.
Before the May 24 election, if someone had suggested that in a week’s time Premier McLaughlin’s Progressives would form a coalition government with Mr. Bush’s Cayman Democratic party, we would have deemed it as unlikely as Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali opening up a piano bar together, or Irish writer James Joyce collaborating on a screenplay with his French rival Marcel Proust.
However, as Messrs. Joyce and Proust independently explore in their writings, people cannot be “pre-judged” according to stereotypes, their perceived personalities or even their own past behavior. Human beings contain entire libraries of music within themselves, and depending on the circumstances can play certain notes and chords that they had never sounded before. Put another way, people have greater depth and range than you might think.
Apart from the inclusion of Mr. Bush and a handful of CDP and independent candidates, Premier McLaughlin’s new government looks superficially similar to his previous team. Moses Kirkconnell returns as deputy premier, in addition to Progressives veterans Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Roy McTaggart and Joey Hew, as well as independent Tara Rivers.
In all, 19 MLAs are being sworn in today; more than two-thirds are incumbents. Out of the 16 incumbents who ran for re-election this year, 13 won their campaigns, a “retention rate” of more than 80 percent. However, that statistic should not be misinterpreted as evidence of “voter contentment.”
Mr. McLaughlin should be acutely aware that the three incumbents who were defeated at the polls were not just any incumbents – they were key leaders in his previous government: Finance and Economic Development Minister Marco Archer; Financial Services, Commerce and Environment Minister Wayne Panton; and Community Affairs, Youth and Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden (all now “former” ministers and MLAs).
Factor in the retirement of former Planning, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure Minister Kurt Tibbetts, and only three of the seven members of the Progressives-led Cabinet, including Premier McLaughlin, are returning to government.
After today’s official “pomp and ceremony” conclude, we would hope that Premier McLaughlin would consider taking a “political pause” before immediately diving back into his duties at the helm of Cayman’s government.
It is a grueling and stressful job by any measure, even in “ordinary times” but even more so in the aftermath of a hard-fought campaign and the recent challenge of forming a government.
The Cayman people want – or should want – their leaders to be rested, reflective and contemplative as they assess or reassess their goals and aspirations for the country over the next four years.
Despite the fact that the demands on his time and energy will now be greater than ever, we would encourage the premier to take time to listen to and counsel with people from all of Cayman’s disparate corners – his friends, former foes, current members of the opposition, impartial observers (and perhaps even the media!).
We will remind Premier McLaughlin of the lyrics of a tune he may be familiar with (since we know he is a Country and Western fan). It was recorded by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, collectively known as The Highwaymen:
The life boat we had was fragile and frail
By the time we set sail life’s half over
Water’s the view, drown out the truth
He’s got to have proof that he’s grown
There is no map to chart
A voyage of the heart
The love is a journey you make on your own
And if you do not take the chance
The angels will not dance
With an old man of stone
And we’re all in your corner tonight as friends
Watching you stumble the path where we’ve been
Hope your eyes open and you see the light
We’re all in your corner tonight.