The Cayman Islands new coalition government will have at least 13 members, possibly as many as 15, by the time it is sworn in Wednesday morning.
All seven elected Progressives party members will join the government bench and likely will make up the majority of ministerial positions, although those posts were still under discussion as of Tuesday afternoon.
Three independent members, including Dwayne “John John” Seymour from Bodden Town East, will join the government’s ranks. Mr. Seymour became the coalition’s newest member Monday night after holding a meeting in his home district where the vast majority of those who attended urged him to take the position.
Hundreds of people came to the hastily called meeting at the James M. Bodden Civic Centre Monday night, when Mr. Seymour asked everyone in attendance to stand. “OK, those of you who do not accept me taking up a minister’s post with the new government, please sit,” he said.
Everyone in the room remained standing.
Mr. Seymour thanked his supporters and told them he believed Bodden Town needed a voice in Cabinet. He said the Progressives-led coalition had already been formed and that the government would continue with or without him, so he believed it was best to take the position offered.
In addition to Mr. Seymour, independents Tara Rivers, from West Bay South, and Austin Harris, from Prospect, have also joined the coalition.
A fourth potential member, George Town Central’s Kenneth Bryan, said he had written to the Progressives Tuesday asking to join the government. If he received a positive response, Mr. Bryan said, he would confer with constituents Tuesday evening and, if they approved, he would be willing to join. Mr. Bryan’s decision to write to the Progressives was surprising since he was attacked by Premier Alden McLaughlin more than any other candidate on the campaign trail. He had previously worked for Mr. McLaughlin as his political assistant before being fired in March 2015.
“I told the voters I would work with anyone in government, and I meant that” Mr. Bryan said. Progressives officials said the government was considering Mr. Bryan’s offer.
A potential fifth independent member, Bodden Town West’s Chris Saunders, was being considered to join the “national unity” coalition, but no decision had been reached either way by press time Tuesday.
Mr. Saunders attended Mr. Seymour’s meeting in Bodden Town Monday night and said he supported his friend’s decision to take the minister’s seat.
Cayman Democratic Party leader McKeeva Bush has joined the coalition but will not get a vote in the Legislative Assembly after taking up the House Speaker’s position. Fellow CDP members Bernie Bush and Capt. Eugene Ebanks will sit on the government benches.
The arrangement will leave the Progressives with seven votes in the ruling government, the CDP with two and the independent members with three – four if Mr. Bryan joins and five if Mr. Saunders joins.
That means the majority vote on the government side will likely still be controlled by the Progressives, but the government could be put in a tight spot if whatever proposal it makes does not find support from independent and CDP members.
One issue government will probably have to deal with immediately after being formed is the thorny Legal Practitioners Bill, which failed in the 11th hour of the previous government’s term.
All lawmakers agreed at the end of the last term that a revamped version of that legislation would have to be brought back almost immediately in the first term of the next government. That means Progressives lawmakers must receive the votes of both CDP members and at least one independent to approve the legislation.
However, Cabinet members are all bound by collective responsibility on any issue that comes before parliament, so the votes might get easier with an extra independent or CDP member added to the governing body.
During the first iteration of the Progressives-CDP combination proposal, which abruptly failed late last week when Speaker Bush walked away from the deal, legislators had discussed leaving Premier Alden McLaughlin with the Home Affairs Ministry and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell with the Tourism Ministry.
Other ministers in the government at that stage were proposed as Ms. Rivers, George Town East MLA Roy McTaggart, George Town North MLA Joey Hew, Cayman Brac East MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush.
However, Mr. McLaughlin said Monday that the coalition had been left without any representation in Bodden Town and promised Mr. Seymour a ministerial position if he came over to the government side.
It was also understood that Mr. Saunders was seeking a ministerial post in exchange for leaving the opposition benches.
The remaining independents, including North Side’s Ezzard Miller, East End’s Arden McLean, Newlands representative Alva Suckoo and Savannah representative Anthony Eden, are expected to sit on the opposition benches. Mr. Saunders and Mr. Bryan would also sit there if agreement with government on their respective positions cannot be reached.
It was anticipated that Mr. McLean would be named as opposition leader.
The group issued a statement late Monday indicating that it had earnestly tried to form a government – both with Mr. Bush’s CDP and members of Mr. McLaughlin’s Progressives.
The statement blasted Mr. Bush for taking what the independent members termed a “lesser deal” offered by the Progressives and questioning Mr. Bush’s motives for doing so.
The independent group claimed it had offered the West Bay MLA the Speaker’s position and deputy leader’s position in various iterations of a coalition government, as well as a ministerial position for his fellow MLA Bernie Bush. The Progressives, they said, had done no such thing.
“The independent members wish to assure the public that we made every best effort to form a government that reflected the will of the people,” the statement read. “It is clear now that neither the PPM nor the CDP negotiated in good faith.”
During comments earlier in the week, both McKeeva Bush and Mr. Harris had blamed the independents’ inaction during negotiations for the failure of a CDP-independents coalition government to take off. The deal had been agreed late Friday night, but fell apart the next day.
“I’m not here for vendettas, I’m an inclusive person trying to get the best for all and sundry,” Mr. Bush said in a statement to the Cayman Compass on Sunday. “It’s rotten for two [members], who come from the smallest districts and won with 20 votes, [to] want to rule our people and [to be] cursing out the duly elected newcomers.
“I’d rather not be a part of it.”
Mr. Harris, when asked about his surprise appearance in the coalition government Monday, said he believed the independents had missed two earlier chances to form a government and that in his view, they would not get a third chance.