Premier McLaughlin to lead 13-member coalition government

Independents get two minister positions, Bush is House Speaker

A coalition of 13 elected members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly was sworn in Wednesday in downtown George Town, bringing an end to the political scramble that followed the territory’s May 24 general election.

Leading the coalition, for the second term, is Red Bay MLA Alden McLaughlin, who will be premier for the “government of national unity” that features seven Progressives party members, including Mr. McLaughlin, three Cayman Democratic Party members and three independent politicians.

CDP Party Leader McKeeva Bush was sworn in as Speaker of the House.

The ministers in the coalition government were expected to be Mr. McLaughlin, Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, Cayman Brac East MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Bodden Town East MLA Dwayne Seymour, George Town East MLA Roy McTaggart, George Town North MLA Joey Hew and West Bay South MLA Tara Rivers.

By press time Wednesday, the ministerial assignments had not all been decided.

Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged it would not all be “smooth sailing” in the next four years, as there are genuine government policy differences between members of the Progressives and CDP coalition as to how to grow the economy and provide opportunities for Caymanians.

“The [debate] process, I believe, will lead to better policy positions,” Mr. McLaughlin said, noting that his Progressives party ended up a mere 50 votes away from winning full control of the government. That was the total number of votes that former Progressives Ministers Marco Archer and Wayne Panton lost their re-election bids by on May 24.

“The outcome of the elections was very nearly different … by such slim margins are things decided in a democracy,” the premier said. “But I will embrace the opportunity the voters have given us for a different approach to governance.”

Mr. McLaughlin said he had been contacted by newly named Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, who told the premier that “the battle was the battle,” but now the two groups need to move forward for the betterment of the country.

Opposition MLA Kenneth Bryan and the premier – bitter political opponents during the campaign – agreed to bury the previous enmity between them Wednesday morning in a private meeting, Mr. Bryan said. The new member for George Town Central said he had asked to join the Progressives coalition on Tuesday, but government declined the offer.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bryan said he would not “oppose for opposition’s sake” during the next Legislative Assembly term.

Alden McLaughlin receives his instrument of appointment as premier of the Cayman Islands before Governor Helen Kilpatrick.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters outside the Legislative Assembly Wednesday afternoon, Mr. McLaughlin said, after meeting with Mr. Miller, he thought things could not get any better.

“Then someone showed me the editorial in [Wednesday’s] Cayman Compass: ‘Mr. Premier: “We’re all in your corner.”’ Thank you, Jesus!” the premier said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

Mr. McLaughlin said during his address outside the assembly building that he intended to have a governance plan in place, possibly as early as July, so that government could crystallize its priorities before the next budget cycle begins toward the end of this year.

Mr. Miller said Wednesday in an impromptu press conference outside the assembly chamber that he was honored to be opposition leader and that he hoped “we can change the whole style of government” Cayman currently maintains.

“I’ve always pledged my support to any government that’s doing something good,” Mr. Miller said. “I don’t simply criticize, I try to constructively criticize.”

Mr. Miller also confirmed that Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo would be his deputy leader. The remaining opposition members would be Mr. Bryan, Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders, Savannah MLA Anthony Eden and East End MLA Arden McLean.

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