Opposition members walked out of the Legislative Assembly in protest Wednesday after Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo was suspended from the House for the day.
Speaker McKeeva Bush initially demanded an apology from Mr. Suckoo over comments he made during last week’s debate about cruise berthing that the speaker believed were directed at him.
Mr. Bush highlighted a remark by the deputy opposition leader which he believed was an attempt to imply that he was working with the China Harbour Engineering Company, a Chinese government company rumored to be involved with one of the bids to build new cruise piers in George Town harbor.
Though Mr. Suckoo did not mention the name of any company or any specific member during the debate on Cayman Brac last Thursday, Mr. Bush said it was clear the comment was aimed at him.
He denies any business relationship with China Harbour, which was formerly linked with a different cruise project during his tenure as premier, and tabled letters from the company attesting to this.
When challenged over his remarks, Mr. Suckoo pointed out that he had simply referred to public concern about rumors and letters circulating without mentioning any member by name.
Mr. Bush said it was obvious that he was the target of the comments.
“The Member [Mr. Suckoo] and his colleagues has persisted in trying to make out that the process of the cruise ships is sullied as they claimed I am in business with China Harbour. There is no truth to that,” he said in a speech to the Assembly Wednesday morning.
Mr. Suckoo declined to apologize and Mr. Bush requested that disciplinary action be taken against him for attempting to impute improper motives on behalf of another member.
Premier Alden McLaughlin proposed a motion that Mr. Suckoo be suspended from the House for the day. The motion was supported by all on the government benches, with the exception of West Bay North legislator Bernie Bush.
The Opposition members and independent legislator Kenneth Bryan all voted against the disciplinary action and walked out of the House in solidarity with Mr. Suckoo.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Opposition headquarters, Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller said Mr. Suckoo had been unjustly censured as he had made no reference to Mr. Bush or China Harbour in his speech.
He said the documents tabled by Mr. Bush had raised further concerns and the Opposition would be passing on these and other documents to the Anti-Corruption Commission to ascertain if any law had been broken. He added that the Opposition was considering “all options,” including potentially bringing a motion of no confidence in the Speaker.
The dispute stems from leaked emails in circulation about a trade mission earlier this year to Belize, in which Mr. Bush participated.
In one letter to a Belize government minister, read aloud by East End legislator Arden McLean at the press conference, Mr. Bush indicates that he is representing a company named China Sinopharm International and “introducing” China Harbour to the Belize government.
Mr. Bush does not deny that he has business interests in Belize through his company WMB International Consulting. Speaking to the Compass Wednesday, he said that he is acting as a representative for China Sinopharm International Corporation, a pharmaceutical company interested in healthcare development projects in Belize.
But he denied any business arrangement with China Harbour – a relationship that would be considered contentious because of the company’s rumored interest in the Cayman cruise berthing project.
In his speech to the Assembly Wednesday morning, he said Mr. Suckoo had been told previously by China Harbour’s regional representative that he had no business link to the company.
“The Member, in spite of being properly informed on the issue, came to the House implying that a member was doing something wrong, which would put this honourable House into disrepute and the project into some kind of suspension – all to suit their purposes as the Opposition.”
Mr. Bush had earlier sought to deal with the matter during the Legislative Assembly meeting on Cayman Brac. At that point, Mr. Suckoo asked to be shown the Hansard record of what he had said. He was shown those records Wednesday morning and responded that he had not made any remark about Mr. Bush and would not apologize for something he did not say.
George Town legislator Mr. Bryan said he had supported the Opposition walkout because he believed the decision had been unjust.
He said, “Nothing that he said was in any way dishonorable to the House or any individual. He has a right to be concerned about things that are happening in this community. Some of the documents released today by the Speaker himself have brought many more questions that need to be answered.”
Among the documents tabled by Mr. Bush were a letter from Hu Zhimin, regional vice president of China Harbor Engineering Company, stating, “McKeeva Bush does not represent, act on behalf of or otherwise serve the interests of CHEC in any manner whatsoever, whether in the Cayman Islands or any other jurisdiction.”
The letter also indicates that Sinopharm, the company Mr. Bush accepts he is representing, is not affiliated in any way with China Harbour.
A statement from Scott Henderson, identified as China Harbour’s representative in the Cayman Islands, was also tabled indicating that the company had no business relationship with Mr. Bush. Included alongside that was an excerpt from a WhatsApp conversation which appears to show Mr. Henderson responding to an inquiry by Mr. Suckoo, informing him that Mr. Bush is not affiliated with China Harbour.