North Side legislator Ezzard Miller claims he still commands majority support on the Opposition benches and will remain as leader.
Miller said he would be prepared to step down if he were presented with a letter signed by the other members of the Opposition group calling for his resignation.
But, despite claims by his former deputy Alva Suckoo that he has lost the support of the group, Miller said no such letter had been presented.
Without that, he said, he had no intention of relinquishing the position. He will also push ahead with plans to form a fully fledged political organisation known as the Cayman Islands People’s Alliance, which will fight all 19 seats at the next election. Miller aims to lead this group into the 2021 ballot, regardless of his position in the Opposition.
He appeared alone at a press conference at his George Town office Tuesday to outline a series of policy plans he believes should be addressed by government in the forthcoming Strategic Policy Statement.
His proposals include massive investment in public transport, including construction of a monorail to deal with the traffic situation; provisions to deal with persistent garbage collection issues; new primary schools in Savannah; and the introduction of a single provider for health insurance.
He also spoke out against government offering concessions to developers for hotel projects and counselled caution on other development issues, such as Dart’s plan for a so-called ‘iconic tower’ that would greatly exceed the current 10-storey building height restriction. He acknowledged that government had effectively managed the country’s finances but said ordinary Caymanians were worse off than they were in the early 2000s and called for more investment in social programmes.
The extent to which Miller’s proposals are backed by the rest of the Opposition group is unclear. He said his understanding was that he now led a group of four, including himself, Bodden Town legislators Chris Saunders and Anthony Eden, and East End legislator Arden McLean.
None of those three men responded to calls and emails from the Cayman Compass by press time Tuesday.
Suckoo has claimed that Miller was nominated as official leader of the Opposition after the last election, only after making a commitment to step down from the role after 18 months.
He said he had asked Miller to step down and claimed he was backed in this by the majority of the Opposition members. There is no formal process in the Constitution for a change in Opposition leadership other than through voluntary resignation, but Miller said he had made it clear to Suckoo on numerous occasions that he would step aside if he received a letter signed by the four men asking him to do so.
“I told the Member [Suckoo] that upon receipt of such a signed letter, I would present it to the governor, accompanied by my letter of resignation from the position as Leader of the Opposition,” Miller said. “The formal letter from the team was critical, as I had no other reason to resign.”
He said the background to the dispute was a “leadership struggle that began from day one”, which he claimed was largely instigated by Suckoo. He refuted suggestions that the group had agreed that his tenure as leader would expire after 18 months.
Kenneth Bryan, independent member for George Town Central, said he recalled an agreement that Miller would step down after 18 months. Though he is not part of the political group, Bryan sits on the Opposition benches. He said he had signed a letter supporting Miller’s leadership on the basis of what he believed was a commitment that the appointment was temporary for the reasons of political succession planning of the next generation of leaders.
Bryan said he had not been approached about the leadership issue but would be willing to discuss and consider supporting alternatives to Miller.
Miller also disputed Suckoo’s contention that his plans for the new Cayman Islands People’s Alliance had been a point of conflict within the group. He said the organisation had developed out of a general acknowledgement among the independent members in the opposition group that there was a need for a more formal organisation ahead of the next election.